PROFILE: Cheryl Tooze : An identity born of injustice

The provincial Jill Morrell stood by her man and proved her mettle, says David Walker
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The Independent Online
This love, surely, is not Eros. He is balding and gangly in a Marks and Spencer suit. She is slight and dressed in a white polo neck and pinafore dress as shapeless as if the Eighties never happened. "Have they had a bonk yet?" asked a cameraman behind me yesterday at the press conference. Coarse, but a must question. Even after two and a half years' separation, you couldn't quite imagine them locked in passion.

It is not physical attraction for the bespectacled Jonathan that darts from Cheryl Tooze's eyes. This fire is love, no denying it. It is love built on something else, a kind of rocky determination to plough on. This is a woman who has come to know herself.

Jonathan Jones does most of the talking. He is eloquent, even moving as he describes his two and a half stolen years, their lost time together. As the paparazzi swarm round her and the tabloid hacks slip her little notes with phone numbers and pounds signs, she smiles a bemused smile and glances demurely at him.

But when she speaks, there's mettle. Thanks to the police, thanks to the machinations of the legal system, her own business went "down the pan", she says grimly. This is a relationship of equals.

But equal in what? Her parents were shot in the back of their heads with a 12-bore shotgun at close range and dumped in a barn. A solid Newport jury found this man, her love, guilty of the crime. She disbelieved them, she loved the alleged parricide.

The hills around Llanharry are not the parched backs of Thebes. This is not a Greek tragedy. It isn't even Truman Capote territory. It is all too cosy, too ordinary, too Welsh. These people are retired wholesalers, market researchers, accountants; they wear suits and sensible shoes. They are involved in what a distinguished Fleet Street editor once memorably called a good middle-class murder. Jonathan Jones has just been in Gartree behind floodlights and razor wire serving two life sentences but emerges as fluent and respectable as you would expect a former trainee Co-op manager to be. As for Cheryl, this is no stand-by-your-man Lisa Leeson regretting the loss of the Singaporean good life. She is a polytechnic graduate, a small businesswoman. This couple are us. Wouldn't we all, in similar circumstances, behave the same way?

The question is this - were the Toozes, are the Joneses, "normal"? Cheryl was an only child. Her father, Harry, was dominant, a rough diamond. His wife was repressed, chapel-going. Both were devoted to Cheryl, says the Welsh chorus of Llanharry inhabitants - in the reports, they start to sound like extras for an amateur production of Under Milk Wood.

So far, so normal. But why did pacific Harry keep an unlicensed Luger under his bed? Why the shotgun that was stolen 10 months before his death? All families are dysfunctional, but in how many are the symbols of homicide part of everyday life?

Llanharry was also a junction of an extended family whose further branches owed something to the rural eccentricity of Cold Comfort Farm. What was the nature of Harry's property tangle with his brother-in-law Elfed? Why were the Toozes visiting a solicitor about a contested will just before they died? Yesterday, Cheryl spat the name of her aunt, Cynthia - but then she did petition to keep Jonathan in jail and insinuated that Cheryl herself was involved. Cheryl hinted darkly that there are uninvestigated suspects lurking on the hillsides.

Cheryl goes off to college, to what is now the University of Glamorgan to study business. She meets Jonathan Jones, also Welsh, also the son of loving parents, studying accountancy after a stint as a trainee manager for the Co-op. But the happy-ever-after bit does not materialise. They do not get married and raise children in the Cardiff suburbs.

Instead, she leaves Wales. Not for the bright lights; they start to live together in Orpington. This is the early Eighties. Living together is what young people do. Unashamedly. But Cheryl and Jonathan do not tell the Toozes and, when the parents find out, they all keep it secret from the other inhabitants of Llanharry - even up to the fatal evening.

They keep up a pretence that Jonathan lives apart and, when cousins visit, he disappears from their flat. Is this strange? In most families, guilt is part of the loose change of daily contact between parents and their children.

Cheryl earns pounds 18,000 a year as a market researcher. But Jonathan's career as a recruitment consultant is a failure. They live in a council flat. They have separate bank accounts. His earnings are small. She leaves her job to set up a self-employed business. On the day the Toozes are shot, Jonathan says he is scouting office locations in Orpington. How attractive is the pounds 150,000 inheritance Cheryl has been promised? You see, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, how easy it is to knit a web of suspicious circumstance.

Every night, Cheryl calls home, but on the fatal night, it is not she who rushes off down the M4 when her calls go unanswered. It is Jonathan who, with the police, gains entrance to the Toozes' farm and - here we are deep into contested evidence and forensic uncertainty - may have left an incriminating thumbprint on a saucer.

Till now Cheryl has been - what? An utterly conventional but modern woman, living her own life, earning her own money, doting on a man whom she has chosen not to marry, borrowing videos from Blockbuster.

Then her life darkens. Jonathan's arrest and conviction wreak a physical toll. Her red hair loses its colour and she loses her health, sufficiently seriously for her to receive invalidity benefit.

But with her anguish comes the determination on display yesterday. This is more than love. It is that force born of a sense of injustice which has powered reformers and campaigners down the centuries. Love mingles with anger to make a high-octane fuel which showed no signs yesterday of burning out.

Cheryl Tooze is a provincial Jill Morrell - she spoke yesterday of getting involved in other campaigns to uncover and remedy miscarriages of justice. Cheryl Tooze lost her parents, lost and recovered her lover, but on the way acquired something that will see her to the end of her days. She gained an unshakeable and permanent identity.