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Dolores - Interview 34

Age at interview: 54
Brief Outline: In September 2006 Dolores son, Tom, was fatally wounded. He was stabbed by a man who had schizophrenia. Dolores was in shock for at least a couple of months. Cranial therapy and meditation helped, but Dolores still feels very sad and depressed at times.
Background: Dolores is an architect. She is divorced and has 1 child who died. Ethnic background/nationality: Jewish.

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In September 2006 Dolores son, Tom, was fatally wounded. He was stabbed 22 times by a man who was mentally ill with schizophrenia. He had not been diagnosed at the time. This happened while Tom was recording music in a studio with some other people. The man who killed Tom was a stranger. Tom was trying to help him with his music. The man was caught by the police, and in December 2007 he pleaded guilty of manslaughter, on the grounds of diminished responsibility. The NHS is investigating what happened to the man’s care before he killed Tom. This is part of an investigation which is looking at a number of similar cases, where young people have become criminalised because of lack of care.

Dolores was at home asleep when the phone rang and she heard the terrible news. She was devastated and wanted to see Tom immediately, but was told that she could not see him immediately because of his facial injuries. Dolores screamed and cried. She did not care what Tom looked like, she just wanted to be with him. The next day Dolores was able to see Tom at the mortuary, but she was not allowed to touch him in case she disturbed the evidence. He was behind a glass screen. Dolores saw Tom once more when he was at the funeral director’s.

Dolores' family gathered while they waited for the funeral. She found it hard to believe that they were eating and chatting and laughing while she was mourning for her son. Dolores did not have a traditional Jewish funeral for Tom, mainly because he was not brought up in the Jewish tradition. They had to wait ten days for the funeral. Tom was buried in a bamboo coffin, on his birthday, in a cemetery. The family brought a piece of granite all the way from the Alps for Tom’s headstone.

Dolores found it hard to sleep after Tom died. She also felt depressed and could not work. She did not want to see a counsellor, or take anti-depressants, so she went to a cranial therapist who helped her sleep. Dolores saw him once a week for about six weeks. The cranial therapy helped Dolores to cope and she started eating better.

The police liaison officer was very helpful and continues to keep Dolores informed about any developments. The family received £11,000 criminal injuries compensation, but this can not bring Tom back. Dolores was surprised to discover how little life is valued by the State.

Dolores and other members of the family and friends have set up the Tom Easton Flavasum Trust in memory of Tom. The aim of the Trust is to try and prevent tragedies like this happening again by raising awareness through creative means. The Trust has been named after the music label Tom created to record his first track. Those working for the Trust use creative arts, such as interactive theatre, to get across the anti-knife, anti-gun message to other young people. Through this voluntary work Dolores has met other families who have been though a similar terrible experience. She has also been in contact with MAMAA (Mothers against murder and aggression).

The Trust is part of an umbrella organisation called “Through Unity”. This is a coalition of families who have suffered the loss of a loved one as the result of gun and knife crime. They have joined together with others to tackle the problem of knife and gun crime on the streets.

Dolores still mourns her son and likes to talk about him. She grieves for what he is missing and for the grand-children she will never have. At times she still feels very depressed and copes with each day at a time. Occasionally she wishes she were dead too.

 

Tom was stabbed 22 times by a young man with schizophrenia. Dolores describes how she heard the...

Tom was stabbed 22 times by a young man with schizophrenia. Dolores describes how she heard the...

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It was 15th of September 2006 and we were home asleep, myself and my partner. And we’d just come back from holiday in Switzerland. And we’re fast asleep. It was as far as I’ve been told, about eleven o’clock at night or just after. And the phone rang and I thought,  and I always knew that whenever the phone rings at that time, there’s something wrong. But I always get annoyed that someone can ring us at this time and usually it’s my brother or my sister. They both live abroad. Or someone I know that lives abroad and I reached for the phone and then answered. And someone’s voice… and I can’t remember all words. But all I remember is that they said, ”Fatally wounded” [crying].
 
And I think … vaguely remember him asking if I am Tom Easton’s mother. And when he said fatally wounded I, I didn’t comprehend. I just asked, “Where is he, which hospital?”
 
 “What’s happened?” And he said, “I’m sorry, he was fatally wounded.” And then I just … I couldn’t speak anymore and I passed the phone to my partner.
 
And I just I just went and sat on the floor by the bed. And screaming, that’s all I remember then [crying].
 
Then I ran downstairs because I didn’t want to listen to what he talking to the policeman about. I just ran downstairs and, and, and grabbed the phone and I didn’t know which number … what I was trying to do whether I was trying to ring someone or tell someone.
 
