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Julie - Interview 09

Age at interview: 38
Brief Outline: In September 2006 Julie's sister, Shirley, was murdered by Shirley's ex-partner. She had suffered domestic violence for a while. Julie and the family were shocked. Julie now cares for Shirley's son. She has been supported by her family and friends.
Background: Julie is a Student nurse. She is married and has 3 children. Ethnic background/nationality: White British.

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In September 2006 Julie’s sister, Shirley, was murdered by Shirley’s ex-partner. During the months before she died he had beaten her up and had been in prison for his violent behaviour. He was released from prison on bail and returned to the house, forced his way in and stabbed her. Shirley’s 11 year old son found her body. Shirley’s death was a double tragedy because she was pregnant when she died.
 
The family was in a state of shock when they heard the news. Shirley had had a baby, Keeley, who had died in 2007, and they were still coming to terms with her loss when Shirley died. Julie found it hard to sleep and had to go to the GP for sleeping tablets. She felt suicidal for a while but realised that she had to stay alive to look after the family and to care for Shirley’s young son.
 
Victim Support was very helpful. One of their volunteers found a counsellor for Shirley’s son. He is still seeing a counsellor. Victim Support also told the family about activities and things that Shirley’s son could to do, such as visits to local museums, so that he could take his mind off the terrible events. Victim Support also offered Julie counselling, but she decided that she had enough support via family and friends.
 
After Shirley died an inquest was opened and adjourned. There was a post-mortem and then Shirley’s body was released for the funeral.
 
Julie saw her sister’s body when it was at the city morgue. She went with other members of the family and with Shirley’s son. Julie is glad that she went to see her sister’s body, but it was very hard for them all because her nephew wanted to stay with his Mum. A few days later, Julie asked the funeral director if she could see Shirley’s body again, but the funeral director said that it would not be a good thing to do because her body had changed so much.
 
The funeral was held in December. Many people came to the funeral. Shirley’s ashes were put with her baby daughter’s ashes. After the funeral people gathered at the local pub and recalled all the wonderful things that Shirley had done during her life.
 
The court case was at the end of January. This was a difficult time for the family. They heard all the details of how Shirley had died. Julie and her family were relieved when Shirley’s ex-partner was found guilty of murder.
 
Julie says that it is important to remember people as they were and not as they died. She says that the pain does get easier as time goes by but it never goes away.
 
Julie was interviewed in November 2008.
 
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Julie’s sister, Shirley, was stabbed to death in her own home by an ex-boyfriend, who had beaten...

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My sister, she was murdered by her ex-partner, two months after her birthday. He beat her up on her birthday, fracturing her cheek in two places and was sent to prison twice and kept getting let out on bail and kept harassing her. And then the last time he got let out on bail, we don’t know whether, it, he says my sister let him back in the house but my nephew said that he didn’t, he didn’t know he were there. And he stabbed her in her carotid artery and she bled to death.
 
Which year was this?
 
It was the 11th September 2006.
 
It happened at tea, round tea-time-ish but they didn’t get in touch with anybody because obviously they didn’t know any details or anything. They came to the house, the police, and my husband and myself was out and my son kept ringing me, so when I finally answered the phone, I said to him, “What do you want?” He said, “The police are here. They’ve been twice.” “What have you done?” And he were like, “We haven’t done nothing mum. It’s you they want to see.”
 
And we were sat in the car, the car and my husband and myself were saying what kind of act, you know, “I wonder what the police want.” And I said, “Oh it might be my mum” because we’d just dropped her off in Birmingham to her, to her friend’s the night before. And my husband said, “It’s Shirley.” He just knew it was my sister even before anybody told us. He just knew it was her. And when we got home he sent the children out. They were all obviously, they were concerned they wanted to know why the police was here.
 
Yes, of course.
 
And the officer sent them back out and he told us. And because I was crying and screaming, the children come running in and they wanted know what was up.
 
So then they was all crying then and it was quite difficult. And then my next concern was my sister’s son. So where is he?
 
You know what’s … well first of all I wanted to know what had happened to her. And he just said, “I can’t divulge that but we think she’s been murdered.” 
 
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At first Julie did not want to talk to journalists, but a liaison officer advised them that it...

