Read an Excerpt
Justice for Colette
My Daughter was Murdered â" I Never Gave Up Hope of Her Killer Being Found. He was Finally Caught After 26 Years ...
By Jacqui Kirkby, Veronica Clark
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2012 Jacqui Kirkby
All rights reserved.
It was 1961 – the beginning of the Swinging Sixties – and times were good. Elvis Presley was riding high in the charts and change was in the air. A teenage revolution was reverberating through society with clothes, attitudes and music to show it. It would be another two years before the Beatles broke into the charts, singing about love and pleading with screaming girls to let them hold their hands. Expectations were as high as the miniskirts of the women who wore them. It was a buoyant time to be young, free and single. And I was.
I had my whole life mapped out in front of me. I was training to become a hairdresser at a salon in Nottingham. Even though my mother had divorced, she'd scrimped and saved all of her money working as a dressmaker for a local designer to put me through an apprenticeship so that I could have the career of my dreams.
I was just 16 years old when my uncle Joe tried to set me up on a blind date with a boy he knew from work.
'His name's Anthony but we all call him Tony,' he began. 'He looks like Elvis, but he's not like him at all. Tony's a nice lad, very quiet.'
'I prefer Cliff Richard,' I said, winking at him, as I busied myself curling my mum Joyce's hair in the living room.
'You could do much worse, Jacqui,' Uncle Joe told me. 'He's not like all those boys who like to go out drinking and chasing girls. Tony's a good lad.'
I finally relented and allowed Uncle Joe to fix me up on a date with this mystery Elvis lookalike.
'What have I let myself in for?' I chuckled to Mum after my uncle had closed the door behind him.
I was still a baby really, but I'd never made a secret of the fact that I wanted to settle down young and start a family. I wasn't like other girls my age who wanted to explore the freedom and the sexual revolution of these new and exciting times. I couldn't wait to become a mother instead. I was desperate to grow up, get a place of my own and be a good mother – it was all I'd ever dreamed of since I was a little girl.
My father Arthur was the managing director of an engineering company in Nottingham. He had a well-paid job and we – Mum, Dad, me and my younger brother Michael – lived in a house owned by Dad's company. However, my dad had an affair with his secretary. Mum was heartbroken, and, to rub salt into the wound, he then decided that he no longer wanted us; he wanted a new life with Audrey, his new woman. Dad moved out of our beloved family home and set up home with Audrey, and it wasn't long before we were turfed out too.
Our family unit had been shattered and we had nowhere to live. We'd gone from a charmed life to brassy broke. In the end, Mum went to live with my grandmother, taking Michael, then aged just eight, with her. Meanwhile, I was dispatched to stay with my mother's youngest sister Mary. She and her husband Roy had just had their first child – a little girl called Susan – so I helped out with the baby and, as she grew, Susan and I became very close. She was the sister that I never had.
My parents' divorce happened when I was just 12 years old. Like most girls of that age, I was self-conscious and unsure of myself and, witnessing the mess of it all, I somehow thought I was to blame. Divorce was very unusual back in the Sixties, so I was different to all my friends – when I lost my family unit, it was as though I'd lost my way in life too. Children can take divorce very personally, and I did.
Growing up through this traumatic time made me crave the security of a loving family of my own. It became my dream, my goal. It doesn't sound very much, especially these days, to admit that all you want to be is a mother and housewife. But I didn't care about money or belongings. I just wanted to find the man of my dreams, get married and have children of my own to love. Now, four years after my parents' divorce, aged 16, I now had a blind date to contend with.
There was a knock at our front door. I opened it to find a nervous Tony stood alongside Uncle Joe, who was leading proceedings.
'Jacqui, this is Tony,' he said, with a sweep of his upturned palm. 'Tony, this is Jacqui. There you have it – now you've both been formally introduced.'
I looked at Tony. It felt stilted and awkward standing there, and Uncle Joe sensed it.
'Right, is your mother in, Jacqui?' Uncle Joe enquired suddenly. 'I'm gasping for a cuppa.' With that, he pushed straight past me, leaving me on the doorstep with my blind date.
Tony was tall, dark and handsome and wearing a smart khaki suit that looked very expensive. His black, glossy hair was combed back into a trendy Elvis-style quiff. Still, he looked awkward. He looked down at his feet rather than making direct eye contact. Even so, I knew there and then that he was quite a catch and that I'd be daft to turn this opportunity down.
'I won't be a mo,' I said, grabbing my coat off the peg in the hallway before dashing out the front door to Tony's car outside the garden gate.
'Do you fancy a drink at a pub?' Tony asked as he started up the engine of his dark-green Morris Minor.
I nodded politely and soon we were on our way – I felt as if all my dreams had come true in that single moment.
