In 1984, a young boy was murdered. He was called Christopher Laverack. It shocked Hull and the country beyond. It shocked me, mainly because I was eight, just about the same age as the victim. But the crime also shocked adults, and continues to bother me. The murderer was known to police, an uncle, but never convicted. No doubt mistakes were made, but they always are. Mistakes are only human. The real reason is that forensics were poor in 1984, and the body had been submerged in water for two days before it was found. At least there was a body. That was literally the only positive news.
A few months later, after we had a new lounge carpet installed, it became apparent that the body had been found in a carpet bag. The assumption was that carpet fibres had been found on the body, and all carpet customers in the area were being visited by police. They arrived one evening to take samples from the lounge. It doesn’t take much imagination to consider what effect that might have on a young family, and on me, a boy the same age as the victim living a few miles away. It was clear to me that nobody in our house had killed anyone, the idea was laughable, and the police knew it because they knew the killer. But they had to do something.
In 1998, Kirsty Carver was murdered inside the office at a petrol station near our house. As before, the police arrived. I was older now, over 20 and recently graduated from university. I was home alone when the police came. They hadn’t found a body yet and the pressure was intense. Kirsty Carver worked for the police, and this, following the failures of the Laverack investigation – still no culprit after 20 years – was becoming an issue. Could we take a quick look in your garden, son? No. They could not. Unknown to them, but known very well to my impressionable young mind, was the existence of a mound of earth. It was the exact shape and size, with all the characteristics, of a freshly dug shallow grave. I gulped. What should one do? I waved them into the back garden, and hid in the house. I could not be present at the awful discovery of the body. I waited. The doorbell again. I offered my wrists for the cuffs. This was awful. Thanks, son. They left. Morons. They had, yet again, missed an obvious clue.
The killer of Kirsty was obvious and once there was a body, there was an arrest and a trial. The man is still in prison, but seems likely to move to an open one soon. He’s clearly a maniac and he killed on impulse. We can surmise, and we did. The victim had been roaming those Yorkshire villages in the hours before dawn when she turned up in a car looking for petrol or snacks. She lived for only an hour or so longer after arriving at the Rix station in Willerby, a very public location that still reminds me of the murder when I pass it.
I had forgotten about Kirsty, and she would have remained forgotten were it not for our shallow grave. But Christopher continues to bother me. When so many are wrongly convicted, and so many ‘guilty as hell’ get let off, why was there no trial? It must have been worth a punt. Any Hull jury would have convicted their own uncle to get some kind of closure. Brady and Hindley continued to haunt Yorkshire into the 1980s. The Yorkshire Ripper was a recent, open wound. The gruesome murder of a young boy was sure to be the horrific start of another spree of depravity. But it was not. Why? All logic states that paedophiles continue until caught, like Brady. The truth is that Christopher’s killer did continue. But Melvyn Read stopped short of murder again.
The crime was so appalling that a new TV documentary is being made. Melvyn Read did continue to assault boys throughout his life, and this caught up with him in 2001. An astonishing unravelling began. As Read went to prison for his crimes, Humberside Police quietly reopened the Laverack case. The man they always knew as the Laverack killer was in prison for assaulting other boys. They used modern forensic techniques to pin Laverack on Read, as they had always hoped one day to do.
After Read’s death, they presented the evidence to the family. As expected, they ‘already knew’ and accepted the findings. Case closed. But such a case cannot be closed. If it continues to affect me, how many other Hull kids of the 1980s were affected? How must the family feel now? A killing within a family is one of TV drama’s most horrific possibilities, yet this was real life.
As we age, certain things from our childhood stand up like tent poles in our lives. The horrific car crash that killed a family friend and three others. Christopher Laverack. The Ian Brady story haunts me even though he was behind bars before I was born. Partly due to the wonderful work of Maxine Peake as Myra. These things happened to us, not many miles from our houses. Children remember.
Ayrton Senna. I can relive that May Day weekend in 1994 minute by minute, in great detail. I remember reading the Saturday papers detailing Barrichello’s appalling accident. I remember the next morning, Sunday, reading of the death of Ratzenberger. These details were horrid enough, and we sat down for the San Marino race full of dread. Sure enough, there was a crash. At the start, there was a stalled car, hit with great force. A wheel shot into the crowd. The whole thing was as nothing compared to what happened next.
I remember the Sunday lunch going cold, untouched, as the horror emerged. I remember the moment Senna died at the side of the track, still in his car. I remember the shock on my brother’s face when Moira Stewart announced the obvious on the evening news. I left the room, and cannot bear to recall it now. This was not sport. But I was there for the next race, and every race since.
The point is that you don’t get to choose what you remember. Why do you remember these things, and not the ice creams at the seaside? Why do you remember the day the tent pegs could not be introduced more than an inch into the dry earth, even with the heaviest mallet and the strongest pegs? That was the day Saddam invaded Kuwait. Why?
Why is the big question in any kind of writing, or in life. Why this, why not that? Why. Why is always the easiest question to answer. Melvyn killed Christopher because he was a disgusting paedophile. Simple. Every question that begins with ‘why’ has an easy answer. But the pain is not reduced by knowing. If anything, it is worse.