'I will not stop until Jonathan is free'

Cheryl Tooze's lover was found guilty of murdering her parents. She is standing by her man. Roger Dobson reports
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Indy Lifestyle Online
At exactly 12 noon the telephone rings. Cheryl Tooze jumps to her feet and talks intently and excitedly, the handset held tightly against her face, her free hand raking through her hair.

What follows sounds like the kind of conversation most young couples have when they cannot be together: talk about relatives, gentle enquiries about each other, discussion about when they will meet again. But this is no ordinary chit-chat: Cheryl, 35, is talking, as she does every day of the week, to her lover Jonathan Jones, the man a jury decided last month had brutally slaughtered her parents with a shotgun in their south Wales farmhouse and then calmly returned to the flat they shared in Kent.

"People have said I have been blinded by love," she says from the modern semi in Caerphilly which she now shares with her lover's parents. "What utter nonsense. They don't know Jonathan, they don't really know me. How can they possibly judge?"

She and Jonathan, a 6ft 5in bespectacled man known to his friends as a gentle giant, met when they were both at the Polytechnic of Wales, now the University of Glamorgan. She was the daughter of a farmer and studying business, he the son of a surveyor and reading public administration.

They began a relationship and moved to Orpington in Kent where they shared a flat. Despite living 200 miles from south Wales, they often visited Cheryl's parents, Harry and Megan Tooze, at their farmhouse in Llanharan, Mid Glamorgan.

"Jonathan loved my parents, and they loved him. He liked working on the farm with my father at weekends, and they got on very well together. In fact, everything was perfect," says Cheryl.

All continued to go well until one Monday afternoon nearly two years ago. The day - 26 July 1993 - had begun as any other, Cheryl recalls, but it was to end in nightmare.

"I had always phoned my parents once or twice a day," she says. "My father was not that well - he had recently had a hernia operation and also a rare viral infection from which he had never recovered. He was deaf in one ear and his balance was affected.

"On this particular day, I had spoken to my mother in the morning, but when I tried later on I got no answer. My first reaction was that Monday was their day for going out. I kept trying during the day, and at 9pm I phoned a neighbour and asked them to go over. The neighbour saw the lights were on and that crockery was on the table."

Cheryl telephoned local hospitals and her parents' GP, but with no success. She eventually asked Jonathan to drive the 200 miles to south Wales. When he arrived in the early hours, the alarm had already been raised by neighbours and the police where on the scene.

"He rang me and his voice was faltering. And at that point I knew something was wrong. They later told him that a male body had been found and he left Wales telling the police he would break the news to me.

"But at about 7am, before he had arrived home, I was phoned by the police and told that two bodies had been found and that they looked like my mother and father. I was alone in my flat on the eighth floor and I felt like jumping out the window. I kept on phoning people just to stay sane until Jonathan got back."

She has bitter memories of what happened over the next five months as police investigated the killings.

"On one occasion, they asked me if I would go to the police station with Jonathan. We were separated and I was kept for several hours and given one hell of a time, awful. They said I was ducking and diving their questions and that they were very suspicious of that.

"They said, 'Where were you that night? If your father cut his finger, you'd be there, so where were you?' They were inferring I didn't care about my parents. They said they were suspicious of me. I felt, 'My God, I can't believe I'm hearing this.'

"When they said that Jonathan had killed my parents, I told them not to be so ridiculous."

But two months later Jones was arrested at their flat. "I was with him at the time," says Cheryl. "I will never forget it, it was terrible, frightening. I went to the door and a lot of policemen came in. They took him into the kitchen and said he was being arrested. He said to me, 'Can you believe this?'

"I thought there'd been some awful mistake and he would be released within 24 hours. I was shocked and upset, but I did believe he would soon be out. Then they came to the house to say he had been charged with the murder of my parents."

Jones claimed he had been in Orpington on the day of the murder and had only driven down to south Wales later that night, several hours after the murders, at the request of Cheryl. The prosecution said he had travelled to Wales by train, murdered the couple, and then returned to Orpington. The motive for the murders was said to be the inheritance.

After every step of the legal procedures, the arrest, the charges, the magistrates' hearing and the start of the trial itself, Cheryl was convinced that the nightmare would soon end and her lover would be released.

"I thought the trial could not possibly go ahead," she says, "because there was just no evidence, nothing at all."

A fingerprint belonging to Jones had been found on an item of crockery, but as he had visited the house regularly that could, the court was told, have been left at any time.

The jury verdict of guilty took two days to reach and surprised many people in court - including the trial judge, who last week voiced his doubts in a letter to the Home Secretary.

"There was no evidence at all," says Cheryl, "just a lot of suggestions and innuendo. I would really like to say to the jury, 'Excuse me, but on what evidence did you find him guilty? Please put me in the picture, because I certainly don't know'."

"Initially, I wanted to die when the verdict came in," she continues, "but then I thought that was not doing Jonathan any good. He is not able to do anything so it is down to me to be constructive."

She says the loss of her parents and the imprisonment of Jones has changed her fundamentally. "Before all this happened, I was a quiet, shy sort of person. Now I will do anything to get him out of jail. It has turned me into a real fighter."

After the verdict, she immediately offered a £25,000 reward for information about her parents' killer. Some thought she would soon buckle down and accept what had happened, but not a bit of it. She has now abandoned her market research business to lead a fierce campaign to free her lover and put the real killers of her parents behind bars. An appeal has been launched, bail has been applied for and there is now the prospect of a new alibi to support Jones's case that he was in Orpington when the killings were carried out.

"I couldn't have lived with myself if I had accepted the verdict and left it at that. It is dreadful to see Jonathan in there. To see him in the dock and now in prison and to know he is innocent just breaks my heart.

"My support and belief in his innocence has been 100 per cent all the time. He is the kindest person I have ever known. He is very protective, he wouldn't let me lift heavy boxes or anything like that. Even though he is in prison, his major concern is still for me, not himself."

She unwraps another mint to soothe her throat ravaged by several days of campaigning. "I know Jonathan is innocent. I know beyond any doubt at all that Jon did not kill my parents. Surely to God I would know if he was guilty? I would have noticed a change in his behaviour.

"The fact is that he is a kind, loving, caring person who loved my parents and they loved him and treated him like a son. There is no way on God's earth that he could kill anybody, let alone two people he loved very much."

As she puts down the phone and says goodbye till tomorrow, Cheryl's mind is already working on the next phase of the campaign. "I will not stop until Jonathan is free and the real killer is behind bars. The people who killed my parents are out there somewhere, free, and that is not right, is it?"