Tony was 20 years old, and I thought he was the most sophisticated man that I'd ever met. I didn't drink back then, so, when he asked me what I wanted, I said an orange juice. I felt awkward, young and foolish – a schoolgirl in high heels and earrings. I was so desperate to impress this older, good-looking man that I tried hard to look relaxed and comfortable but I was far from it.
Thankfully, Tony was easy to talk to. We spoke about all kinds of things that afternoon – from my meddling uncle Joe to my work as a hairdresser. Tony explained about his work and told me that he was an only child. Soon the hours had flown past. By the end of the evening, I realised that, while he was shy, Tony was hardworking, fun and had a good sense of humour. In short, he made me laugh. The only sticking point came when I discovered that he didn't like dancing. It was my one big passion. I'd danced all my life and had even competed at shows for ballroom dancing. But, I reasoned, it was a small price to pay for the man of my dreams.
That evening, as he dropped me back home, Tony bent forward and gave me a peck on the cheek. I felt my face flush as he did so.
'I'd like to see you again, Jacqui, if that's all right?' he asked.
I nodded and we set another date for the end of the week.
That Saturday, I spent all afternoon getting ready. I made sure that I applied my make-up so it looked light and natural and I spent ages blow-drying and styling my hair. My mum had made me a Brigitte Bardot-style dress – it was all the rage at the time. The dress was white and lilac gingham and it had a neat little white bodice stitched on the front. I loved it and felt a million dollars every time I wore it. I slipped on a pair of white kitten-heel sandals and waited by the window, looking out for Tony's car. Soon, I saw the little green Morris Minor slowly weave its way up our street and park outside my house.
When I opened the door to Tony, I noticed there were two older people sitting in his car – a man in the back and a woman in the front. The woman was staring right at me.
That must be his mother, I thought.
'Er, you don't mind if I drop my mum and dad off, do you?' said Tony. 'It's just that I always drop them off at bingo on a Saturday night.'
'Course not,' I replied, with a tight smile. But even from where I was standing I could see that Tony's mother Iris was already scrutinising me, stripping me right down to the bone. I steeled myself as I shut the front door behind me.
Dutifully, I got into the back of Tony's car. There was obviously a pecking order involved, so I sat next to his father Bernard and made polite chit-chat in the back. We dropped them off at bingo but promised to pick them up later.
We duly picked them up after our date and, as we headed back to my house at the end of the evening, Iris suddenly piped up in the front seat. 'Let's all go for a drink,' she suggested.
Moments later, we pulled up outside the local pub. Once inside, Iris and I found a table and Tony asked what we all wanted to drink.
'An orange juice please,' I replied.
Iris looked at me disapprovingly; she was having none of it. 'An orange juice!' she exclaimed. 'You can't keep drinking orange juice! You need to let your hair down every once in a while. Have a gin in it. Gin and orange, now that's a nice drink.'
I did as I was told and drank a gin and orange. It was the most disgusting thing that I had ever tasted. Needless to say, I haven't touched a drop of gin since.
But his mother wasn't finished with me. Sipping at her own gin and orange, she sniffed and – in her best posh accent – said, 'If you hadn't been the type of girl that we wanted for our Tony, then we'd have done our best to make life as uncomfortable as possible for you.'
I wasn't quite sure how to reply.
'As it is,' she continued, prodding her bony finger against my shoulder, 'you were scrutinised long before you got in the car that day.'
It turned out she'd been asking lots of people questions about me as soon as she found out I was dating her son. She wanted to know if I was a suitable candidate. I looked back at her in astonishment. I'd only met her son twice. Who was to say that our relationship would last any longer? I knew from that moment on that Iris was a tough cookie and that if I wanted to be with her son then I had my work cut out.
Tony also owned a motorbike, and, one evening, he rode over on it to pick me up from work. It was a bitterly cold night, so cold that everything from grass to pavement was covered in a hard silvery glaze of frost. I was due to stay at Tony's house for the weekend but I wasn't dressed for the weather. I was wearing a thin coat, top, skirt and sheer tights. The wind cut through me like a knife as we scooted along the icy roads and back to Tony's house. By the time we arrived, I was so cold that I couldn't climb off – my legs were literally frozen against the seat – still bent at the knee. Tony was laughing as I tried to get off but it took me several minutes just to straighten up!
When we finally walked into his house, Iris was waiting for us and she was furious that Tony had been out on his bike in such bad conditions.
'What's she doing here?' she demanded, pointing at me. 'I've told you a million times before about risking your life for other people.'
I loved Tony's mum in many ways, but whatever I did she always saw me as the woman who would steal away her son, the apple of her eye, the centre of her universe. If I'd been a saint, I still wouldn't have been good enough for her boy.
