Life must mean life, demand mothers of murdered children life

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Seven-year-old Donna Marie Gillbank was tucked up in bed hugging her favourite toy rabbit and seemed to be fast asleep, writes Roger Dobson.

After a last check on her daughter, June Woon herself went to bed, content that Donna was warm and safe. It was not until the following morning when the youngster failed to get up on time that she began to suspect that all was not well.

What Mrs Woon found that morning in her daughter's bedroom was too terrible for most of us to even imagine. Her only child had been raped and murdered before being carefully laid in the bed with her rabbit as though she were asleep.

The rapist and killer was Mrs Woon's own brother, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation of 20 years. But if Mrs Woon has her way, he will, like Myra Hindley, die in prison.

"I promised my daughter on the day she was buried that I would fight until my dying day to keep that beast in prison for the rest of his life. "Yesterday she joined others who have had children murdered in presenting a petition to the Prime Minister.It was to be followed by a candlelight vigil in Trafalgar Square.

Mothers Against Murder and Aggression, made up of 100 parents, most of whom have lost children in violent circumstances, says for childkillers, a life sentence should mean just that. Lynn Costello, one of the organisers of the pressure group whose petition has been signed by more than 200,000 people since its launch in August, says: "Parents need to be better treated. They are victims."

Among other complaints are the delay in getting the body of their child returned from the investigating authorities - sometimes months; lack of information about any murder inquiry; and poor communication, particularly when a murder charge has been dropped for a lesser one of manslaughter.

June Woon is in no doubt that her brother should never be released for the murder he committed 20 years ago: "His parole hearing started this year and he could be out with three years. There is no parole for me or Donna Marie, so why for him?"

Denise Copley's son Jonathan was stabbed to death two years ago, along with his baby sister. A relative of the babysitter was later given two life sentences. "This man has taken two lives. He must never be released."

And Mandy Everitt's son Richard was murdered three years ago: "He was near the house with two young friends when he was surrounded by a gang of about 20. He was then stabbed once in the back and he died. The man who stabbed Richard was given a life sentence and life should mean life for people who take the lives of others.

"The Great Train robbers were given 25 years, yet murderers are let out in eight to 12 years. Is money worth more than life?"