I think my birthday this weekend was the day I finally realised why I moved to France in the first place.
I originally grew up in a small village just outside Harrogate and I loved it, playing in the trees and fields with my mates, scrumping apples from the farm next door, it was an idyllic childhood......!
I had a fairly simple life, not too complicated and very care free, bearing in mind I was 7 what on earth was there for me to worry about!
When I was 8 my Nan died and my Mum decided that we needed to move back -to London and this is where the carefree times all disappeared.
A few months later my Mum had a phone call to say that my cousin and her friend had gone missing. Thinking nothing of it my mum went to Brighton she had secured a baby sitter for me and my sister..
I wouldn't find out the impact it would have on my life until I was in my late 30' early 40's...
It was the summer of 1986, and my cousin Nicola and her friend Karen were playing in the garden with me and my sister, we had gone to have tea with my Uncle and Aunty and my cousin. Little did I know that this would be the last encounter I would have with them.
To this day I wish I could remember more of the day as I know the memories that I do have are of a happier time. But as always time moves on quickly and memories fade just as quickly.
So, October 9th 1986, the day will forever remain the day that our family's life changed forever. That day like I said, my Mum had a phone call to say that Nicola and Karen had gone missing. On the 9th once Mum knew we were looked after, she went to Brighton to help with the search and to comfort my Aunty.
It turned out it to be one of the biggest news stories of that year "Babes in the Woods" it was dubbed by the press. The girls bodies were found in the shrub the next day by 2 young boys after a huge search for them, conducted by the police and public. After investigation Russel Bishop was arrested and went to trial, and as most people know he was found "not guilty" of their murders.
In 2018 after years of campaigning my families persistence paid off, and a special Police task force worked towards a re trial, He was charged again with new evidence, including DNA, paint flecks and ivy spores.
I think it might have been the longest 10 weeks of my life!!
I arrived at the London in Old Bailey with everyone and we are placed in the open gallery, By this stage my heart is racing at the prospect of seeing the man who murdered those innocent little girls 32 years ago!
So the moment comes and the dock opens...…… oh what a little insignificant man he is, runs through my mind.
My heart was shattered during that first week, for the first time we found out every single detail of what had happened to the girls and saw the pictures of their battered and bruised little bodies, it still haunts me to this day.
The weeks follow, the trial goes on, and I am back in France at this stage following it on the different news outlets and through family. Bishop after a being cross examined throws a tantrum in court and refuses to turn up for the rest of the trial, coward!
10 weeks pass by quickly and the 10th December 2018 is here. We are all in the coffee shop waiting for the jury to come back in and next thing I knew we were running back into court, the jury was back!
The front row was filled with pretty much the whole family linked by holding hands most of us crying at the anticipation of what was coming, the foreman of the jury stood and the judge says have you come to an unanimous decision, "yes he answers" How do you find the defendant, "Guilty of the murder of Nicola Fellows" and "Guilty of the Murder of Karen Hadaway"!
All we wanted to do at this stage is cheer but we did not, we remained calm and composed until we left the Court, 32 years to the day he was acquitted, he was finally found guilty...…….!
My upbringing had now changed completely, to say the least, after this happened in 1986. We understandably had no freedom to do what we wanted, and express ourselves as children would normally do.
I rebelled a lot in my 20's because I finally had my freedom and my motorbike, for me I was breaking those chains of what I thought as an oppressed regime.
So, this year my Birthday and a happy day....
It was a splendid day filled with lovely messages from friends and family, being in the park and getting serenaded by Stuart's family, drinking sparkling wine and enjoying the sun, with my little family playing and having fun!
All in all I felt a sense of peace, and I always thought that I wanted to live as remotely as possible to get away to hide for some reason and believe me we have lived in a lot of places including on an island and in a chateau with nothing around, nothing ever felt like home!
What had actually dawned on me, is all I am looking for is what I had before that fateful year. To be back at a time when things were much simpler and less complicated like my birthday was. It might have taken me 20 plus years to find it, but I have finally found home and it is here in France.
So cheers everybody to finding peace at last and to France for bringing it to me.
Thank you for reading.
Bye for now,