When I left the Courtroom on the 4th August, 2006 with the rest of my family, after a Trial of nearly 3 weeks of the Fredericks Brothers…there was still an unspoken sense of disbelief! This disbelief, as fresh a ‘wound’ on that day, as the day we’d been told the terrible news that Westley has been murdered, 11 months earlier.
One thing that is apparent to anyone that has lost someone in a violent way…no matter how sensitive the person is in their delivery of such terrible news, ’there’s no ‘Soft-Options‘…no second chance of life, no resurrection for good behaviour and absolutely ‘no cure’ for the pain that this special kind of grief delivers! It’s absolute and undiluted raw emotion…like no other type of grief one could ever feel or imagine. The loss of a child is every parent’s worst nightmare, the age of that child is irrelevant!
My Son Westley Was Only 27:
My Son Westley, only a matter of weeks earlier had celebrated his 27th Birthday when he was brutally murdered at 3pm on a bright and sunny Monday…the 12th September, 2005. This barbaric act was witnessed by people of all ages, even small children…many traumatised by what they saw! A single fatal stab wound to the neck, despite all attempts to save Westley resulted in his death. A precious life had been taken and a family devastated…we would never again experience family life as we’d previously known it!
Thereafter, to find ourselves ’fast-tracked’ into another world…a world of questions! Some questions that could be answered and far too many that couldn’t ’til much later because of subjudice…worse, questions that will always remain unanswered. We’d entered a world of ’unreality’ where normal accepted everyday things such as shopping, what to have for dinner and just getting up, became inter-twinned with all the difficulties associated with a ’sudden traumatic death’…one of my three children was now missing! Never to return!
My Grief As A Parent:
As a parent, my over-whelming grief made worse by the grief I witnessed the remaining children suffering at the loss of their brother…a monumental tidal wave of helplessness has swept through our home like a Tsunami!
Issues to confront and deal with such as the Police investigation, the Coroner’s Office, the Crown Prosecution Service and it‘s role in the future Trial, the Criminal Justice System, Court Appearances of the ’Fredericks Brothers’ for Bail renewals, Defence Statements and so on! Post mortems…the long wait to have a funeral service, the weeks that turn to months (in some cases families have even had to wait years before their loved-ones can be released). We waited 3 months for the return of Westley, always with the frustration of knowing that the Defendant(s) has the right to ask for more than one Post-Mortem, which happened in our case.
Murder Happens To Other People?
Like most people a ’murder’ is something one hears on the News or reads about in the Newspaper…happening to ‘other people’. Suddenly, those ’other people’ had become ’us’ a huge sense of shock comes with this realization, with more ’shocks’ on the horizon! We had been suddenly transported into this new world called the ‘Judiciary’ with it’s alien language and Latin Maxims…people wearing ‘Wigs and Gowns’ quoting ‘points of law’…the Crown’s case and Prosecution Counsel with supporting Barristers/Legal team, plus the two Defendants’ each with their Defence Counsel, along with supporting Barristers and Legal teams. Cross-examinations and directions to the presiding Judge and the Jury of ‘Twelve men good and true!’ All the time in observation and constant prayer of the right Verdict and for ’Justice’ to be done!
One takes for granted that the Sentence, after a finding of ’Guilt’ for the taking of a life…should be a long Sentence! When a family is bereaved by Homicide they face a nightmare world of imponderables, where they have to deal with the fact ‘like us’ that someone has deliberately carried out a wrongful act with a ‘bladed weapon’ that has stolen the life of their ’loved-one’…add to that the Trial process, then the bewildering logic of ’Sentencing’ it’s hardly surprising that coping with the aftermath is, to say the least…the most testing anyone is ever likely to face…where all roads seem to lead to ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. The Jury bring in a Verdict that takes you ’up’ and a nonsense and wholly inadequate Sentencing strategy, takes you ’down’ again.
The ‘Soft-Options’ to benefit the perpetrators…never the Victim! Like so many other cases…the Fredericks Brothers had a history of violence, and known to carry knives. An incident in April, 2005 where they were caught with a Samurai Sword and actually on their way to use that weapon on somebody. When stopped by the Police, threatened to kill the Officer…this incident should have resulted in a custodial sentence. Instead ‘Soft-Options’ meant that Westley was murdered in the following September, 2005...barely 5 months later!
Without reservation ‘Violent Offenders’ need a harsh lesson when being sentenced, to send out a clear message in order to curb the current knife culture. I’ve seen the terrible ripple effect that continues out through the family to friends, neighbours and into the wider community…numerous times I’ve been stopped in the streets by people I’ve never met before! They constantly express along with their condolences, their sense of outrage, their dismay at the ‘Lenient Sentences’ and ‘Soft-Options’ that they say ‘is undermining the public confidence in the Justice System’… there is genuine concern for the future safety of their children and grandchildren.
Disquiet at the alarming rate of reported ‘Knife’ incidents…I became challenged and driven to endeavour to ‘make a difference’…after all ‘for things to remain the same, all we have to do is ‘Nothing!’ The enormous power of this grief has been known to swallow people whole…I vowed that this would not happen to this family, we must not become victims of our grief, nor allow the intense rage that comes with knowing that Mark Fredericks will be walking the streets again in March, 2009 (having been given a ‘guaranteed release date)!’ But, instead would use this power to campaign for change, to re-balance the ‘Scales of Justice’ to favour the victim…in the memory of Westley, for the good of all…
Be Tough On Knife Crime:
Since this Campaign: Be tough on ‘Knife Crime’ started, demanding ‘Tougher Sentences’ and I should add, the desire to see the ‘end to all forms of early release for prisoners of serious crime‘…I have had the privilege of meeting some remarkable people. This road I travel and the people I’ve met making this website possible…the birth of a dream to end someone’s nightmare!
I campaigned through 2 Home Affairs Select Committee Debate on Knife Crime and successfully changed the Law on Knife Murder...changing the starting Tariff (for over 18 year olds) from 15 to 25 years on a Life Sentence. Full details on the 'Knife Petition' page.
by Ann Oakes-Odger
E. & O.E.