As a child my son Andrew had a fascination with taking things apart and putting them back together. He once filled a lawnmower with petrol and accidentally set it alight. He did a lot of things like that I knew one day might land him in trouble but what happened to him on 8th January was not one of my worries.
I last saw Andrew alive on Christmas Eve 2016 when he was telling me how he had fallen off a ladder. What he didn’t tell me before was that he was two storeys high and had been hanging by his finger tips and it was only thanks to someone seeing him on CCTV that he was rescued! This was typical of Andrew, he had no fear. He was a helpful, kind natured, generous young man.
It was Sunday lunchtime when I was sitting in the local coffee shop ordering some lunch when I received a message out of the blue from one of Andrew’s friends asking me to get in touch. I knew instantly that something wasn’t right and then couldn’t get hold of the friend or Andrew.
I remember sitting there eating my lunch but not really wanting it at all and not knowing what to do.
I eventually spoke to Andrew’s neighbour who told me there were police and ambulance outside his home. With that I called the local police station and hospital but couldn’t get any information.
I went home and waited and watched every single car as it passed the window and then I saw the police car arrive. I had the front door open ready and I remember saying ‘I’m not going to like what you tell me’.
They told me Andrew was dead.
I didn’t believe it, even though I knew deep down, long before they’d arrived that it was true.
I went through the motions calling his father, his brother, my parents. I just remember saying ‘he’s dead’. I didn’t know what had happened.
When the family liaison officer arrived one of the first things I remember is her telling me that Andrew was an innocent victim. I was very shocked that in that small space of time they knew there were defence wounds.
From that point I was running on autopilot. Things needed to be done. I had a funeral to arrange. The money I had hoped to spend on his wedding one day would now be spent on his funeral.
To be told later that your son stepped in to save someone else – one minute you are proud and the next you are asking yourself why he did that? He could still be here. At the same time you know that there was never going to be a happy ending for someone and you wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
Andrew was stabbed 17 times but it was only one that killed him and the woman he was protecting was lucky that one of her 15 stab wounds missed her heart by just centimetres.
It’s still not real. I still expect him to knock on the door. I go and visit Andrew’s grave but I don’t know what to say to him so I play music. It’s not something I ever thought I would have to do.
I remember being in the supermarket and suddenly it hit me that I was in the shop where the knives were bought. I remember trying to avoid the knife section but also wondering what kind of knife it was. Then at the checkout I wanted to ask why he was sold them. Who would expect a 40-year-old to be buying three knives with that intention?
I have to do something positive for Andrew. He fought to save someone’s life and lost his. If just one person hands in a knife or chooses not to carry one then that could save someone’s life.
Think about the consequences. Do you want to face 25 years – possibly the best years of your life – in prison?
Think about the parents, brothers, sisters, family, friends, the whole community. No parent should ever have to bury their child. I know it happens through illness but something that’s as needless as this, it shouldn’t happen.
What would your parents and family say? They’ll lose you and have to live with the consequences that you killed someone.
You can carry a knife and be lucky and never have to use it but how do you know you won’t. You don’t.