“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.” Helen Newlove 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.” Helen Newlove 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.” Neil Docking 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.
"We were an ordinary working-class family... Garry loved cars and music. Every Sunday he would wash his car religiously and mine as well...(now) The light has gone out of our lives-it’s like a piece of jigsaw has been lost forever.” Helen Newlove, widow of Garry19-year-old Adam Swellings was sentenced to life and ordered to serve a minimum of 17 years. Jordan Cunliffe, 16, was sentenced to life with a minimum tariff of 12 years. Stephen Sorton, 17, was sentenced to life with a minimum of 15 years. This was reduced to 13 years on appeal.Swellings and Cunliffe also appealed their convictions. They were both turned down. Cunliffe’s mother argued that it was unfair her son had been convicted through the law of joint enterprise. This meant that he could be found guilty of murder because he watched it happen and failed to act. She argued that Cunliffe suffered from keratoconus, an eye condition that meant his eyesight was impaired. She also believed that the massive publicity over the murder meant the case was rushed and those involved felt under enormous pressure to prove guilt and sentence accordingly.BROKEN BRITAIN The murder triggered massive debate everywhere from the papers to Parliament. The leader of the opposition, David Cameron cited the killing as evidence of a ‘Broken Britain’. The key concerns were: How effective the judicial system was with teenagers; The lack of parental responsibility for and control of teenagers; The easy access of teenagers to drugs; And the availability and acceptance of super strength alcohol and its effects:“I feel desperate. My officers use vast amounts of time policing alcohol culture." Peter Fahy, Cheshire Chief ConstableThe Newlove family tried as best they could to carry on. But Amy suffered flashbacks of her father’s death and Helen was on medication and couldn’t go back to work. Danielle posted an online tribute"Rip Dad, I'll miss you so much...You was one big hero who stood up for what was right."But life moved on. Garry had always told Zoe that she should try modelling because he thought her looks would soon earn her enough to buy him a Ferrari. And in honour of her father, and realising life is short, Zoe managed to earn a place on ‘Britain’s Next Top Model’.In 2010 Helen was invited to become a Peer in the House of Lords acting on behalf of victims and communities.“When I went for the induction day I did feel you know very much like Coronation Street Hilda Ogden. What am I doing here, somebody’s going to tell you have come in the wrong door.” Helen NewloveLike Doreen Lawrence, however, Helen was made for the role. In the years since becoming the Victims Commissioner she has toured the country meeting others who are trying to tackle anti-social behaviour. She also meets with youth offenders and talks at schools about the dangers of alcohol abuse.“I do what I do because I really can’t get my head round he’s gone. I can’t get my head round he had cancer and he didn’t die from cancer; he died from kicks to the head. I do what I do because I don’t want to live in this society that accepts that kind of crime.”In 2012, in a small ceremony, surrounded by her three daughters, Helen married again.Five years after Garry’s death, Cheshire police said anti-social behaviour had been reduced stating there’d been a reduction of more than 66% in cases involving the most serious violent crimes.In August 2013 Helen released a book entitled ‘It Could Happen To You.”All proceeds go to a victims’ charity.
“Garry lost his life, my daughters lost their father and I lost a husband.” Helen NewloveIt’s Friday 10 August 2007.In the afternoon, a gang of lads gathers in the local park. They’re drinking strong lager. Fuelled up, they go to an off license. Despite some of the group being under age, the gang now have several bottles of cider.SWELLHEAD One of the gang will consume 3-5 litres of 7.5% proof cider. He is 18-year-old unemployed Adam Swellings. He’s one of the oldest and what passes for their leader. They call him ‘Swellhead’. ‘Swellhead’ has just been released on police bail at midday. The hot summer’s day dehydrates and exaggerates the effects of the alcohol. The gang embark on a spree of violence along the back alleys, parks and streets they think is their territory.A Police Community Support Officer stops them in their tracks. He confiscates all of their