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Ralph Bulger - My Story

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Ralph Bulger - My Story

Post  Loopdaloop on Sun 3 Feb - 14:09

There is a really poignant article written today in the daily mail by the father of James Bulger.
Its interesting on a lot of perspectives however the reason I've posted it from here is because it is very reflective of how a parent might feel when their parent does go missing. Ralph calls himself 'not a sophisticated or intelligent man', however the clarity of his memories is for all to see.

This article also highlights some police procedure when a child has gone missing through the interview of the parents.
All the way back in 1993 it was clear that the police were aware that parents should be suspected and ruled out.
Ralph describes it as the following:


Everyone in the police station was on high alert. I was desperate to speak to Denise because I needed to know what had happened. I also knew that I had to get out into the cold night and search for James.
I was led into an interview room where an officer said: ‘Ralph, it’s vital we get as much information as we can. I understand how you must be feeling but we are going to do everything we can to get James back to you.’

There was no doubt about it, they were taking statements from me and Denise to establish if we might have been behind James’s disappearance. I knew this would be standard practice, but I found the line of questioning harsh and unsettling.
Finally, after what must have been about three hours, the police took me to see Denise. She looked up at me and her face just crumpled as she got up to hug me.

The Mccann's must realise that they were not 'special' in the manner they were questioned by the police.
It was routine. However their reactions to it (Which we all know by now and their subsequent vendetta against the police were not normal and they were not routine. All Ralph wanted to do was to get 'into the cold night and search for James'.
I'm not even going to get into the Mccann's and their 'search'.

Where Kate talks of her hatred and vile bile for the police whilst at the same time 'forgiveness for the kidnappers',
Stroking her ego by expressing her angelic capacity to 'forgive' (The irony considering the two court cases at the moment is astounding)
Ralph expressed how he would have killed the 'bastards' that did it.

The differences in priorities are glaring.

I'll attach the whole article now:


In my anger I blamed my wife, admits the father of murdered toddler James Bulger 20 years after his little boy's murder horrified Britain
James Bulger was two years old when he was killed on February 12, 1993
Here his father Ralph tells his version of the events for the very first time
By RALPH BULGER
PUBLISHED: 22:00, 2 February 2013 | UPDATED: 09:43, 3 February 2013
Comments (576)
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I love to watch the damselflies skimming the water like low-flying helicopters above the ocean. Today is no exception as I sit on the river bank watching the warm summer sun glint off their sparkling turquoise bodies before I return to watch my fishing rod.
It couldn’t be more tranquil – yet it’s a stark contrast to the turbulence in my head. I’m thinking how my young son would have loved this day out, trying to spot the grasshoppers and sharing ham sandwiches and crisps with me.
I always planned to teach James to fish when he was a bit older, to buy him his own little rod and tackle box, but I never got the chance. Now, my fishing trips are when I try to make sense of everything. A small slice of peace in a messed-up world.


Devoted father: Ralph Bulger gazes into the distance as he faces the press outside Liverpool Crown Court after meeting Jon Venables' parole board in 2011
My wife Denise gave birth to James Patrick Bulger on Friday, March 16, 1990 at Fazakerley Hospital, Liverpool; from the moment I laid eyes on him, he stole my heart. I felt like the luckiest man in the world.
Despite our joy, the moment was tinged with sadness because we had lost our first baby. In June 1988, our daughter Kirsty was stillborn. I asked Denise to marry me that day, and she accepted. I am not a sophisticated or intelligent man, but I loved her, and that was my way of showing how much she meant to me.

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We married at Knowsley Register Office on September 16, 1989, the day Denise turned 22. I was 23.
It was a quiet wedding, just the way we wanted it, and we held a family party at home to celebrate. By now, Denise was pregnant again with James and I did my very best to look after her as we were both terrified of losing another baby. It was one of the happiest periods of my life.
James was a small baby with a smattering of blond hair and bright blue eyes. He was named after my dad, who died from cancer not long before, and became a lively and happy young baby, bright as a button. Even when he was just a few months old, he tried his hardest to speak to us.


'My precious son': James 'Jamie' Bulger was two years old when he was abducted and brutally murdered

Last steps: James Bulger being led away from the Bootle Strand shopping mall February 12, 1993, holding the hand of one of his killers, Jon Venables
I loved being a dad and Denise was a great mum. We led a very simple, traditional life. The grim unemployment in the region meant that nearly everyone we knew was skint, but we all helped each other out.
James had got into the habit of calling me Ralph instead of Dad because he had heard other people do so. I can still hear his little voice shouting out to me as he played in his red car.
‘Ralph, Ralph, come and push me, come and push me!’ he cried.
‘No, James, I’m your dad. You have to call me Daddy.’
‘OK, Ralph, now come and push me,’ he replied.
I would often be covered in bruises because he was so boisterous.
No one will ever know just how much James meant to me. He brought so much to all who knew him in such a short space of time.
Never in a million years could anyone have imagined what was going to happen to this most special and treasured little boy.