Tony and I had been dating for just over a year. One Saturday afternoon, we were walking past a jeweller's shop when I felt a tug against my arm. Tony grabbed my hand in his and led me towards the large shop window.
'Here, Jacqui,' he said, 'I want to show you something.'
My eyes darted across the rows and rows of gold rings. Jewels of every size and description glinted in the bright sunlight. Tony pointed through the glass towards a modern-style ring with a huge solitaire diamond set on a square base. The precious stone was nestled on a raised golden shoulder studded with little diamond chippings. It looked expensive.
'Do you like that one?' asked Tony.
'It's lovely,' I said, not quite catching the tone of his voice or realising what he was inferring.
'Let's go in and try it on,' he suggested.
My heart beat in my chest as Tony led me inside. I'd never been in a jeweller's shop as posh as this one and I was worried that my nerves would reveal my inexperience and tender age. But, as soon as I slipped the ring on my finger, everything felt perfect.
'You really like it?' Tony asked me.
'I love it,' I smiled.
'Well, I'm going to buy that ring for you and then perhaps we could get married.'
With that, he took out the wallet from his inside jacket pocket and began to pay.
I stood there dumbfounded. Was that a marriage proposal?
As I watched Tony count out more than a month's salary on to the counter in front of me, I knew that it certainly was.
The male shop assistant smiled knowingly as Tony told him to put it in a box. It would be packed away for later until he could summon up enough courage to tell his mother. All the way home from town in his car, Tony fretted about what to say. How would he tell Iris that he was about to leave home and become a married man? Meanwhile, I was worried how she would react towards me.
When we arrived back at Tony's, Iris was sitting in her usual chair by the fireplace. We began to make small talk about the weather, then suddenly Tony stood up and cleared his throat. I watched as he nervously took the ring box out of his jacket pocket and then I noticed that his hands were shaking slightly.
'I've got something to show you, Mum,' he said, turning towards her with the open box in the palm of his hand. 'I've asked Jacqui to be my wife.'
The room fell into a deep silence. No one spoke as the words hung in the air between the three of us. His mother's face was a picture – she was struck dumb by the news. But there was very little she could do about it other than smile. After all, she had guessed that her son had already spent a month's wages on my ring.
'Ooh, that's nice,' she said, trying to muster up some enthusiasm. She cast her beady eyes over the expensive ring, which was still perched in its box.
'Mind you,' she said, turning her attentions to me, 'you can't have it yet because it wouldn't be proper, not until you've formally announced your engagement.'
So we did. We became officially engaged on 16 May – it was the day of my 17th birthday and the day that I got to wear my ring for the very first time.
Eventually, Iris warmed to the idea of having me as a daughter-in-law and gave us her blessing. The wedding date was set for 27 April 1963. My dream had finally come true.
It was a beautiful crisp spring day when I walked into St Mary's parish church, in Bulwell, Nottingham, to become Tony's wife. It was one of the happiest days of my life.
As my parents were divorced and I hardly ever saw my father, it was decided that my grandfather George would give me away. Proudly, he guided me down the aisle towards my husband. Even though my mother was a single parent, she gave me the best wedding day a bride could wish for. She had bought my wedding dress from a designer she worked with. It was white brocade with a double skirt leading to a long train. It had long white sleeves that led to a neat little point over the back of my hands. They fastened around the wrist with tiny looped brocade-covered buttons. The same buttons ran down the length of the dress at the back. It was simply beautiful.
It was all I'd ever wanted – to be married, go on to have a family of my own and be a good mother to my children. But Iris couldn't help herself – she had to get in just one more dig.
As we left the wedding reception full of excitement and about to embark on our new life together, I heard a lone voice start up at the back. It was Iris – she was singing. Everyone turned to look in astonishment as her voice carried loud and clear across the function room.
'Oh! Oh! Antonio,
'He's gone away,
'Left me alone-ee-o,
'All on my own-ee-o.'
She wailed the chorus again and again in her loudest voice. My mother was mortified and later gave her a piece of her mind. Meanwhile, I wondered what my new life had in store for me.
Tony's dad Bernard was the manager of a chain of mini-market shops. He had heard through the grapevine that a flat above one of the shops was coming up to let. It was small and cramped, with only one bedroom, but it was perfect for a newlywed couple looking for a starter home.
A few months later, we were thrilled to discover I was pregnant with our first child. I sailed through the pregnancy and, as if to perfect the dream, on our first wedding anniversary our beautiful son was born. We named him Mark Anthony Aram.
He was two weeks over his due date but he was long and thin, weighing in at 6lbs 5oz. Back then, this was considered to be just over premature-baby weight. But, at 22 inches long, our son was destined to be as tall as his father.
Excerpted from Justice for Colette by Jacqui Kirkby, Veronica Clark. Copyright © 2012 Jacqui Kirkby. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.