Extract from the Bournemouth Echo-June 20th 1996
Fatal Stabbing In Redchurch-16yr old boy is held
“Mystery and shock surround the tragic events that unfolded yesterday, in the quiet, seaside town of Redchurch. Police have now confirmed that the body of local nightclub owner Lee Howard, 42 was removed from his Cedar View home, where it appears he was stabbed to death in the kitchen. His wife, Mrs Kay Howard was home at the time of the attack but was not harmed. Very little is known about the nature or the motive of the attack which took place in the early hours of yesterday morning. A sixteen year old boy was taken into police custody. Police are appealing to anyone who may have further information to contact them in confidence” Caroline Haskell
Letter dated July 16th 1996
Hope you are well? Hope they are treating you okay in there? It’s so fucking wrong you are even there. We’re just hoping it will all come out in court and then people will know the truth. The rumour mill has gone into overdrive around here. Had reporters at the door and everything! Getting pretty close to punching someone’s lights out to tell you the truth. They’re all talking crap when they don’t know anything about it! We’ll all be there in court mate, don’t you worry. Your man Stanley doesn’t think we’ll be allowed to give character references though, but he is going to see if he can get some of us called up to speak in your favour. He says this is unusual, but he’ll push for it because of your age. We’ll be able to tell them about your state of mind and stuff, what life was like when Howard turned up, that sort of thing. I’m really hoping this happens. I want to get up there and tell them how it really was! They all think you got coked up and stabbed him to death, something to do with drugs, fuck me, it’s driving me crazy mate. He’s good your man though, I like him, he’s been through it with us loads, and he’s got a lot of evidence building in your favour. I suppose you know all this already. Like Jake going to the cops that time, it’s all on record and stuff. So that’s good. And your mum calling the police the day before it happened. Should count for something right? He wants to get the sentence pushed down to manslaughter, because of the mitigating circumstances. Think that’s what they call it? He wants the admission you made on the scene thrown out before the jurors even get to hear it, because it can’t be trusted, because you were badly injured and in shock and that. So don’t fuck it up and say it again Danny. Your mum thinks you will. Even if you did intend to do it mate, don’t fucking admit it, don’t tell them that. I really need to see you Danny. I will come and see you regularly if you let me. You’ve no idea how shit I feel. Should have woken up that morning, then we’d have stopped you. We should have made you talk when you came back that night. I wish so many things. At the end of the day mate, you lost your mind a bit and who can fucking blame you, you did what you had to do, and we all know that. Please write back when you can. When you are ready. We all miss you. We can’t play the music without you. Hope to see you soon, your brothers,
Michael and Anthony
Letter dated July 20th 1996
You probably won’t wish to hear from me, and who can blame you? I will be there to support you in court, though. I don’t know what to say to you. This is a pretty hard letter to write. There are no words to express the shock and confusion I am feeling. It won’t mean much to you now, but please believe me when I had no idea what was going on between you and Lee. I blame myself for this. I did not stay in touch, I went to Leeds and concentrated on my own life. I didn’t look back. You would never speak to me on the phone, or answer my letters, so I guess I gave up trying. Thought maybe you and I would get on in the future, when you were older. I regret this so much. I really thought that your behaviour was just some teenage rebellion, and the usual dramas with mum. I wish you had phoned me and told me. I wish you had trusted me to help you. I would have believed you Danny, if you’d told me. I would have helped you. I would have helped you get away, I would have done something!
I don’t understand why you didn’t tell the police, or the school. I know I don’t know the full story, but did you really think no one would help you? I am meeting with mum every now and again, to try to piece it all together. She blames herself of course, and I blame her too. Once this is over, I won’t be calling her my mother again. I cannot understand how she didn’t know, I cannot believe she allowed all of this to happen. She says that you have forgiven her, and that she sees you once a week. Well, if this is true, you are a better man than I will ever be, and I mean that. You are still my brother. I know we have never been close, but I do love you, always will. I will stand by you, whatever happens. Let me come and see you, and please answer my letters. There is so much unsaid between us, and I don’t want it to stay like this. Take care of yourself Danny.
