“A normal guy who was in his house just standing up for himself, standing up for his family and paying the ultimate price for that.”
Neil Docking, Crime Reporter
In 1982 Garry Newlove saw Helen in a Manchester nightclub. It was love at first sight. In 1986 they married. As the working class couple couldn’t afford a foreign getaway, they honeymooned in a caravan in Wales. But both worked hard, Garry as a sales director, Helen as a legal PA; and by 2004, they and their now three daughters, Zoe, Danielle and Amy could afford to move into a newly built, four bedroom detached house.
Their new home was on a quiet residential street; quiet apart from a concrete subway at one end. But their nice new neighbours offset any worries about the bored young lads that hung around there. Most on the street were only too happy to have a ‘natter’ and invite the family round for barbeques at the weekend.
The Cheshire town where Garry and his family lived, Warrington, is in the North West of England; it lies halfway between Manchester and Liverpool. It has a population of almost 200,000 and like any town, it has some pluses, and some minuses. But some like to think it has more of a country than city feel.
“It’s a little old village actually. Fearnhead and Padgate are very old villages so they still got that quaint look about them. What I really liked more importantly was the old fashioned neighbours who had time to say hello.”
It was a place that had retained its sense of community and that seemed suited for young families. But like many areas, urban expansion and change meant problems were increasing. Some felt the police didn’t give the attention the area needed.
One cause for concern was the subway at the end of Gary’s street. This was a ‘bit of a magnet’ for youngsters. Helen complained about them a number of times. About 12-18 months after they’d moved into their new home, they noticed that this end of the street was becoming more and more problematic. There was more litter, and the litter was often empty cans and bottles of alcohol. The gangs of youths were no longer just hanging about there. They were drinking and smoking drugs as well.
The family didn’t initially over concern themselves with such things. Back in 1992, Garry had been diagnosed with stomach cancer. He’d survived a five hour operation to remove his stomach and spleen. He was in intensive care for three days. And yet despite the trauma, he was back at work within six months.
Even though it was nearly fifteen years ago, Helen still vividly remembered how the operation had reduced Garry to looking like a ‘little old man’. An event like that put everyday problems into perspective.
But increasingly each weekend was being disturbed by seriously anti-social behaviour. When Garry asked a lad to stop urinating on a fence, he’d been told to ‘F*** off.’ Another time, Garry asked others to get off a car bonnet. Helen remembers their response:
‘F*** off, you speccy-eyed f****r...Get in or we’ll come and s**g your wife.’
Cars in the street were often damaged at night. Their family car had been vandalised four times. But if it was only criminal damage, the police just asked them to record it. Helen said the police would never come out for such incidents. She would go with her neighbour Eric to police and resident meetings to discuss their concerns. Helen said that on one occasion the very kids they accused of anti social behaviour banged on the windows of the meeting place. The police did nothing. Helen turned to her neighbour and said it would take a murder for the police to take them seriously.
One of their neighbours had had enough. He moved the family away.
“I wish to God we’d followed him.”
Garry stopped his children going to the local shops after dark.
The family noticed the litter of drink cans and bottles were increasingly super strength alcohol brands. The levels of aggression from the gangs were similarly rising.
“There was an incident some 10 days before, in which members of the gang attacked another man who came outside to defend his house. In all honesty the warning signs were there.”
The whole family were looking forward to a well-deserved foreign holiday in just a couple of weeks. As their eldest daughter is now 18, Helen realises it will probably be their last ever holiday as a family together.