Meeting a murderer
Wednesday 10th June, 2015
I had been overwhelmingly compelled to arrange a meeting with Jay with no logical explanation for some time. I was feeling very unsure about whether to do this or not due to the potential difficulties for myself and for my family. Despite the difficulties I could not get the thought out of my head. Coincidentally a week later I had a call from our victim liaison officer about Jay’s parole hearing and any requests we had of him. She mentioned that he had expressed an offer for us to meet with him if we would find this helpful. It seemed like everything had aligned at the same time and if you don’t believe in coincidence then something was ensuring that the meeting took place. Despite the thoughts about meeting with him I had no feelings or thoughts about how I would be when we actually met.
I had undertaken a lot of preparation and discussion with our victim liaison worker and we had discussed at length both how I was feeling and how I thought I might be on the day. My responses changed nearly daily. The reality was that I couldn't know as this is not a situation that you can prepare for or go over in your head by creating any form of ‘real to life’ scenario!
From the moment the meeting was confirmed I guess I put it out of my head and although I knew it was happening I didn't find myself thinking about it. I found this quite odd given the fact I couldn’t put it out of my mind to begin with. I prepared some questions although I didn't expect to go over them like an interview but it's helpful to have some prompts.
On the journey up to Newmarket I found that I was experiencing a variety of emotions whilst trying to control the underlying sense of anxiety. I found myself creating a variety of different scenarios, one where I had a panic attack, one where I cried, one where I was angry and calling him thick for not realising what he was doing, one where I simply walked in and then did an immediate about turn being unable to look him in the eye, and my original thoughts of treating our meeting just like any other meeting I had been in, completely calm and respectable. The many emotions, scenarios and underlying anxieties resulted in a sense of feeling rather nauseous and conflicted. By the time I arrived at the hotel I was exhausted. I found myself talking to myself and asking Lloyd that if it was him that put the thought in my head then it was his fault I was here so he better bloody be there too! I became a little tearful but was handling it all fine despite the increasing sense of needing to vomit. I had a phone call from my dad checking in on me to see how I was feeling. As I opened my mouth I found that maybe I wasn't managing all that well and dissolved in to tears pretty quickly. I was shocked by my sudden deterioration and slightly embarrassed as I had made no big deal about this meeting prior to the day. I was a little inconsolable so hung up on my dad who of course tried to phone back. I found myself asking the question ‘why am I doing this? Why am I putting myself through this?’ I recomposed myself again and answered the phone on the third call. Dad hadn't twigged and was a bit baffled as to what happened but it didn't take long before I was crying again but this time blubbing to dad. Mum said she would come and collect me after the meeting if I wanted but I felt that it was my decision and I didn't want her to drive 5-6hrs to get to me. I was sure I would be fine but said I would let her know. After about 30 mins on the phone I had got it all off my chest and offloaded a barrage of tears and pain onto my parents so felt much better (thanks rents) although the typical horrid feeling of exhaustion and aching face post crying was still there.
There were plenty of kind and supportive Facebook messages and comments and after replying to a few messages I simply found myself unable to continue talking about it. Absolutely exhausted I clambered in to bed and just hoped for the meeting not to leave me a wreck or result in a break down! As expected I didn't get much sleep that night. Unfortunately the bar was closed so I couldn't even have a glass of wine to help me on my way! I finally settled about 1 am.
The next morning although tired I felt completely different and ready to face whatever lay in store for the day. My moment of weakness from my exhaustion was well and truly gone. I was of course still anxious about the day but not half as much as the previous night. The victim liaison officer Alex collected me from the hotel and we drove 30 minutes to HMP Highpoint where Jay was serving his sentence. Alex and I sat in her car for a while as we were early and I asked numerous questions as I wanted to try and gain an impression of the type of person I was about to meet. This person murdered my brother by brutally beating his lifeless and defenceless body. I knew what he looked like in court when he was 18/19yrs but was he the stereotypical prisoner or a ‘scanky chav’, I had no idea so Alex tried to build up a picture.