alcohol. As soon as the Officer is gone, they simply buy more. They spot two teenagers. Before the two can run, one of them is punched.The gang moves on. They find three teenagers at a bus stop. One of them is disabled. They shout and swear at them forcing them down the street. They separate off the disabled boy. They punch and kick him to the ground.They then relax in the main park, smoking and drinking. They head off to a local pub where a large number of youths are already sitting on benches outside. The pub is close to where Garry Newlove and his family live.Garry’s eighteen-year-old daughter Zoe isn’t at home as she’s working at IKEA. His wife Helen has gone to bed early feeling tired and unwell. As she doesn’t like the TV Talent Show on that night, Garry, Danielle and Amy are happy enough that they’ll be able to watch the final without her minding. Garry takes her up a boiled egg and makes sure she’s all right. Helen’s touched. She’s looking forward to watching her favourite TV programme; a murder mystery series.It’s now nearly 10:40pm.The gang are walking up Garry’s road. They break a light on a neighbour’s car. They move on. Then one kicks Helen’s car.Inside, the family hears breaking glass. It sounds like it’s going to be the usual tense Friday night. Helen shouts down to Garry asking him to see what’s happening. Garry replies with the last words he will ever say to his wife:“Yup, not a problem, I’ll just go and check.”Barefooted, Garry goes out and demands to know which one of the gang damaged his wife’s Renault Scenic. The gang simply laugh at him. They circle him, shouting and swearing and goading him. One of them, Adam Swellings comes up from behind. He is the first to punch him.Once this line is crossed, the rest attack as a pack. Garry is kneed in the back and he falls to his knees. Now he’s at the right height for them to kick him in his head.At the same time, Zoe returns home from work with her boyfriend. They try to intervene. But the frenzied gang make it clear that nothing will stop them. There’s nothing Amy and Danielle can do. They can only watch in horror as each of the 14 blows to Garry’s head is inflicted. Garry has instinctively pulled himself into the foetal position.Sorton kicks Garry on the ground so hard that he loses his trainer under his beaten body. In total, Garry receives 40 internal injuries. His hands are bruised from trying to protect himself.“They did not stop kicking Mr Newlove even while he was lying on the ground dying from his injuries." Ian Rushton, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS CheshireIn just two minutes, Garry has head and other injuries inflicted that will end his life.As Garry isn’t reacting anymore, the gang move off. They go straight to a chip shop for their dinner. 15-year-old Danielle cradles her dying father in her arms.Amy runs inside and screams for an ambulance. She collapses. Zoe’s boyfriend gives mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to Garry. The ambulance arrives. They stretcher in Garry. Helen tries to join him in the back of the ambulance. But Garry starts to fail and the crew have to ask her to step down. Helen, in shock, sits on the curb and phones her family screaming that Garry’s hurt.Then they’re in A&E and they’re asking Helen to go into the family room but she’s seen the BBC medical drama ‘Casualty’ and she knows that you only go in there for bad news and she doesn’t want to go but the nurses persuade her in.A doctor enters and says that Garry is in a coma. His pupil is dilated and bleeding. Helen asks her to see her husband.“It’s horrible. You see the neck collar, but his head was so swollen...it made me feel physically sick. I still say to this day that there was a footprint on his forehead that was a footprint of a trainer.”A violent kick to the back of Garry’s head has caused a brain haemorrhage.Amy writes a letter to her father begging him to come back to her:“I know you can fight this as you are a strong, loving man who knows me no matter what. I will stick by you while you are in hospital and I will take care of mummy.”Helen takes her daughters to see their father. She doesn’t want their last memory to be of their father broken and bleeding on a dirty floor. They all kiss, cuddle and hug him.The family hold a bedside vigil. Garry had battled and beaten stomach cancer. He had confronted a street gang. But the brain haemorrhage they’d inflicted was fatal. Helen is told that her husband is brain dead.She agrees to switch off his life support.Two days after asking some boys to stop kicking a car, Garry Newlove stops breathing.