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After Shirley had died we were approached in court in the January by a magazine, asking us to do an interview. And we said, “No”, you know, “We don’t want to do that.” And one of the liaison officers said to us, “You’d be better off [doing an interview].” He said, “I’ll check them out for you.”
 
And he came back the next day and he said, “They’re legitimate. You know. I really think you should talk to him.” And I was like, “But we don’t want to.” He said, “But,” he said, “Newspaper people are worse than coppers, they’ll find you.” He said, “And they’ll just harass you until one of them gets your story.” He said, “So you might as well do it with these and do it, you know, do that like that.” So in the end we gave them an interview. And from the money that they gave us for it, we got the headstone done and we paid what was owing on Shirley’s funeral.
 
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Julie made a Victim Personal Statement. The police officer told her not to make it immediately...

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Did you have to make an impact statement?
 
I did. I had to be a witness as well because of I’d been to the house on her birthday. And they wanted me to talk about what I’d seen and everything.
 
And because she’d come to stay with me after he’d beat her up on her birthday. So they wanted me to talk about that. So for the first day [of the trial], up until… it started at ten and I had to sit in room with the liaison officer until about two o’clock until they decided that oh we don’t actually need her anymore.
 
But in all this time I wasn’t supposed to talk to my mum or my husband, my sister. I was just supposed to be in this room on my own, which was quite hard because I wanted to be, be there, and I needed them to be with me.
 
Yes. So you didn’t have to go as a witness in the end?
 
No in the end I didn’t. They read my statement out. And then they read my impact statement out at the end.
 
So when, at what stage did the police, was it a police liaison officer, what stage did she get your impact statement?
 
A few weeks before then. It was, it was a man actually. It was a pair of gentlemen. A couple of weeks before the, the hearing. He didn’t want to so it straightaway because he said, “You’ve not had a chance for things to change.”
 
And it’s just silly little things because my children are all grown up. We used to go off on a Friday night; we’d go to Scarborough for fish and chips. And we’d leave the children to look after themselves, because they’re all older teenagers. But now it’s like well we can’t go out unless we’ve got a babysitter.
 
And it’s just silly things like that that have changed really.
 
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Two years after Julie's sister was murdered she felt less depressed, but 'silly little things'...

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Have your feelings changed over the months?
 
I’m not so depressed anymore. And it’s, it’s over two years now. But still silly little things do set me off.
 
You know like when he comes home from school, my nephew and he’ll say, “Oh I done this and this.” And I think she [my sister] would have been so proud that he’s coming on.
 
And you know she’s not here to see it. And Mother’s Day, that’s quite hard because we always take him to his mum’s grave on Mother’s Day. I will say to him, “Do you want to go?” And “No I don’t want to go.” Although he does have pictures of his mum and his baby sister in his room, and he’s also got pictures of the grave and he had them stuck on his, on top of the photos of his mum.
 
But he, he doesn’t, he says he doesn’t want to go he said because I don’t like thinking of her there.
 
He says so if I don’t go, he says I can pretend she’s somewhere else.
 
So and I think yeah I agree with that. If I don’t go, apart form on special occasions, I can think I’m just looking after him, she’ somewhere else.  
 
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Julie and the other family members felt that the Victim Liaison Officer was trying to 'push’ them...

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I think one of the hardest things for us though was, I can’t remember what they’re called, they’ve, they’re to do with prison system service, they actually got in touch with my mum and wanted to go and see her. So I went down at the same time. And they wanted us to know, to say, do we want to know what he were doing out, how he was doing and things like that. And we just said to them, “What do we want to know for? Just let us know if he’s dead.”
 
That’s, I know that sounds really awful and it shouldn’t do. But that’s… we didn’t want to know what courses he was doing.
 
No.
 
You know. And I just that was really, really a difficult time. It was like they were trying to push us to be there for him through his rehabilitation. So they write to us once a year to let us know that he’s, that he’s not done anything he shouldn’t have done.
 
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Julie knew her sister had been stabbed to death but until the trial she thought that Shirley had...

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And we’d been told from the beginning that he’s stabbed her once in a carotid artery. And actually it turned out that he’d stabbed her once in a carotid artery, but he’s actually stabbed her a few other places as well.
 