Friday, February 12, 1993 was bitterly cold and James was sitting on his special chair in his ‘jim-jams’ eating breakfast in front of the fire.
I had agreed to help Denise’s brother Paul fit some wardrobes at his new home that morning. She asked if I would take James with me because she was heading up to her mum’s and it would give her a break. Denise usually did some shopping on a Friday, but as far as I can remember she hadn’t planned to go out of Kirkby, our home town on the edge of Liverpool.
I was normally happy to have James with me, but on this occasion, with all the tools, I was concerned that he might get hurt. Not taking James with me that morning is the biggest single regret of my life.
It wasn’t until late in the afternoon that I walked back to meet Denise, James and her mum Eileen at Eileen’s house. It was dark and approaching teatime. I had no idea that my son had gone missing. We were not yet in an age where everyone had a mobile phone.
I remember that when I walked through the door I sensed a strange atmosphere. I couldn’t see Denise or James.
‘What’s up?’ I asked. I knew from Eileen’s face that something was wrong.
‘Ralph, the police have been on and your James is missing. There’s a message on the answerphone for you. You need to get to Marsh Lane Police Station.’
‘What do you mean? How can he be missing, for God’s sake?’

Shattered lives: Ralph and his then-wife Denise plead for their son's safe return a day after he went missing
I felt sick to my stomach, as if someone had just punched the living daylights out of me.
It seemed like an eternity before we arrived at Marsh Lane, which is in Bootle, near Liverpool docks, nearly eight miles from Kirkby. But when we did, I jumped from the passenger seat of the car and legged it in.
I blurted out: ‘Please tell me you have found him  . . . please.’
‘I’m sorry, sir, we have no news about your son yet,’ the duty officer replied. ‘Come through.’
Everyone in the police station was on high alert. I was desperate to speak to Denise because I needed to know what had happened. I also knew that I had to get out into the cold night and search for James.
I was led into an interview room where an officer said: ‘Ralph, it’s vital we get as much information as we can. I understand how you must be feeling but we are going to do everything we can to get James back to you.’
There was no doubt about it, they were taking statements from me and Denise to establish if we might have been behind James’s disappearance. I knew this would be standard practice, but I found the line of questioning harsh and unsettling.
Finally, after what must have been about three hours, the police took me to see Denise. She looked up at me and her face just crumpled as she got up to hug me.
Denise filled me in on the details as best she could, but she kept breaking down in tears. She told me she had gone shopping in Bootle with her brother’s fiancee, and James was being his normal bubbly self. But because he was not in his pushchair, he kept trying to break free from her hand to go off exploring.
They had called into A . R. Tyms at the Strand Shopping Centre where Denise usually bought her meat. She was buying chops for our tea that night.
‘I swear I only let go of him for a second and he just vanished,’ Denise sobbed. ‘I got my purse out to pay, and when I looked down our James was gone. I saw him by my side and then by the door and that was it. I ran out to find him, but I never saw him again. I’m so sorry, Ralph.’
Denise found the mall’s security office and reported James missing. They made several announcements appealing to anyone who had seen a lost little boy. Denise was getting increasingly desperate. She said that she was just running around everywhere, crying and screaming.
‘I’m so sorry, Ralph,’ she sobbed. ‘I tried everything to find him but he just went. I want my little boy back, Ralph. Where has he gone? Please find him for us.’


Murderers: Police photographs of James Bulger's killers, Jon Venables, left, and Robert Thompson
I started praying in my head: ‘Please, God, please bring James back to us and I swear I will do anything in return.’
I would have laid down my life for my child at that moment. The feeling of helplessness is possibly the worst thing of all. It’s as if you have been thrown out of a plane without a parachute.
Later, there were would be times when – quite unfairly – I blamed Denise. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. It was just part of my raging grief. I wanted to scream: ‘Why did you let go of his hand? Why did you let him out of your sight? He would still be here if it wasn’t for you.’
I am deeply ashamed of blaming Denise. She loved James with her heart and soul, and what happened that day was not her fault. It could have been any parent’s child.
The following day, the search resumed. Hundreds of people made their way from Kirkby to Bootle to help. Late in the evening, the police persuaded us that we should go home. I couldn’t rest, however, and Denise felt the same. At around 1am we returned to Bootle with Denise’s brothers and went on looking. At one point I remember trudging across a wet field. I thought about my baby James, scared and crying in the dark, and I sank to my knees and cried. I prayed with my hands clenched together.
‘What have we done to deserve this?’ I shouted out loud. ‘Just take me instead of James if you have to.’
As dawn broke on Saturday, the operation took a startling new twist. A team of technicians had worked through the night on CCTV images and we were told that James had left the shopping centre with two young boys. There was every chance they had taken him as a prank. The police were now going to concentrate on finding the boys.
I looked at Denise and smiled with relief. ‘He’s gonna be all right, Denise,’ I said. ‘He’s with two young kids – he’s gonna be all right.’