Police start shifting through those kids who were drunk and drugged up on Friday night to find those that had gone onto kill.Two Police Community Support Officers had noticed one lad, 16-year-old Stephen Sorton, was missing a trainer when they stopped him. He’d lied and said it had come off while running. He is soon arrested.Methodical, painstaking detective work, alongside several eyewitness statements, identify other key members of the gangs. Witnesses all agree there were around four or five main youths involved in the attack.Within hours, nine are in custody.“I decided to...get a map drawn of the street and draw on where Mr Newlove was. And then we got each individual who was involved to record on their individual map where individuals were stood at the time of the attack. And what was consistent in that was when we overlayed them all was the fact there were five youths stood round Mr Newlove.” Detective Inspector Geoff ElveyThree names keep coming up. All are known for either drinking or drug taking and for disturbances in the local neighbourhood. In addition to Sorton, they are Adam Swellings, 18, and Jordan Cunliffe, aged just 15-years-old.After the attack on Garry, Swellings had gone home and admitted to his mother that he’d beaten a man up. She called the police. Swellings was at his father’s home in Crewe when the police came. He’d been watching the news and knew why they were there. Detective Inspector Geoff Elvey got the impression that Swellings ‘wasn’t really bothered about what had taken place.’Basic checks reveal that Swellings had only just been released from custody on the day of the attack. The magistrates had had the opportunity to remand him for his assault on a police officer ten days before. Instead, they released him. One of the conditions of his bail was that he wouldn’t go to Warrington.Swelling’s previous crimes included theft, robbery, criminal damage and assault. He had a reputation for being a violent drunk. He initially denies being involved but then changes his story. He says he landed just one punch and then did no more.Sorton was said to have come from a decent family but was known for his ‘vindictive edge’. He had a previous police reprimand for assault.“Sorton never admitted anything during the interview other than that he did find out there’d been an attack in the street. And he said he went out to investigate and render assistance while he was waiting for the ambulance and that’s how he lost his shoe.” Detective Inspector Geoff ElveyEyewitnesses contradict his account. They place him at the scene of the attack and having taken part in the kicking. They say that’s how he lost his shoe. After he’s charged, Sorton admits his guilt to his mother.Jordan Cunliffe was not only younger than the other two: He was smaller and weaker. He had made up for this by inviting gang members to use his home for drug taking. He had a conviction for shoplifting. He also denied being in the area. Eyewitness accounts, PCSO statements, CCTV footage and Zoe Newlove’s blood on his jacket contradict him.
The trial began on 14 November 2007. It lasted six weeks. It was held at Chester Crown Court where Myra Hindley and Ian Brady were tried. Its large, grand courtroom and its history added to the feeling that this was a seminal trial.A PACK OF ANIMALS The court was told that at one point more than fifteen youths surrounded Garry egging each other on. One neighbour told the jury the gang attacked like ‘a pack of animals’. But five teenagers stood trial for murder. Unemployed Swellings was portrayed as the ringleader of the gang that killed Garry. As well as Sorton and Cunliffe, there were two others, one aged 15, the other 17. These two cannot be identified for legal reasons.The Police and Crown Prosecution Service were confident. When Adam Swellings tried to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, the prosecution rejected his plea. The evidence against the defendants included eyewitnesses and PCSO statements, CCTV footage, forensic and physical evidence.KICKED LIKE A FOOTBALL But the prosecution had also to call Garry’s daughters to give evidence in the murder trial of their father. Zoe was called first. They placed screens around her so she wouldn’t have to look at her father’s killers in the dock. She described seeing her father ‘kicked like a football.’Amy, just 13-years-old, was also expected to give evidence.“The family are asked not to show any emotion so as not to prejudice the jury. So that was a very difficult one for Helen and the family whereas the defendants were laughing and joking. One of the defendants was in the box and allowed to have his mum with him cause he was upset. Yet when the girls were giving their evidence they weren’t afforded that luxury.” Christine Stubbs, Police Family Liaison OfficerThere was a noticeable contrast between the dignity of the daughters and the disrespect of the defendants. With hindsight, it can be noted that three of the defendants didn’t need to make a grieving family go through the trial. They did not have to make teenage girls relive the moment they saw their father beaten to death.But the defendants weren’t respectful to the family, to the other witnesses, indeed, to anything.“...the youths involved in the case didn’t seem to have any respect for the proceedings, no real sense of the magnitude of the case and of what they’d done and (that) the eyes of the country were on them...They were laughing and joking and making a mockery...of the proceedings...Jordan Cunliffe...laughed and joked his way from beginning to end.” Neil Docking, Crime ReporterOne detective believed he saw one of the defendants drop off to sleep. They fidgeted, shuffled, grinned and sniggered their way through the rest of the trial.When the defendants gave their evidence, they often tried to excuse themselves by blaming others. They also tried to suggest that it was Garry who had been aggressive and they were acting in self-defence. Swellings at one point tried to suggest he was acting to protect the younger members of the gang.The jury retired to consider their verdict on 2 January 2008. They would deliberate for 55 hours. The length of time worried the police. They were worried it indicated the jury weren’t sure of the defendant’s guilt.After ten days anxious days of waiting Helen and her family heard their verdict.Three teenagers were found guilty of murder.On hearing the verdict 19-year-old Swellings was said to be ‘emotionless’; 17-year-old Stephen Sorton ‘just gazed straight ahead’; and 16-year-old Jordan Cunliffe, the joker in the court, suddenly burst into tears and wailed.Two other teenagers, 15 and 17, were cleared by the jury of murder and manslaughter. Helen was relieved that three of her husband’s murderers had been found guilty but was angry at the acquittals.“...victims are not at the heart of the justice. We’re at the bottom of the ladder.”