Friday June 7th 2002 is a day that will be forever engraved in my heart, mind and soul until the day I die. It started off as just another Friday for me, but it is a Friday I will never, ever forget.
It was a glorious sunny summer’s day and there was World Cup fever everywhere. England v Argentina was the first European match to be played. My son Lee aged eighteen had booked half a day off work and had planned for this day for weeks. His life now revolved around football, his sweetheart Michelle and his friends. Newcastle United was his team – he idolised them – and Alan Shearer was his idol player. He had woken up early that morning which was unusual for him, as he loved his sleep. He had been staying with my Mum and she was surprised he had got himself up without any prompting from her and was soon out the door with a spring in his step. He set off to work until it was his time to finish for the big match. I had said to him on this matter that it was only a football match and surely there wasn’t any need to book time off work. “Mum!” he gasped, “don’t you realise it’s the World Cup? There’s no way I’m going to miss it, no way.” Oh, how I wish he had… He had been really looking forward to going to his Nana Olive’s (my Mum) caravan by the sea with his sweetheart Michelle that day after the big match. He loved her; they appeared to be soul mates even at such a tender young age. I’m sure they had found with each other something that very few people find in a lifetime. Normally on a Friday he would always meet up with TC. (Short for his name Thomas Campbell).
They had become very close friends from when TC moved to live in England in 1999 with his father, Joe. They had slowly become like brothers, always there for each other.
That Friday, however, they had not arranged to meet up as they usually would as Lee was heading away for the weekend. TC did not have any plans to meet up for the big match either as, being Scottish, England was not one of his best teams! Lee always spoke so highly of his friends and he once said to me, “You know what Mum, I have the best mates ever,” and he meant it. His big grin said it all. When TC had entered the town centre that afternoon he spotted Lee at the phone box. He ran over to sneak up on him as he had his back to TC. Then, just as TC was ready to give him a fright, Lee turned around, “Haaaaaaah haaaaaah!” They both shouted at each other and laughed!
TC was going to put a bet on at the bookies. Lee decided to go with him and they had a good laugh together in the betting shop as neither had placed a bet before they didn’t have a clue what they were doing! They eventually asked the manager what the procedure was. TC placed the bet and then they headed for McDonalds. Lee was to have his favourite McChicken sandwich meal. They then headed to the tanning studio where my sister Laura worked. Earlier that day TC had noticed the buzzing atmosphere everywhere. He said it was not a normal Friday; there was a happy, excited feeling in the air and everyone appeared as if they were on the same happy level. After they left the tanning studio Lee waved farewell to his auntie Laura through the shop window. He had his big cheeky grin on; looking back at her he held out her cigarette lighter, which he had pinched off her while he was in the shop! Then they met up with another good friend of theirs, Danny. Lee asked him to go to the White Hart Pub and they waved goodbye to TC as he shouted to them both, “Hope yer team wins!”
Lee and all his friends had somehow all met at the pub in Corby’s old village because the match was being screened there on a big widescreen. They were all together; Dean, Christopher, Bunny, Dan, Chris L, Lee D, Tasha, Nicola, Teisha and Anne to name a few. Without any previous plans being made they were all together for the match. I believe that was God’s will and not just coincidence.
The roar and excitement when the goal was scored for England was breath taking. Lee was up dancing, England’s flag draped over him and swinging his friend Teisha’s baby Bradley in the air. He was ecstatic, so very happy, and everyone was on cloud nine. It just was incredible, everyone shouting, singing for joy, the atmosphere was just superb. Everyone burst with happiness and excitement as David Beckham had scored in a penalty; their team had won!
The match was over at approximately 3.00pm and the sun was still shining, a beautiful, happy summer’s day. Everyone was on a high, singing and dancing, having a tremendous time.
But the day was to turn suddenly black. Lee said to his friends he was going to the men’s lavatory and then he would head up the road to set off with his Nana Olive and Michelle. He was so happy, what with his team winning and he had been so looking forward to going away for the weekend with his sweetheart. They had both chosen an eternity ring the last time they had been at the caravan and Lee had saved his wages to buy her it.
Before entering the lavatories he decided to give Michelle a quick phone call. His voice was hoarse with all his singing. She has since said his voice and mood sounded so happy because his team had won. He also telephoned my Mum to tell her he would be at her house shortly. She too said his voice was full of excitement and that he sounded happy, shouting, “Nana! Nana! We won! We won!” When he put down the receiver Lee bumped into his childhood friend Ginger John. They talked for a few moments and then shook hands on parting; another bit of the jigsaw to Lee’s final day alive. He had not seen John in years, not since they were very young and playing together in our street from the age around five…
All his friends were there, metres away and he was having the best day ever -and still had so much waiting ahead of him.
They were all oblivious to the fact that there, in those lavatories, Lee was being so cruelly butchered. How ironic that Lee had mentioned to Dean, one of his best friends, only hours earlier that this had been one of the best days in his life …
Oh, how I ache inside thinking of the fear, the total panic and helplessness my poor, innocent, gentle boy must have suffered as he was so brutally being attacked. How he must have been so frightened, scared and all alone with no one there to help him. And to think all his friends were so near but so far away, it is just so crucifying.
I have a deep heaviness and sadness in my heart every time I think about Lee’s last moments. I used to feel so guilty at not being there when he needed me. However, in reality there’s no way I could have been there. It’s a mother’s instinct to want to protect her child but I was not there when he so desperately needed me. My heart gets into a panicky mode if I dwell on it too much.
Lee entered the fatal lavatories and as he stood at the urinals he had been attacked from behind, by having his throat cut. The two perpetrators in his horrific murder had left the pub at half time to go and get the knives from their home. This was only five minutes away from the pub, it was all pre-planned. My child had no chance as he was repeatedly stabbed in a violent frenzy.
Lee was then to stagger out of the lavatories, blood seeping through his England top, blood everywhere. It was like a slow-motion horror movie for his friends to take in what they were observing. The reality had been that just moments before they were all in their glory with so much happiness in the air, now there was one of their best friends helplessly trying to run after his attackers. His wounds were horrific. The people in the pub were completely and utterly horrified to witness what they saw. As he got to the door, he was pointing after the two cowards. Mute, he could not shout because he had been knifed all down and across his throat. And this was only one of his injuries. He turned back into the pub, trying to run, staggering…
His adrenalin was running out and he looked over his shoulder to Christopher, his life-long friend. He gave him a look, which Christopher has said he will never forget until the day he dies. He said Lee looked back at him in total bewilderment, as if he knew he was dying. This is so painfully unbearable for me when I think about it.
It was something I would rather not have known but at the same time I had to know everything about that day, every painful excruciating bit of his last moments. I wanted to know but also did not want to know, if that is understandable. I am sure any mother reading this will identify to a certain degree what I mean.
Lee then slumped to the floor. His body was motionless; blood everywhere, pouring from all his wounds. By now the pub was in a manic state of uproar. His friends witnessed one of the evil pair running towards their getaway car. He then stopped in his tracks, spun round and faced the hysterical crowd of Lee’s friends. He punched his two fists in the air as in a cheering gesture sickly ecstatic with what had just happened to Lee… Lee’s friends went crazy. Going wild, they were all running towards the car, chasing after them as the car sped away at great speed.
How my heart feels for Lee’s friends when I think of them, running back and forward, shouting and screaming, totally bewildered at what had happened. They were helpless, so bewildered and numb with shock. They ran back into the pub where, unbeknown to them, Lee lay on the floor helpless, lifeless, limp, slowly dying. His young innocent life was slowly slipping away.