Bereavement due to traumatic death

Ann - Interview 24

Age at interview: 57

Brief outline: In 2005 Ann's son, Westley, was murdered. He was attacked by a man with a knife. Ann and her family were devastated. Ann started the organisation which supports other victims of crime and which aims prevent other knife attacks.

Background: Ann was in business (now retired). She has 3 children (1 murdered). Ethnic background/nationality: White British

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On 12 September 2005 Ann’s 27 year old son, Westley, was at a cash machine waiting to take out some money. A man pushed in front of him. Westley asked the man to wait for his turn. The man left hurriedly and soon returned with his brother, who attacked Westley with a knife. The knife severed Westley’s carotid artery. An ambulance was called, but Westley either died at the scene or soon afterwards.
Ann heard the terrible news that her son had been stabbed via the telephone. Someone who knew the family had seen what had happened and immediately told Ann that Westley had been attacked. Ann hoped that her son had survived. She called her other son and her daughter and they went to the hospital immediately. Ann was desperate to see Westley, but the police liaison officer told her that she would have to wait until the next day because of the necessary post-mortem and forensic investigation.
Ann was shocked by the death of her son. She believes that the grief experienced when losing a child due to murder cannot be compared with the grief others may experience when someone dies in any other way.
Westley’s funeral was delayed because the defendants’ solicitors asked for another post-mortem. The long delays were very distressing. Ann believes that the balance of justice has swung too much to the side of those accused and that the rights of the bereaved family are not given enough consideration. At times Ann feels angry about this.
Westley’s funeral took place in church. There was a traditional High church service, which was planned to give honour and dignity to Westley’s life. There was another service in the crematorium. Ann has kept Westley’s ashes. She wants her ashes to be buried with her son’s ashes when she dies. She feels that Westley’s spirit is with her as she talks to young people in schools about knife crime. Ann’s work is a memorial to Westley. There is also a bench with a plaque in a local park as a memorial.
The inquest was opened and then closed because it was clearly a case for the courts. Ann felt desperate for information. She feared that the person or people responsible for Westley’s murder would get off without justice being served.
The court case was 11 months after Westley died, in August 2006. Ann arranged a meeting with the crown prosecutor just before the case started. Ann wanted to make an Impact Statement, but the trial started before the Impact Statement scheme was running in all courts. However, she was able to make a Personal Statement, which she wrote herself. The judge felt that Ann’s Personal Statement was too upsetting for the jury to hear, so he only allowed the jury to hear three sentences, which made Ann angry.
The man who started the incident at the cash machine was found guilty of manslaughter and is due to be released in March 2009. He did not have to ask for parole. The other brother was found guilty of murder and was given a life sentence, but can apply for parole after 15 years. Ann is angry that those found guilty of knife crime do not receive as long a sentence as those found guilty of gun crime. She believes that both men’s sentences were too lenient.
Ann is still fighting to obtain criminal injuries compensation for losing her son. Although Westley died in an unprovoked attack and he was an innocent man, Ann’s claim was turned down. She has appealed but is still waiting for the money. She feels very angry that it has been so difficult to obtain this compensation.
Ann has not had any formal counselling herself. She has been able to channel her pain and anger into a proactive campaign to try to address some of the issues that affect families bereaved due to murder. She has gained strength via the people she has met through Victims Voice and through her work to prevent other violent attacks. Ann started an organisation called Knife Crimes. She has put together a programme called Westley’s Weapons Awareness and she goes into schools and talks to young people about the consequences of carrying a knife and what happens when people get involved in anti-social behaviour. She also helps to train youth offending team workers and police officers.
Ann is in favour of restorative justice, but at the moment she does not want to meet the man who was responsible for her son’s death or his brother, because she is worried that the defence lawyers might use the meeting to help their client, the man who murdered Westley, to reduce his sentence.
Ann believes that those who work for Victims Support need more training and she also believes that there should be a Victim’s Commissioner to support victims of crime.


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