Your brother, John.
Letter dated August 12th 1996
My dearest Danny-boy!
Thank you so much for my letter!! Finally!! You don’t know how happy it made me to receive it! Please, please, do not leave it so long from now on. Please write back to me right away! Please, please let me come and see you, send me a pass!! I am just so desperate to see you. We all are! I will see you in court baby. Please look my way and let me know you have seen me. They are saying that me, your mum, Jake and Michael, will be able to give factual evidence on your behalf. Fingers crossed. They say it’s unusual but it’s because of your age, and they want the jury to consider events leading up to the crime. We can all speak about what happened in the years before, what we saw, or knew, or whatever. But baby, I don’t believe this, but they say you want to stick to your guilty plea? They are saying if you change it to manslaughter, or self-defence, it would be an open and shut case. You took the knives for protection, not to attack. They will discount what you said at the scene! You know all this Danny. They say you want to plead pre-meditated murder.
Please, please, please, I am begging you, do not do this baby! You were not yourself that day, you were out of your mind, thanks to him! Please believe me that you deserve some happiness. Please please, listen to me, I am begging you to think again. I am waiting here with Kurt. Michael and Anthony are moving again, so I am looking after him for now. He needs you back and so do I. That man already took so much from you Danny, you cannot let him damage your life any more. Come back to us, and life will be so good. Please think about me, and your friends, who all love you so much. Please let me visit! It is killing me not being able to see you!! I will never give up asking and sending you letters, so you will have to let me come sooner or later! I love you so so much, I always have, and I always will, forever. It is too quiet here without you. We cannot listen to a single song xxx
Your loving girlfriend forever, Lucy xxx
Extract from the Bournemouth Echo-October 22nd 1996
Rechurch Murder Trial- drug dealing and child abuse uncovered in seaside town
“As the case continues against the sixteen year old local boy who stands accused of stabbing his step-father to death, increasingly unsavoury accusations about the deceased, are coming to light. The defendants mother, Kay Howard, wife of the deceased, took to the stand yesterday and told the court she knew her husband to be a ‘violent drug dealer’. Mr Lee Howard, 42 was the owner and manager at ‘K’s nightclub in Redchurch town centre. He was a prominent businessman and well known figure in the town. He was discovered dead at his Cedar View home on the morning of June 19th 1996. His sixteen year old step-son, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was arrested at the scene and is currently standing trial for murder.
The defence are currently attempting to plead diminished responsibility. The core of their defence appears to be the defamation of the Mr Howard’s character. Extraordinary scenes unfolded in court yesterday when Mrs Howard described how she had been in the process of leaving her husband. She even called the police station the day before the murder, to ask for their help in leaving her violent spouse. She went on to explain that her son, the accused, had run away from home almost a year before, because he was afraid of his abusive step-father. She then went on to accuse her husband of ‘abducting and torturing’ her son, the night before the murder took place. The prosecution warned Mrs Howard that the accusation would not be upheld as there was no evidence to support it. Mrs Howard proceeded to ignore the warning, and attempted to influence the jury by claiming she knew her husband had pushed her son to the brink. In an emotional tirade, she then went on to accuse her late husband of being a child abuser, wife beater, and drug dealer. She was held in contempt of court and removed from the stand.
The jury were then reminded that they were not present to determine the character of the deceased, but to decide whether the defendant was guilty of pre-meditated murder, or whether he had acted under the grounds of diminished responsibility.
This newspaper can reveal that the picture painted of the late Mr Howard as a rather shady character, has come to no surprise to locals who knew the family, and were prepared to talk to us outside the court;
Michael Anderson aged 17, had this to say; “The defendant was in fear of his step-father from the age of thirteen, and he was pushed too far in the end. He acted in self-defence as far as I’m concerned. That man, and another man, whose name will also come out in court, deliberately enticed him into drugs so that they could abuse and control him. Everyone knows this! All this has bearing on the case! There is a long story behind what happened that day, and people need to be able to hear it!”