On Sunday, February 14, the senior detectives called another press conference, although Denise was in no fit state to take part. The mood was pretty grim. Publicly the police kept stressing that they had an open mind. But it was now day three and there was no sign of our baby. I probably knew deep down this was not going to end well.

Evil: Venables and Thompson caught on CCTV at the mall before luring James away from his mother
The media briefing began with a statement: ‘It is now 44 hours since James went missing on Friday,’ said Detective Chief Inspector Geoff MacDonald.
‘We have a sighting of James at around 4.30pm on Friday in the Breeze Hill area of Walton. A lady saw a small boy answering his description with two other boys. We are anxious to trace any more persons who may have knowledge of who these two boys are.’
The boys had told her they had found the child, and she was confident they all seemed to be together because the little boy seemed happy to go along with them.
After the press conference I met my older brother Jimmy and some of my other relatives to start a new search, this time in Walton, a couple of miles from the shopping centre.
Jimmy remembers what happened next: ‘We met at the car park of The Mons pub and decided to split up so we could cover as wide an area as possible. Ralph looked dreadful.
‘He was gaunt, sunken in the face and totally done in. At one stage I volunteered to go back to the police station to see if there was any news.
‘As soon as I got there I knew it was bad; the look in the officer’s eyes gave it away. Then he told me they had found a body. I remember an awful pain in the pit of my stomach. My legs seemed as if they were going to give way.
‘It was the most awful thing to have to tell your baby brother. His life was about to change for ever. When I returned, I took a deep breath and walked over to the passenger seat of the car where Ralph was sitting. “I’ve got some news, Ralph,” I said. “It’s not good, I’m afraid.”
‘Ralph leapt from the car and we walked a few yards before I just threw my arms around him and held him for dear life.
‘My heart was beating so fast as I clung to him, not wanting to say the words. “Ralph, they have found baby James. They have found him. I am so, so sorry, but he is dead. He’s dead, Ralph.”  ’
I walked into a toilet cubicle and felt a rush of nausea. My stomach was in agonising spasms and my limbs turned to jelly. I began retching but nothing came up. When I looked at my reflection in the mirror I saw a stranger. My eyes looked like they were going to pop out of my head, blazing with anger and bloodshot from tears and rage.
But most of all I could see shame and disgust. I hated myself because my son was dead. I had failed to protect my own flesh and blood.
When we got back to Marsh Lane Police Station, I just let rip.
‘Where’s my son?’ I screamed. ‘I wanna see my James now. What the f*** have they done to him? I’m gonna kill the b*******.’
‘I’m sorry, Ralph, but you can’t see him now,’ replied the officer, with great compassion.
‘Are you sure it’s him? How do you know it’s my baby?
‘We’re very sure, Ralph, and I’m so very sorry.’

Devoted father: Ralph Bulger's life collapsed when he lost his son James and calls Venables and Thompson 'evil beyond belief'
The next thing I remember I was punching the walls and I was just kicking and screaming before I collapsed and wailed like a baby.
Denise was waiting for me in the police television room, rocking gently and crying. I just held her and kissed her on the head. We were both crying together, trapped in a world of pain that no one else could ever understand. Denise was inconsolable. To hear your wife crying in such way is unbearable. It was like listening to a wounded animal.
There is no question that I considered killing myself. The only thing that stopped me from doing so was the thought that I would be letting James down once again.


