Helen Newlove joined a sad but admirable list this week when she criticised the "me first" society which creates, then fails to deal with, gangs of knife-wielding youths. She is the latest in a band of ordinary women for whom the murder of a loved one has revealed hidden reserves.
Mrs Newlove spoke out on Wednesday after three teenagers were convicted of murdering her husband, Garry, 47, a sales manager and father to three girls. He was kicked to death outside the family home in Warrington, Cheshire, last August and had waged a campaign against youths who congregated in a nearby underpass to drink. The Newloves' car had been vandalised four times, and Mr Newlove had stopped his daughters from going to the shops after dark.
He held the old-fashioned view that troublesome teenagers should be confronted. That view was shared by headteacher Philip Lawrence, who was stabbed 12 years ago as he tried to stop a gang attack on a boy outside his school in Maida Vale, west London. His widow, Frances, commemorated his life with the founding of the Philip Lawrence Awards to honour good citizenship among youngsters. She challenged the decision not to deport Learco Chindamo, her husband's killer, to Italy on his release from prison. Chindamo was born there, moved to the UK when he was six, and killed Mr Lawrence nine years later.
In 1993, when Stephen Lawrence, 18, was stabbed to death in south London in a racial attack, his mother, Doreen, experienced the same unwanted spotlight. She still campaigns for justice. Last November, Scotland Yard announced that new DNA evidence may lead to the re-arrest of the five original suspects.
Last Wednesday, Mrs Newlove called on society to take responsibility for teenage gangs and for parents to take responsibility for their children. "Garry and I have brought up three girls to respect other people," she said. "Until this society stops thinking about Number One, we should all try to pull together to stop these youth gangs.
"Attacking people, verbally and physically, [while] under the influence of drink and drugs... does not in any way justify their actions. You do the crime, you must face the consequence and do the time."
She said Garry's death had devastated her family. Their youngest daughter Amy, 12, still has flashbacks after witnessing the attack. It also emerged after the trial that one of the guilty youths, Adam Swellings, 19, was released on bail just two days before the murder, on the condition that he should not go to Warrington.
"Parents have to face up to their responsibilities," said Mrs Newlove. "If the children do not face up to the action, then we have to make the parent face the action... lock them up as well. Give them a deterrent... We have to make our streets safer to walk out on and not be afraid of retaliation."Reuse content