After passing through the usual security we were waiting to be collected from the prison reception to be taken to a small room at the prison chapel where Jay, Alex and I were going to meet. We entered the chapel building and were lead down a short corridor of rooms. There were minimal locks and bars, and there was nothing ‘police interview room’ about them which was not what I was expecting. I figured that Jay was waiting in one of these rooms but I had no idea which one. I was now feeling rather numb like I'd given up on pre-empting my emotional response.
We reached the room and were shown in. Jay was waiting already sat. My first thought was ‘he doesn't look anything like I remember.’ I hadn't seen him since court when he was younger. He was wearing a shirt and jeans and looked presentable. Apart from an initial glance, just enough to make some snap judgments and observations I didn't make much eye contact. I didn't feel threatened or intimidated and didn't feel like I was in a room with the person who took my brothers life. He didn't have much facial expression so he was very difficult to read. He didn't seem upset, angry or happy. I was told that he was very nervous about the meeting too and if he had been experiencing similar reactions to me I suspect he was feeling like me, numb. I don't think I was giving much away through facial expression either. Alex also said after the meeting that he had said he was not going to get upset as he had no right to get upset in front of me.
We were introduced by Alex and she facilitated the start of the conversation. I asked Jay to talk me through what happened and why he did what he did. Also how he felt about everything. He started to tell me the day from his memory. They had been having drinks and were in good spirits after winning a football match that morning. They were joined by other friends, two of whom were Lloyd's other attackers. He said that there had been a disagreement between Andrew Betty (the other murderer) and one of Jay’s friends and the atmosphere had changed. Jay described himself as a very volatile and angry person. He explained about his troubled upbringing which had left him extremely angry and bitter. He explained that he was not known nor had he previously been physically violent to another person but was very verbally aggressive and punched out at walls and doors in temper. He continued to describe how he was rejected by a girl which damaged his ‘pride’ and that he and his friend were play fighting after hours of drinking as they left the final pub. He reported that this play fight turned very quickly in to an aggressive fight due to his attitude and state at that time. After getting out of the situation he said he was extremely angry and that he ‘had enough’ and was going to take it out on someone as he felt his ‘pride’ had been damaged. At this stage I was thinking ‘WHAT! You killed my brother because you were rejected by a girl and had your pride hurt!’
He saw Lloyd and his friends coming the other way and started to fight with one of Lloyd's friends. He punched him and was punched back. He said he called for his mates to come back before running after another of Lloyd's friends who had run down a nearby lane. I was shocked to hear this as we were not aware that it was him that called the others back nor that it was him who started the whole sequences of events that would take Lloyd’s life. He said he didn't witness the blows from the wooden sign post to Lloyd's head by Andrew Betty but knows he heard them. As he came back from the path he saw two people lying on the ground. He kicked one person and then noticed the second who was still being attacked. He said that this was Lloyd. He described how he went over and kicked and stamped on Lloyd's head where he lay. He said he leant down and punched him in the head and saw his glazed eyes staring vacantly. He can remember Lloyd's face clearly. I wasn't aware of all of this detail and having an imaginative mind was playing out the story in my head. I struggled with this especially the description of Lloyd's eyes and found myself welling up.
After they had run off and also during the attack he still wasn't able to say that he knew Lloyd was dead. He said that he was very much in complete denial and even the next day when the police were looking for him and he cycled past the cordoned off road on his way to football he still didn't accept that Lloyd could have/had died. When the police arrested him he denied it completely and said how much he sincerely regrets this as he could have spared our family a cruel trial had he faced up to what he had done.
I asked him about the fact that he was trembling when he was sentenced. I wondered if this was remorse or a realisation of the gravity of what he had done. He said that it was the fear of going to prison and desperation to get out of the situation. He said it still took several weeks for him to admit that he did indeed kill Lloyd. He said if it wasn't for him starting that fight that Lloyd would still be alive and that it is entirely his fault that Lloyd lost his life.
