Names have been changed out of respect to both families involved.
Back when my mum was pregnant with me, some 37 years ago, her best friend Jean was also pregnant. They did everything together, picked out adorable baby clothes, went on lunch dates, shopped for prams, and spoke about how excited they were to welcome their (both) 3rd child together. ‘They’ll be best friends too!’ Jean exclaimed.
Nine months sailed by, thankfully uncomplicated, and both Jean and my mum gave birth to their bouncing babies. Not knowing the genders before birth, Jean had a healthy baby boy she called David and my mum, a healthy baby girl. A string of fun play dates ensued.
The years went by, Jean remained in the same house, but my mum often moved around due to my father changing jobs and eventually divorcing when I was 6. They still remained best friends and we visited each other often. David and I were never what you could call best friends. He was smartly dressed, articulate and intelligent. But I often thought he was stuck in a time warp, obsessed by the trombone which he used to play in a brass band, and collecting antiques and taxidermy specimens. I, on the other hand, loved books, music, cool boys and the X-Files much like any teenage girl at the time. He was polite and would talk a lot when asked about his interests, but never made much eye contact. I never thought too much about it, but he was just a little… odd.
In 2003, when Jean’s husband and David’s father died, they were devastated. David was only 19 at the time. He went into a deep depression and became withdrawn. He began to drink heavily and his behaviour became volatile. He was angry at the world and took it out on the people who loved him. He made friends with some questionable characters and was easily manipulated by them. He began having rowdy parties at his mum’s house and stole things from her to sell. She eventually kicked him out and told him that he wasn’t allowed in the house unless she was there.
At the same time, in 2003, I was at University in Manchester, studying for a degree in Biomedical Science and Forensic Biology. I was obsessed with all things crime and solving murders! If I wasn’t watching forensics files, I had my head in a forensic book. I lived away from home at this point so I had to work a customer service job to pay the bills. It was hard but a great time in my life.
Back in Yorkshire though, life was about to get much worse. Jean had started seeing a man in her local area called John, he was well known and loved in his community. David liked him too and they would often chat over a drink. Jean declared her love for him and they both expressed their desire to be together. The only issue was, he had a wife of 28 years. He was adamant that the love in their marriage had long gone and he wanted a divorce. His wife however, was very difficult and sure to cause as much damage to his reputation as possible.
His wife, as it turns out, found out about the affair and things quickly went south. She told everyone in the area and Jean quickly became public enemy number one. Friends of his wife began making Jean’s life a misery. People began saying nasty things to her, calling her names and saying she was a husband stealer and a whore. One woman spat at her on the bus one day when she had been out shopping. Things quickly escalated. Dog faeces was posted through her letter box, her house was spray painted with graffiti. It culminated in her waking up one morning to discover that David’s two beloved pet rabbits had been murdered in their hutch outside.
Jean had had enough, she needed a break. Packing her bags, she asked John to house sit while she went to Spain for a break, but reminded him about David’s erratic behaviour and that he wasn’t allowed in the house while she was away. John was happy to oblige as he had somewhere to escape his unbearable wife.
One night, while Jean was away, David was getting towards the end of a 16 hour drinking binge consisting of 15 pints of Guinness, a cocktail and 8 vodkas. At 4:00am, he went to John’s house where his wife was sleeping and banged on the door. She didn’t answer and that decision probably saved her life.
He then went to his mum’s house, grabbed a 32cm spanner from the car and kicked the front door down. David made his way upstairs and found John in his mum’s bed. The exact sequence of events that happened that night were never revealed by David, but investigators believed the attack with the spanner started in the bedroom. After being hit around the head with the spanner, John managed to get past David to the landing and was either pushed or fell down the stairs. David went to the kitchen to retrieve a kitchen knife and began stabbing John with it.
By the end of the attack, John had multiple stab wounds, 30 injuries to his head and neck, and deep gashes on his wrists – inflicted after death. He was later identified using DNA analysis.
After the attack, David changed his clothes, washed his hands, put them in a carrier bag with the knife and left it beside the house. He then drove to his step dad’s house, Jean’s estranged husband Alex and declared to him “You won’t believe what I’ve done. Come over and have a look”.
Alex drove David back to his mum’s house two miles away, and on the way, David declared to him “I’ve killed John”. After finding the body of John at the house, Alex ordered David to call the police.
David initially denied committing the murder, saying he had found the body, but the later changed his story to one of self-defence. He eventually admitted his guilt. Psychiatrists that determined that he had Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of Autism, now classified under ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), a neurological condition present from birth that affects people in many different ways, hence the ‘spectrum’. People with ASD often have problems communicating, socialising and understanding societal norms, their brains are ‘wired differently’.
This explains David’s earlier characteristics that I observed. Avoiding eye contact, obsessions with things a little out of the ordinary. Just generally being, a little bit odd. Left undiagnosed, people with ASD often develop depression, anxiety and panic disorders, all of which David was exhibiting. Knowing they are different from other people, but not knowing exactly why, people with undiagnosed ASD often try to hide their differences from people, fearing rejection, and tiring of the extreme amount of energy needed to hide their inadequacies. Because of all this, people with ASD can often turn to coping mechanisms such as drinking or taking drugs. Coupled with the death of his father at 19, I can imagine the world was a dark and lonely place for David.
Having spent 9 years in prison, David was released in 2018 on parole, on license for life. He was banned from going to his home town and went to live in a hostel in a nearby city. I don’t know his current whereabouts because my mum has had no contact with Jean for the last two years. All her messages and voicemails have gone unanswered.