Jake Miller, aged 17: “I reported the deceased to the police when he attacked me for no reason in an alley way because he wanted t know where his step-son was.”
Terry Swain, aged 46; “The defendant worked very hard for me in the record shop. He even worked for free for a while, trying to convince me to give him a job. When he left home, his step-father came into my shop several times, threatening me and him. That is a good lad, and he can come back to work for me when this is all over.”
It is also alleged that the defendant consumed Class A drugs before he left his bed-sit in nearby Belfield Park, on the morning of the attack. He then made the journey on bus, and on foot to the house on Cedar View. What the jury need to decide, is whether he went there with the sole intention of murdering his step-father, or whether he went there to help his mother, and killed the deceased in self-defence. The trial continues.”
Readers Comments page 22.
Anonymous 27; ‘Howard got what was coming to him. Anyone who knew him thinks that.’
Mary Jenson 54; ‘Very tragic case, has touched the entire community. People are extremely shocked round here. I wonder where the mother was in all of this. If her son was being abused, what was she doing to protect him?’
|Brian Hooper 61; ‘If it’s true he was abused then I feel sorry for the boy, but we still cannot allow people to take the law into their own hands. He should have gone to the police and allowed the judicial system to deal with Mr Howard’
Donald Madison 45; ‘I have known the defendant for years, as he is good friends with my son. I hope he gets the justice we all know he deserves. If a child is bullied and tormented for so long under our very noses, we need to ask ourselves as a society if we are not also to blame, when that child fights back?’
Letter dated November 19th 1996
So they moved you then! Finally got my visitors pass in the post! Can’t wait to come and see you mate! Anthony is pretty gutted, but hopefully he’ll get the next turn. Well I’ll have so much to tell you when I come to see you, but I had to write first, to tell you how fucking sorry I am. You should have walked free of that court with your head held high. With everything your mum, and Jake and me said to them, you’d think they’d have known it wasn’t your fucking fault. Fuckinghell mate. I still can’t believe you stood up there and pleaded pre-meditated murder. Lucy was destroyed mate. She’s in pieces. She had her heart set on you getting diminished responsibility and getting out. We tried to warn her, but you know. Let her come see you, and be patient with her.
You gave the judge and jury no fucking choice, but I can kind of understand your reasons. Well, Anthony has tried to get it through to me, anyway. You know what he’s like. He always gets you. He says you were being true to yourself. Standing up there and telling the truth, exactly how it was, exactly what it was, and why. He says you wanted to accept the consequences. I don’t really get it. Wouldn’t you rather be free?? It kills me so much I can’t sleep at night. I’m just pleased you are finally letting us come to see you though. Feels like we have got you back, in a weird sort of way. Some of it served you pretty well to be honest. Everyone knows the truth about Howard and about Freeman. Their names are dirt around here now. Shit sticks, and people love a good gossip. Still keep getting this one reporter at our door. Keep telling her to fuck off but she must have a thick skin!
The rumour is that Freeman got arrested, but they won’t tell us anything. Maybe he’ll do time, who knows? Have you seen all the fuss in the media? Shittinghell mate! Fucking debates on daytime TV!! You’re famous mate! Well you didn’t get the justice you deserved, but I guess I feel like Howard and Freeman got what they deserved. And you are right. It is over. Well I guess I will see you soon Danny. Billy and Jake and Lucy all say hi, and they all have stuff they want to give to you. Take care of yourself mate. Listen to some music. Tell us how good it is. We’ll prove them all wrong yet, won’t we?