I think it turned out she had about thirteen… I could be wrong… it might not be as many as that… wounds. It looked like he’d been holding the knife towards her and he stuck the knife in a few places. And this particular day [in court], they were talking about the fact that she’d actually sat after he’d stabbed her. She’d managed to get off the sofa. But she must have sat there for a while. And then she collapsed on the floor. And his auntie she were crying, she was still crying outside and she was saying, “It was awful, it was really awful. I can’t believe he did that to her.”
 
He pleaded not guilty.
 
He pleaded not guilty. He, he said… he pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but not guilty to murder. He said she’d provoked him.
 
She’d made him do it. She’d gone for him first. She was… according to him she was sat on the sofa peeling potatoes and they’d had a row. And she’d gone for him with a knife. And he said, “I don’t know.” He said, “I just saw red and took the knife off her and stabbed her once and then she were dead.” But then he went out and bought some heroin and took a heroin overdose and lay down beside my sister. But that’s him that wasn’t thinking straight. And then like I said in court it came out that he’d stabbed her more than once. And they’d actually done some, some sort of test on her hands to see if she had been peeling potatoes. And they said, no, the only fingerprints that were on the knife were his. There was no starch on my sister. There was no starch on the knife. They just… even the judge in his summing up said, “You’ve just told us one pack of lies after another to save your own skin.” He said, “At the end of day an eleven year old child is without his mother and a newborn baby was never born because you’ve taken the mother away.”
 
And so did the jury find him guilty?
 
Yes within a couple of hours. I think it was probably about three hours. They found him guilty of murder. And he got fourteen and, fourteen years so many days because he’d done so long on remand.  
 
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After Julie's sister was murdered, volunteers from Victim Support offered to help in any way they...

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Did the family liaison officer suggest where you might find some help?
 
No. They brought Victim Support to see us. They help victims of crimes and things.
 
What were they like?
 
They were quite nice actually. They had a chat with us. And said if there was anything that they could do, they’d be there, but there was nothing really that we wanted them to do. We were just kind of in shock for weeks on end.
 
Did you want any sort of counselling at that stage, did you want to talk to anybody else about it?
 
No.
 
You had your own support and everything?
 
Yes. My nephew sees a counsellor. He’s seen her for, since probably about two months after his mum died. Victim support helped us with that. And he still sees her now and it’s over two years.
 
So did they find somebody?
 
They found someone, yes… they because of the circumstances of my sister’s death and the fact my nephew found her.
 
They pushed this counselling through for him. They said, “He really, really needs it”.
 
Is the counsellor a volunteer or somebody with professional training?
 
She’s trained but she is a volunteer.
 
I see so she’s a professionally trained counsellor, working for Victim Support as a volunteer?
 
She doesn’t work for them. She works for another group.
 
Oh I see, so she’s doing that as voluntary work.
 
Yes. Yes.
 
That’s good. And is that free?
 
Yes it is. Yes.
 
So they have helped you in that way?
 
Yes they have helped us in that way. And they did… and when Shirley first died, it was because everything from Shirley dying to her actually being buried was nearly two months, we didn’t actually have the funeral until December. So it was quite a long time. So in that time Victim Support arranged for my nephew to go and have a couple of outings out to do things you know, just to take his mind off everything that were going on. Because he’d come home from school and the liaison officers would be here and he’d go, “All right.” And it would be just, there were that… he was that used to them being there.
 
You know and he just took it in his stride that they were there.
 
Did someone from Victim Support come and pick him up to take him on these outings?
 
No they arranged for us to take him and we, and we took him.
 
Oh. And did they pay for them?
 
Most of the things were free that we wouldn’t have known about if they kind of hadn’t known about them. Like we took him out on Halloween night to this museum that does… like a Halloween… it’s not a party, but it’s a walk through. But they change the atmosphere of the museum.
 
And I’ve lived here all my life and I’d never ever heard of it. Yet the chap from victim support was involved with that so he arranged for us to get tickets to go to that.
 
And it free when you got there?
Yeah.
 
So he helped in that he told you about things that your nephew might like to do?
 
Might interest him, yes.
 
Oh that was good. And they all work as volunteers do they for Victim Support?
 
Yes Victim Support, they’re all volunteers.
 
I mean they did say that they’d if I needed counselling they’d arrange that. But at the time I was at college doing a course to get onto to do my nursing. And all my friends were just so supportive. 
 
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