Welcome to the Christopher Donovan Trust
Every Parent's Nightmare...
Ray tells his story.
When Christopher left our house on that lovely summer's evening little did he know that a few hours later he would be attacked by a gang of youths and die later in hospital.
Friday May 25th 2001 was just like a normal day. I came home from work, Chris was getting ready to go out and he asked me if I could give him a lift to his sister's house. I said "I was too tired and if I drive anymore today I think I may crash the car". so he said "okay not to worry I will call around a friend's house and then we will walk down to Philip's (our other son) and maybe pop into Gills house for a coffee", which they did most weekends, and off he went and the last thing he ever said to me was "Dad I really love you" and kissed my forehead and then he left. Vi (my wife) came home. We did things like most people; have an evening meal, watch TV and then go to bed.
Saturday May 26th: It was around twelve forty when the door bell rang. I was going down the stairs moaning like most fathers saying "how can two boys forget their door keys?". But when I opened the door instead of Chris and Phil, there were two policemen standing on my doorstep. One asked if I was the father of Christopher and Philip Donovan? I said yes, they then asked if they could come in as there had been an incident involving Chris and Phil and they need to talk to both myself and my wife.
I got Vi out of bed and we were told to sit down I remember my heart was beating so fast that I thought it would jump out of my chest not knowing what they were going to say. Then the policeman told us that Chris and Phil had been involved in a fight and Chris was badly injured and they need to get us to the hospital right away. We got dressed and went in the police car to Epsom Hospital. When we arrived Phil was standing there with blood on his face and he was dressed in a white forensic suit and slippers. He said later that as we arrived in the police car he thought everything would be okay now mum and dad were here.
Then a big policeman came up to me and said I'm sorry you can't see Christopher they have taken him up to the operating theatre. He then led us into a small room and said someone will come soon to let you know what is happening and left us just standing there. After what seemed like hours, some doctors came into the room and said Christopher was in a bad way. Most of the bones in his body were broken and he has suffered a loss of oxygen to the brain and we could be looking at severe brain damage.
We just didn't know what to say or think. We just sat there quietly. After they had gone we asked Phil what happened. He told us that "the three of us were walking to Gill's house and Chris was singing an Oasis song. As we walked along the road we came to the hill and unknown to us coming towards us was a gang of boys and girls, about fourteen in all. Well as we got nearer, the gang opened up to let us pass. I went first but as I was walking through, one of the gang punched me in the face for no reason and broke my nose. In shock, I somehow clicked my nose back into place and the pain was so bad I fell to the floor and then three of the gang started to kick me in the head then I passed out."
The rest of what happened is what witnesses said in court. When Phil fell on the ground they saw three boys kicking him. They then saw Chris going over to save his brother but two other lads got in his way and blocked him. Then another boy got around the back of him and pulled him to the floor and all three were kicking and stamping on his head.
They then left him in the middle of the road which has four lanes; a road with a speed limit of forty miles an hour. A couple of cars came over the hill and somehow missed him. Then another car came over the hill and the driver said in her statement she thought it was a bundle of rags in the road. She ran over Christopher dragging him about forty feet down the road.
When Phil regained consciousness the first thing he saw was his brother under a car wheel. A woman came running out of a house to help. She said she was a nurse and it was best not to move him until help arrives, so all Phil could do was to sit beside his brother who was unconscious and hold his hand.
As we were taking in what Phil had just told us, the doctors came into the room with two policemen. Their eyes told us what they were going to say. They told us that they were sorry, they did all they could and before they could say anymore, Vi ran out of the door. She said later that if she ran away it wouldn't be real. I remember I fell on my knees screaming with a doctor holding me in his arms.
The hospital Chaplain and police said they need us to identify Chris's body. This is something no parent should have to do. I remember both Vi and I holding on to each other not wanting to enter the room and see our son dead. Before we entered the room a policeman said we are not allowed to touch him. We couldn't even cuddle him. All we could do was just stand there.
I then asked if I could kiss his forehead they said that would be okay. Here I am asking permission to kiss my own son. It was funny everyone else could touch our son but we weren't were we are his parents!
Now because it was a bank holiday weekend, we had to wait until Tuesday to see the coroner she told us all about his injuries. To be honest, even to today, I can't remember a thing she said because all I wanted to do was see my son. So I said to her "I don't want to hear anymore, I want to see my son". She then took us to the morgue to see Chris. Both Vi and I went into the chapel of Rest. Again, we were told we couldn't hold him. He was wrapped up like an Egyptian mummy so all we could do was just stand there, not knowing what to do or say. When we went back into the waiting room, the coroner the said "Mr. Donovan, I have bad news". I looked at her and said "what could be worse then what I have just seen?".
She then went on to say: "because of the kicking and the car running over Chris, they have to prove what killed him and the only way to do this is to remove his brain and we would have to wait for a chemical to come out and this takes up to four months, so we won't be able to bury Chris for four months". Christopher was laid to rest on September 21st 2001.
Only three boys were arrested for Christopher's murder. We then had to wait a year for the court case. This took six weeks and all three were found guilty of murder. Their ages were fifteen, sixteen and nineteen.
We found out in court that they had been drinking and taking drugs for most of the evening. In fact, one of them said he was drinking from the moment he left school that day.
All three were found guilty of murder. Two got life in prison with a minimum of nine to ten years. The youngest got Her Majesty's Pleasure with a minimum of six years to serve.
You can now watch the full story on how restorative Justice helped Ray and Vi get answers to questions by meeting their son's killers, click on the photo:
This was Christopher's favorite song: This Years Love by David Gray
click on the photo