Your best friend, Michael
When I come out, into the Autumn sun, it makes me blink, and smile. I am moving stiffly at first, and I do not know what to expect, or what to hope for. I have no idea what I am supposed to think, or feel. My bag is on my shoulder. All my possessions in this world are packed inside of it. I stop to light a cigarette. Seems like a plan. You probably want to know what song is in my head, so I will tell you. It goes like this; Where did our sweet love go? Who stole away our time? Why do the stars above, refuse to shine? The harder I try to paint a picture, of the way it was back then, the more I miss the good times baby, let it roll again! You might not know it’s by a band called The Stone Roses. They split up years ago but I still love them. It’s a good song to have with me, because it’s quite loud and aggressive and although the lyrics suggest things are not great, the chorus points you towards a belief that it will be! Let the good times roll again. See? I smoke, and smile, thinking about this, because it’s a good thing to think, a good way to feel. I walk towards the gate, remembering good times, and I remember as well, all the young men I have seen come and go through these gates. I think about them, like I think about me. They all have what I have; rolled up newspapers and old journals stuffed inside a bag. A story. I don’t know how I will feel, if she is not there though…
The truth, is stuffed inside my bag, and stuffed inside of me. I have told the truth, all along. They asked me questions once. They asked me if I regretted it, and I said no, because that was the truth. They asked me if I felt remorse, and I said no. There is still no remorse, not yet. I told the truth, and I stood by it, as I had during the trial, and throughout the years that had stretched ahead of me. I could have told them what they wanted to hear, but it felt important to stick to the truth. To take what came.
The gates open slowly for me. They scream out their goodbyes from rusted hinges, and the sound makes me flinch. I look back over my shoulder, just once. I realise that I feel a lot lighter walking out, than I had walking in. I had been a person picked apart, and scattered about. It had taken a long time to find all those pieces and put them back together again. Years to assemble them into a person. A decent enough person. I hope so, at least. I suppose if they are letting me go, then they must believe that I am. I have no idea what will happen now. How I will adapt to life beyond those gates. To being an adult. The only thing I have decided is that I will take each day as it comes, and do my best to be happy. That is all there is. That is all I can do.
I can see the car now. Parked along the road, just waiting. A crappy rust red Ford Fiesta with the back number plate gaffa taped in place. It is better than nothing though. Better than catching the bus. I am smiling, and I can see them hanging out of the windows, laughing and waving at me. They look like twins, I think, waving back. As I get closer I can see that their faces hold so much, all the promise of youth, all the anticipation for what is to come, all the relief of letting go what has passed. It can barely be contained. I grin, and my shoulders relax. Their dark eyes are shining back at me.
My body tenses again, and there is a hand clutching at my guts, because she is there too. She gets out from the back seat. She starts walking, then running towards me. She is laughing and her face is wet with tears. I quicken my pace and my throat feels constricted and tight, no words there, no words anywhere, as I reach out for her, and she bumps into my chest, and I think uselessly, how much I have grown. I can lean over and plant a kiss on her head, while she throws her arms up and around my neck. She pulls me closer. I can hear them hooting and yelling from the car.
“Lucy…” I rub my face into her hair. It still smells like the beach and brings back a thousand memories. I squeeze her tight and lift her up briefly from the ground, making her squeal in surprise.
“Look I’ve got something to show you…” she says, so I put her down and kiss her nose.
“What is it?”
“Look,” she turns to one side, holds back her long purple coat, and lifts up the edge of the dark green jumper she is wearing. I help her out, tugging the material upwards to reveal her creamy flesh, and the little dark scrawl of a tattoo she has across her hip bone. Danny-boy. I step back to examine it, grinning and biting at my lower lip.
“You’re a nutter,” I tell her.
She tugs her top back down and finds my hands with hers. “I had it done the day after the verdict,” she tells me. “I needed you with me and this was the only way I could think of. So you’ve been there, you see, all this time, right with me.” She lifts one of my hands to her lips closes her eyes, inhaling me, before kissing the back of my hand. “You’ll be there forever.” I slip an arm around her shoulders, fight back the tears, and hold her close. We walk on towards the car.
“You know I’m gonna’ have to get one of those done now, don’t you?” I joke, looking at her, and at all that is to come.