“For each life stolen, more than a dozen people need immediate and ongoing support…Homicide’s tentacles stretch into every area of its victims’ lives and beyond into the wider community.”
News.com.au, accessed 2nd July, 2017
My father is a great believer in patronising local businesses. This means that when you want a service it should still be there – at least that was his theory. For many years, in fact through most of my childhood, my dad cycled to work – I once calculated the sum for how many times he cycled past (almost 50,000) Sculcoate’s Lane corner – the street the factory he worked in was situated. There in the morning, and back home for dinner then a return trip, followed by the hard cycle back home again after the grind of the day. He rode a yellow racing bike with a fixed wheel: once I tried to master this in the back alley of our house and still have the scars. Another time, he cycled all the way to work with our cat in his saddle bag. Now, at 81, he proves the medics right: exercise helps – he has smoked and drunk, but he is still as fit as a fiddle.
When I was 14, dad learned to drive. His first car was a red Cortina Estate, the car of a family man. It was a beast of a car and could accommodate all four of his children and enough luggage to take us on holiday to Scarborough. (Facts: my brother T was sick and my mother – annoyingly – requisitioned my Hallmark paper bag with Snoopy on to catch it, and, after throwing it from the car window, the bag split so T’s spew splattered across the whole of the back window the rest of the journey and – to add insult to injury – my sister KM (aged 15 and a half), desperate to go to the toilet, lost control of her bladder whilst dad was looking for somewhere straight-forward to park. My mother bought her a pair of hideous trousers from Boyes’ in Scarborough to replace the wet ones that had a military style stripe down each leg which KM hated but had to wear regularly for the next two years as a badge of her disgrace.)
The red Cortina was already an old car so to counter this my dad found a good reasonable garage that would service and fix it without fleecing him. He immediately liked Belcher’s – they were friendly, reliable and local. Cliff Belcher was a good and decent man. From that point on, my dad took all his cars there: his ex-salesman’s Talbot (“A bloody big mistake” was his verdict), his various Rovers, and his Astra (“Seats are thin!”) until such times as he no longer could.
A man cannot take responsibility for his son; not all apples fall close to the tree. This was the case with Craig Belcher. Something of a dreamer Craig took his time to settle down and Cliff Belcher and his wife sighed with relief when he finally got a job. It wasn’t what they had hoped for him but at least he’d got off his backside and done something. This represented progress. Cliff had hoped that Craig would take over the garage but the lad had no aptitude for it and no interest. But at least Craig was still involved in cars: he had become a petrol station attendant. Cliff would laugh with his customers about kids and how tricky it could be to understand them, “It’s a bloody bugger isn’t Trev?” he’d say, and my dad would nod because in spite of all of his efforts to raise his kids as hard working decent folk one of them, as the century was about to turn, was on the dole and then another had more children than he could count on the fingers of one hand.
On the 5th March 1998 a young woman, Kirsty Carver, who worked for the police, had been hanging out with a couple of her friends, filling time until her ex-boyfriend came off his police officer shift at 4am. The night before he had told her that he did not think there was a future to their relationship. Kirsty wanted to talk to him about this again.
Kirsty left one of her friend’s houses after 2am and drove to the outskirts of Hull where she filled up on petrol. Craig Belcher was the attendant on duty.
No one knows exactly what happened after that, although during the trial an assumption was made that Craig accosted Kirsty after she rebuffed his advances. He then attacked her, striking her at least 3 times with a hammer he found in the storeroom of the service station.
After her murder, the police assumed, Craig put Kirsty’s body into the boot of his car and, making up an elaborate and unlikely plot, he tried to involve a couple of his friends in the disposing of her body. He told them that he’d been offered £200 to dispose of her after he’d witnessed her murder (along with the murder of a man) at the hands of a drugs’ courier who he was working for. Both friends that Craig approached made up excuses pretty quickly to not get involved.
There was a great deal of concern for Kirsty when her car was found down a lane a few miles from the garage, and later her parents made an emotional appeal for someone to tell them about her whereabouts. But by then Kirsty was already dead.
The police were tireless in their search of Kirsty and they eventually found her body in a shallow grave at an isolated spot at Spurn Point where the River Humber meets the North sea.
The net began to tighten around Belcher, the evidence of his clumsy efforts to clean left in the storeroom where he had killed Kirsty and his DNA in her car. But still he did not admit or explain her death. At his trial the jury took five hours to find him guilty and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. The judge said, “You are an intelligent and cunning man. You are a convincing liar as well as a very dangerous one.” The gallery cheered when he was taken down though Kirsty’s family were left utterly devastated. They never fully recovered.
Not long after Craig Belcher was sent down, Cliff Belcher quietly closed his garage, and, along with his wife, they withdrew from life, taking themselves off to a place where no one knew who they were so that they could escape the scrutiny of – some well-meaning – people. They had only raised their son in the way others had. They could not explain how he had become this. He’d never been denied anything. They could not understand or excuse it.
The ripples of a murder extend further still. Close family are left bereft and desolate knowing that all their hopes and dreams, their ambitions and plans for that person were snuffed out in a single second. And those that remain, the parents of the victim (and the murderer’s too) have to pick up the pieces when none of it makes sense, or fit together any more, where nothing can ever be the same again.
And the community: friends, lovers, siblings, extended family, neighbours, work colleagues, associates and customers are left wondering how the wound can heal, and yet, for them finally, it does, just about, they talk it over, shrug, somehow they carry on – accept that they can never change it, that they can’t go back and offer a bed, or not break-up or call a stop to strangeness.
But the families always have the shape of that person missing in their lives. Always.