Murder - a witness' story
After an evening out with her friend Emma, Anna had returned home early and had been asleep for a couple of hours. She awoke to the sound of banging on the window and a neighbour screaming that Emma had been stabbed by her boyfriend Terry who was wandering around in a daze.
Anna knew that Terry and Emma had been having problems; now those problems had turned into terrifying violence.
"I went downstairs and let my neighbour in. We turned the lights off and pulled the curtains, leaving a gap to look outside. It was instant fear. I was scared of the dark, but I was more scared of Terry wandering around with a knife; we didn't know where he was."
Anna called the police, then she and her neighbour waited in the darkness for them to arrive. "It was like watching the cavalry arrive; I've never been so glad to see so many police officers in one place."
When the police eventually entered Emma's house, they found her body on the kitchen floor. Terry lay beside, having stabbed himself. Emma died in hospital shortly afterwards, but Terry survived.
The police took statements from Anna and her neighbours. "At about 5am the police said it was time for them to go. That was one of the worst moments; suddenly they were gone. But by 10am, the lady from Victim Support had turned up.
"She offered us help, someone to talk to. At first I felt weak accepting the offer; I had always been the person who helped other people with their problems. But I soon found myself contacting them again.
"It made so much difference just knowing you could speak to somebody, because you get so scared of how you are feeling."
Terry was charged with murder, but was granted bail. He was living in a neighbouring village, and was allowed into Anna's home town to see his solicitor; "I found it very hard to face the thought of bumping into him in the town," said Anna.
The case took 12 months to come to court, and most of Anna's neighbours and friends were testifying as witnesses. "Because we lived in such a small area, it involved all of us and just us. It was an awful time to wait."
Victim Support and the local Witness Service also organised a pre-trial court visit. "That was an enormous help," said Anna. "None of us had had to go through this sort of thing before. It was the fear of the unknown, that was the worst thing."
The trial itself became another ordeal. "Terry had a lot of his friends and family there. Although we could use the Witness Service room, it was on the way to the men's toilets, and he used to go past regularly and look in.
"There was one man in court who just sat and stared at us all day, and his friends would walk past us laughing all the time. The intimidation was appalling."
During the trial it was revealed that Emma had been stabbed more than 40 times; she received at least 15 defence wounds to one of her hands. Terry, who claimed he had been stabbed first, was found guilty and jailed for 12 years.
When the court case was over, Anna still had difficulty in coping with the emotional impact of Emma's murder. She was diagnosed as suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; Victim Support recommended her to a specialist counsellor.
"For three years that night wrecked my life. It ruined the relationship with my partner, and even the relationship with my children, now aged nine and 10, has changed; I worry how they would cope if something happened to me, so I make sure they can stand on their own two feet more. "
Anna has now moved, and is starting to rebuild her life. "Emma's murder was four years ago, and this is the first year I have felt normal. There's no doubt that without Victim Support I could not have got through it.
"Even though they can't make everything better, it just helped so much having them there, to be able to talk to them and explain your fears to them."
from Victim Support's Annual Report.
(c) Victim Support