Nightmare for parents in a suburban idyll

Ian MacKinnon visits a once 'safe' community reeling at the double killings
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The Independent Online
Some tried to reason, to figure out why or how two schoolboys could be brutally murdered in the quiet scrubland. Some preferred not to talk about it, possibly fearing their emotions would get the better of them.

Many others lowered their heads and talked in hushed, almost reverential tones of their sadness for the families of Robert Gee and Paul Barker, and their bewilderment that suburban Eastham in Wirral could be torn asunder.

All in their own way were trying to come to terms with the events of Saturday that have left an indelible mark on a community where things will never be quite the same.

Here was a suburban idyll of neat new red-brick semis where parents believed their children could ride their bikes and fish in peace. No litter. No graffiti. No gangs.

But that wholesome perception has been altered. Fathers walked past teams of officers, searching the murder scene yesterday, clutching their daughters' hands as if their lives depended upon it.

In his home adjacent to Brookhurst Fields, just a few hundred yards from where the bodies were found, Frank Bolton propped up the mountain bikes of his 10-year-old twins, Tracy and Adam, in his driveway.

"We have been here seven years," he said. "We even built an extension so that we could stay because we thought it was so ideal for the kids. But then this. It's frightening. The children are staying pretty close at the moment. But kids are kids. You think you know where they are and that they are safe. But I'm sure the parents of the two boys thought exactly the same. My daughter was afraid to go to bed last night because of what happened. Everyone, especially those with children, is absolutely horrified."

John McAllister, echoed similar fears as he held his five-year-old daughter Brittany's hand, while walking past the growing mound of floral tributes.

"People just feel shocked around here. Nobody ever thought something so awful could happen in a place like this. There's simply no crime to speak of. And you would think the two boys who were slightly older would have been safe."

Jean Davies, a governor at South Wirral High School, where the boys were pupils,summed up most parents' fears. "It's a nightmare, a parents' nightmare," she said. "Our sympathy can only go out to the parents and families of the boys."

For Darren Pritchard, 30, a special constable, the killings have made him wary of strangers. "I saw a man walking past my window last night who I did not recognise and you just become suspicious ...

"When we were kids we used to play around the ponds and in the fields all the time. It seemed completely safe. But these two kids never did anything to anybody. You wonder why. What's it all about?"