After the difficult description and conversation moved on I started focusing less on what he was saying but more his manner and the way he was talking. He was completely honest and answered any questions he could. He said that he had been to a facility where they ran therapeutic courses for prisoners to rehabilitate them. It sounds like he took a real turn at this point. He was so incredibly remorseful, calm and dare I say it pleasant. I didn't at any point feel that he was not being sincere. I believe he was genuine and I could see that he had accepted what he had done and was trying his hardest to prove that. He knew he could never undo what he has done. When we discussed his future he said that it was unsure and that as much as he would like to settle down and have a family he doesn't feel he deserves it. He said that he never wants to be in those social situations or groups ever again. If he did drink again he said that the scenario would be a glass of wine of an evening at home with his partner. Hardly the scenario I imagined would go through a killers head so again I was quite surprised by this. He said that he ruined a good employment opportunity at the time he went to prison and was very dark about his future career opportunities saying he doesn’t deserve to have a good future or prospects.
I asked Jay if there was any way he may have been prevented from doing what he did to Lloyd and he said honestly that he was a ticking time bomb. He said that he ‘was going to get in to a fight with someone that night even if it wasn't with Lloyd's group.’ I asked him about his previous criminal history and he said he had not been violent to people previously a part from verbal outbursts and volatile temper resulting in punching walls and doors. His offences were of theft and anti social behaviour. However he said that had he been sent to prison back then, this would have been likely to address his problems and change his attitudes as it has this time and therefore could have saved him and Lloyd from this fait. I asked him if he therefore thought the justice system was too soft on young offenders and is actually failing them which he said ‘yes it is.’ I found this very interesting to here from someone who had been through it. I know it's a wooly system and likely to be doing no good whatsoever but to hear it from him just brought that home. We discussed my charity work around violence prevention and again I asked him if he thought this would have changed his attitudes. Again, with honesty he said ‘if I had seen it in school then yes it's quite possible but by the time I left school it was too late and I was a bomb waiting to go off.’ Again to me this just emphasises how much we are failing young people and society by not engaging with young people effectively and that schools still do not acknowledge their importance in creating decent well rounded people through their time in education. This needs to change.
The man I saw in front of me was, if I didn't know better a decent and thoughtful person and I was extremely conflicted at the thought that this person did such a horrific thing to my brother and family. He looked completely different to my memory of him and I could not imagine this Jay being violent and even less to take a life.
I don't feel I could forgive Jay for his actions and what he has done to my family nor do I feel inclined to do so. I have accepted what has happened to us as a result of Jay and his friends actions and do not feel I need to go through the act of uttering the words ‘I forgive you’ in order to find peace or ‘move forward’. Some people need this and see it as part of coming to terms with what's happened and the healing process. I personally don't feel this way as I feel I have come to terms with what's happened and am moving forward without this ‘ritual’ process.
When our time was up Jay handed me a letter and said ‘if you want it, I wrote you a letter to sum up what I want you to know.’ I took the letter. We all stood up and I shook his hand and said goodbye. I also said that ‘everyone deserves a second chance and he should not doubt what he can achieve after he's released or feel like he doesn't deserve to get his life back on track’. In my view if he comes out and fails or returns to the angry time bomb he was before he has not only destroyed Lloyd's life and the life of those who loved Lloyd but also his own life, those who love him and anyone else who may be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I don't know how my family, friends and Lloyd's friends will feel reading this or if they will ever understand what was going through my head at this time but based on the man I was speaking to and looking at this is how I felt and needed to make it known.
I have asked Jay to consider helping us in our prevention work as he has shown interest in helping prevent others who may be like he was from making the same mistakes. We have left the meeting with an open dialogue and will see what the future holds.
After a horrendous roller coaster couple of days I know that persevering with the meeting was the right thing to do and I am glad I went through this. I do not feel I would want to meet Andrew Betty who showed absolutely no remorse in court and in fact smirked when sentence was passed before swaggering out like a proud gold medalist. To me that shows an unsympathetic and un-remorseful character and I am not so sure he is the sort to change. To date I have not heard that he is remorseful and continues to deny any memory of what he did that night, whether that will change with time who knows.