And I’ve been told after that I rang a friend. And she wasn’t there and  or she was and probably asleep. And I was just screaming, “Tom was killed” [crying].
 

Dolores realised that people reacted very differently to the terrible news about her son’s death....

Dolores realised that people reacted very differently to the terrible news about her son’s death....

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And how did you find other people’s reactions? You talked about the family and, a bit but what about colleagues and friends and…
 
Everybody was wonderful, you know and, and supportive and came to see us, came to see me and, and, you know, offered anything I could have wished for, you know. If I’d taken it up, but I, you know…
 
I haven’t taken it up much. And they’ve supported me ever since, you know. And what is interesting is that I’ve, I’ve changed a bit because I, I’m not a judgemental person but I’m very quick to say my opinion about something and I’m usually quite open, but I’ve realised in time of grief people react in different ways and they don’t, they don’t react out of insensitivity, there are very few, as I say, thick skinned, very few. There were one or two but they’re not my friend, you know, I’m glad to say. Some quite close friends couldn’t cope with it. And they, they were in shock themselves.
 
A friend who suffers with heart problems who lives abroad literally put the phone down on me. And I thought, “What? How, how can he react..?” Then I realised he was protecting himself.
 
Because he was going to have a heart attack. And I only found that out that later.
 
And so, so I’ve just decided I’m not going to judge anybody. You know, whether they react in a nice or a not nice way. Or, or not expect anything from anyone.  
 
And basically, that was a great help because so many people react in so many different ways. And I think that’s natural to a human being, is to protect themselves from shock.
 
And they retreat. A lot of them retreat. My very close friends never retreated and they were there all the time. At the beginning I did not communicate with any of them for several months. I found difficult to speak on the phone because I was bursting in tears every five minutes and a lot of my friends are abroad and how can I talk to someone on the phone? How can I explain without seeing them face-to-face? It’s so difficult.
 
It’s so difficult. But slowly, and I started speaking to people and in fact friends I haven’t seen in 30 years have popped up. They’ve seen, you know, just on Facebook or on the, the website, they suddenly recognise the name and they, they’re in just as much of a shock.
 

The Tom Easton Flavasum Trust aims to try and prevent similar tragedies happening again by...

The Tom Easton Flavasum Trust aims to try and prevent similar tragedies happening again by...

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Do you have any spiritual belief yourself?
 
Yes and no. I don’t believe in a God. I just, I just believe there is something. 
 
…I don’t know… I mean a lot of friends around me have told me about his soul and his … I just…. What we put on his stone was “a shining light”. We had a sculptor. We… in fact that we brought a piece of granite from the Alps all the way to here in a car. 
 
Oh how wonderful. Yes. 
 
Because he used to like the place where my sister comes in the summer, [in the Alps].
 
And we used to go there and he absolutely loved it. So we took a piece of [granite]… by a river in the Alps. And we brought and had it sculpted by a sculptor.
 
That was lovely. 
 
And it just says, Tom-Louis Easton and the year. And “shining light” and that‘s all I think of him as. 
 
He was full of light. 
 
And then you’ve been involved in creating a trust in memory of your son?
 
Yes, yes.
 
Would you like to say a little bit about that?
 
Yes. The Flavasum Trust is, is what we created straight after the funeral by basically bringing together any form of creative any creative means to get the message, the anti-knife and anti-gun crime message across. And that could be theatre, music. And basically we are bringing people together that do that kind of thing already. Or we’re encouraging young people to do that kind of thing by facilitating. And by hopefully impacting upon their lives. Because everybody’s creative. And also because Tom, you know he was trying to help this guy. He didn’t know him.
 
I know.
 
But he just accepted, there’s someone creative out there, that maybe’s got a chance. 
 
And he was the first person to give anybody who had some creativity in him.
 
…give him a chance. And that’s why we wanted to do this and use creativity as a method of getting across the anti-knife message. And we, we’re doing well. We’re doing well.
 
You’ve been taking plays into colleges?
 
Into schools.
 
Schools.
 
And we’ve organised a conference called The Cultural Olympiad' Engaging young people through sports and culture, last year. And recently we’re coming together with some theatre groups, anything from comedy to interactive theatre. We still want to do some musical events. It’s hard work because we still have to live and work.
 
But we’re very, very serious about trying to make a difference. And we’ve come together with other families that have been through what we’ve been.
 

Dolores' son, Tom, was stabbed to death in 2006. Two years later she still at times thought about...

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Dolores' son, Tom, was stabbed to death in 2006. Two years later she still at times thought about...

