It was a surreal moment, when the phone call came through. Little did I know that the subject of the call would consume my mind and heart from then on.
“Oh yeah, what has he done this time?” my partner replied to her middle sister who had phoned, as we were on the way to take our young toddler to football training.
“No fucking way. How? When? Where?”…
She fell silent.
Then came a breakdown; despair, heartache, grief and floods of tears.
I immediately pulled the car over, trying to interrupt the call by asking what has happened. My partner quickly got out of the car, unable to comprehend the news she was receiving that fateful Saturday morning.
It was in that immediate cuddle to console her that she replayed the news she had received to me.
Her eldest sister’s former partner had been killed in the early hours of the morning; stabbed to death in a robbery after leaving a bar, with his current girlfriend and friends.
Details initially were sparse, but our immediate thoughts went to our much loved five year old niece, whose life was about to be turned upside down, and heart to be broken into a thousand pieces. Five years old. Just a baby. Now due to the actions of another, she would no longer have her Daddy to cuddle and kiss.
Despite the separation, she idolised her father, of whom she is a spitting image. My immediate reaction was to do all that I could to protect her from what the coming hours, days and weeks would and will bring.
During that day, I kept checking Twitter and News feeds. Outlets were beginning to cover the incident as the day wore on. No names were mentioned, however details began to emerge. A man stabbed to death in Greenwich, South East London. There were two attackers, who attacked the victim with a large knife and firing a gun towards him. They then stole his luxury watch from his wrist as he tried in vain to escape the attackers. The two men dressed in dark clothing then fled on a moped. They had appeared to have been waiting for the group to approach.
We went to my partner’s mother’s house, where we had to pretend that nothing had happened, as our niece played happily with my son. Among us however we were trying to piece together what could have possibly happened. The word ‘surreal’ doesn’t really do enough to describe the atmosphere that morning.
The press obtained the information they needed the following day, after attending the scene of the crime and looking at the name of the victim which had been written in floral tributes by his friends and family. A Chelsea football scarf left at the scene had his surname. Therefore the press had the name they were looking for. At that time, the Police had not named him. Other tributes spoke of peoples love towards him and sorrow for the situation. My partner’s grieving sister had left her own message of love and mourning at the scene, which included a family drawing my niece had done previously of the three of them. On that image, my sister in law had written ‘To Daddy. Love from ….’ and wrote their daughters name.
From that scene, the Press knew his full name and that he was a father. One over eager photographer was soon lambasted for taking pictures of the grieving group of mourners. Meanwhile the news of the murder had reached people in the local area, and people were leaving their own tributes on social media. Reporters simply then searched Facebook and found posts from people who had left comments of condolence on their open profiles, using a photograph taken some years ago which had been used in peoples comments. Along with quotes taken from lads who played football with him some years earlier, the photo alongside the name were quickly added to the ever updating news webpages.
I was upset when I saw that the press had used the image that our niece had drawn as the main focus of their articles, but I fully understood that by emphasising he was a father may help encourage witness to speak up, however I did not see the need to name her in the articles. She is five years old. The general public knowing her name does not inform them of anything else urgent about the case. All it does is put her name on the internet for eternity. I therefore spoke to a relative of mine, who works for a news organisation, who promptly arranged for her name to be removed from the imagery and articles. But by then it was too late. Other news outlets had picked it up and were using it too.
How could I protect her from this? I gathered advice from legal bodies and was advised to make an official press complaint, to attempt to reach out to press organisations to refrain from using her name in future articles.
I recalled a documentary shown by Channel4, ‘A Killing in My Family’ which focused on an amazing charity who help children who have lost someone to homicide. I remember being moved at the time of watching it, never did I think I would be calling them for advice. The lady I spoke to was calm and collected. She offered me clear and concise information, and really informed me of the way that our niece would need to be informed of the tragic news.
“You need to inform her of what is required to live. That we need our hearts to continually beat and our lungs to continually breathe. At five years old she will take everything literally. If you say Daddy has gone to be with the angels, she will think there’s a chance he will come back, or that she can just phone him and talk to him. The best way is to tell the story with truths. That a bad person wanted something of daddies, but daddy didn’t want to give it to them. The bad person then hurt daddy with a knife. This caused daddies heart to get weaker and it harder to breathe. That lots of good people then came to help daddy. That they did all that they could. But daddy’s heart stopped beating and his lungs stopped breathing. That he then died.”
My heart was broken. That has got to be the hardest conversation to have. But I saw the logic in the way that they advised to address it. I tweeted celebrity Grief expert Jeff Brazier about the loss, and received some nice personal responses which were appreciated.
In the days that followed, the Police eventually formally named him in their press releases, alongside a recent photo of him. They also released images from CCTV of the two men they wish to speak to about the murder. Both in crash helmets. In my opinion it would be near on impossible to identify the assailants from these grainy pictures. Hopefully someone out there recognises the bike. The Police released an image of the Rolex that was stolen in the attack. Hopefully if that has been sold on somewhere, it will raise alarms with the buyer etc.
On the Thursday, our niece chose to watch The Lion King for the first time. Despite some reservations, her mum let her watch it. It helped the following day, when she sat her down to agonisingly inform her that her own Daddy had been killed. Her reaction was as expected, and she has subsequently been very quiet. Playing with my son is helping her feel normal, but she questions why he isn’t as sad as she is, not realising that at two years old he is too young to understand. At five she is old enough to understand exactly, but too young to control any emotions. As a family we will get her through this. We have to.
It is still so raw that it doesn’t quite feel real. The police haven’t said too much. They ‘remain open minded’ to the reason for this attack. Was this a simple murder robbery, or was it more orchestrated? Their latest article calls for help.
Only time will tell I guess.
Time is the one thing we all take for granted. If this has taught me anything, it is to always cherish every day and to do all that I can to ensure my loved ones know I love them. The fact that my niece will live the majority of her life without having her daddy by her side absolutely wrecks me.
I hope these men are brought to justice soon. These men are scum. They do not deserve to be free.
RIP Danny. Despite not being close, rest knowing that I will always be there for your daughter as if she was my own. She will always remember you. I promise.
It goes without saying, that should you have any information, please tell the police. Anyone who may have information can call the incident room on 0208 721 4005. Or Crimestoppers anonymously 0800 555 111.