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You wanted to talk just a little bit about what you told your GP at one point?
 
Yes, it just surprised me, he asked me the question direct, and said, “Have you ever had any thoughts of death yourself?” And I said, “Yes.” Now, actually I’d forgotten about it but in fact it happened quite a lot. Not so much lately but it did happen at the time because I just, I just wanted to be with Tom.
 
I was, fantasising ways by which I would die. Not committing suicide but that something would happen to me. Either out of the blue, a car crash or aeroplane crash or, you know, or even someone coming and actually killing me with a knife. That was my first thought.
 
Do you still sometimes think like…?
 
Rarely, but I do.
 
I still do. Much, much more rarely than I did, at the beginning.
 
How do you view the future?
 
I’ve described it in my statement that I’m alive but I’ve lost something and that something, well I’ve lost my son, but it, it manifests itself physically by a, a feeling as if someone has ripped up my womb. And it’s not there anymore.
 
And that was a physical reaction, what I felt at the time and I still do. And then it’s just like part of me’s gone.
 
I know I won’t be the same. I can laugh and I can enjoy things but there, there’s, there’s always that second thought after that, that follows you know, which, which is there all the time. Like half of me’s gone.
 
Yes, I’m so sorry.
 
 
 

The liaison officer was very helpful and answered questions at any time, day or night. He was...

The liaison officer was very helpful and answered questions at any time, day or night. He was...

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But throughout this period, and in the last two years, the police liaison officer has been good and very, very helpful. And anytime if I phone and suddenly if I’ve remembered something he will go back to his notes, he will come back within 5, 10 minutes to say, “Well I’ve checked this and double checked this and treble checked this and this is whom I’ve spoken to and this is what happened. If you, you know, you might have forgotten …” because I was in shock at the time, he reminds me. There are certain things that I’ve suddenly thought, “Oh, I never asked about this.” And he very gently reminds me that he did tell me but it, you know, and he then tells me all of the related information. Very, very good.
 
Oh, that’s excellent.
 
He’s a very experienced chap and we were very lucky to have him.  
 

Dolores had only one day in court. The man who killed her son had schizophrenia and pleaded...

Dolores had only one day in court. The man who killed her son had schizophrenia and pleaded...

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So was there an inquest or a court case?
 
Well the problem was that it took about a year before they realised that that all the court appearances [pre-hearings] were leading to nothing. He was not a person we could trust. And one minute he was perfectly all right, the next he would be everywhere. So it ended up just being one day in court in the end. After many, many appearances in court where you… they were trying to establish whether he was fit to be in court. So it was just one day in the end. I had my day in court.
 
So did you go to any of the other hearings?
 
No. His girlfriend went, Tom’s girlfriend.
 
And what were they doing at those?
 
They’re just interviewing him.
 
Questioning?
 
And they didn’t get anywhere. The judge gave, gave him so many chances. But after all he’s a sick man [crying].
 
So nobody ever had to give any, any evidence in the end, did anyone give any?
 
No. No.
 
So what happened at the one day in court that you went to?
 
He pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He was just reading what someone else gave him. With diminished responsibility.
 
Oh.
 
And that was that.  
 
So nobody was called to give evidence or anything?
 
No. There was the statement from the defence and the statement from the prosecution. And that was that.
 

Dolores said that although it may be hard to express emotions it is vital to bring them to the...

Dolores said that although it may be hard to express emotions it is vital to bring them to the...

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Have you got any message for other people who are bereaved in this terrible way?
 
[Sighs] Just not keeping anything inside. How much, I don’t’ know, I know it’s hard to bring all the emotions out to the surface but I think it’s very important.
 
…to let the emotions go whenever they overwhelm you, let them come out. And not keep anything inside. I’m a great believer that suffering makes one ill. And the more we keep inside the more ill we get. I don’t know if I’m with all of the emotions I’m bringing out, I still may have something so deep buried in side me that I can’t bring it out
 
…you know. And, you know, seeing how shock can affect people, you know. My partner had a shock, this is a second shock after losing two children...
 
…he ended up with appendicitis in hospital. So that was the way his grief was manifested.
 
You know, it came out in a huge reaction in his body. And, you know, he knows exactly when it happened. It was after Tom. And I just think no matter how hard it is, it’s got to come out. And also, the way I speak about Tom, sometimes it’s very hard but when I start, I start speaking, I say, “Oh, I’ve spoken about him”. I continue. I don’t stop. And I talk to everyone and anyone who wants to listen.
 
So it’s very important to let the emotions out.
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