A group of teenage boys was playing alongside a railway track in Walton on that cold Sunday afternoon when they spotted what they first thought was a doll or a dead cat on the track between Edge Hill and Bootle. They moved closer.
The ‘doll’ on the track was, in fact, my son. James’s body lay on the railway line, severed by a train.
The four boys screamed and ran down the embankment to Walton Lane Police Station 100 yards away. They crashed through the doors and blurted out to the desk sergeant what they had seen. The search for James was over.
His killers had brutalised him, battered, kicked and tortured him before carrying his blood-soaked body to the track and laying him across it. He was still wearing his coat, but his lower body, which was further down the tracks, was naked.
There was blood everywhere at the scene and we later learned that James suffered 42 injuries. He didn’t die during his torture but some time before the train hit him. His attackers left him to die alone.
It was thought his head might have been weighted down with bricks, and the train then carried his lower body further down the track. James’s underwear was found close by, soaked in blood. Detectives also discovered blood-stained bricks, stones and iron bars at the scene, as well as some AA batteries and a tin of blue modelling paint.
It was clear to the detectives that James had been savagely beaten around the head and body. On one cheek there was bruising, thought to have been caused by the imprint of a shoe. There was some damage to my son’s genitals and his body was spattered with blue paint.
We didn’t watch the news or read the papers. We had updates but all I kept repeating like a broken record was the same question: ‘Have you got them yet? Have you got the b******* that killed my baby?’
In homes across Liverpool, anxious parents, including the mother of a young boy called Robert Thompson, questioned their sons.
‘Is that you on that video, son?’ Ann Thompson demanded.
‘Nah, it’s got nothing to do with me,’ he replied.
As if to prove his point, Robert went to a makeshift memorial near the railway in Walton and later took some flowers. When he got home he said to his mother: ‘Why would I take flowers to the baby if I had killed him?’
At another home nearby, Jon Venables told his mother, Susan: ‘If I’d seen them kids hurting the baby, I’d have kicked their heads in.’

Tragedy: A photograph of police examining the scene on the railway where James Bulger's body was found
Jon’s father, meanwhile, asked his son about the blue paint that was splattered on his mustard-coloured coat. He said that his friend Robert Thompson had thrown it at him.
I later learned that on the Wednesday evening an anonymous woman went to Marsh Lane Police Station.
She said she was a friend of the Venables family and knew that the son, a boy called Jon, had skipped school with a friend called Robert Thompson on the Friday that James went missing. He had returned home with blue paint on his jacket.

The police set out early on the morning of Thursday, February 18. No one on the team could believe Robert or Jon could be guilty. How could two ten-year-old boys do such terrible things?
The Thompsons lived in Walton, a few hundred yards away from the railway. Detective Sergeant Phil Roberts, the officer in charge, was struck by how small and young the boy looked, neatly dressed in his school uniform. When DS Roberts explained why he was there, the boy panicked and started to cry.
Three miles away, at his home in Norris Green, Jon Venables also received a visit. His mother was not surprised when the police turned up, putting it down to Jon’s truancy. They asked for his mustard-coloured coat, which showed the outline of a small handprint in paint on the sleeve.
At the police station, the two boys blamed each other. Robert admitted having a small tin of enamel paint. But he said it was Jon who had taken James from the shopping centre.
He was asked about blood on his clothing and said it was his own. He said it was Jon who threw the paint in James’s face.
Jon was not co-operating, either, but detectives got the distinct impression that he wanted to talk – that things were causing him a lot of concern.
Jon was having lunch when his mother held her son in a tight embrace and said: ‘I love you, Jon. I want you to tell the truth, whatever it might be.’
He started to cry, and just blurted out: ‘I did kill him.’
The boy looked across the room at the detectives and said: ‘What about his mum? Will you tell her I’m sorry.’
Jon continued to blame everything on Robert. He said they found James outside the butcher’s shop.
He said it was his idea to take him, but it was Robert’s idea to kill him. They took him to the canal, where Robert planned to throw him in. James would not kneel down to look at his reflection in the water as they wanted, so Robert picked him up and threw him on the ground. This was how James had first injured his head. He said that James kept crying: ‘I want my mummy.’

Father: Ralph Bulger, pictured in Liverpool, 18 years after his son's death
Jon admitted going up to the reservoir and to the railway.
‘I can’t tell you anything else.’ When pressed why, he replied: ‘’Cos that’s the worst bit.’
But he continued: ‘We took him on the railway track and started throwing bricks at him.’
He claimed Robert threw bricks and hit James with an iron bar. Jon said he had thrown small stones, but that Robert had thrown house bricks.
When asked what he thought about what they had done to James, he cried and said: ‘It was terrible. I was thinking about it all the time.’
He described James screaming and falling down under the assault but getting up again. He claimed Robert told the helpless child: ‘Stay down, you stupid divvy.’
Detective Constable Mark Dale asked Jon why Robert had said this.
‘He wanted him dead, probably,’ he responded. ‘Robert was probably doing it for fun because he was laughing his head off.’
For his part, though, Robert refused to admit any involvement in the attack.
‘He never actually told me the truth in the end – far from it,’ said DS Roberts. ‘He lied from the minute we started to interview him.’
‘When he was charged, he had no problem with it. I suppose he knew that if he was found guilty he would have a better life than he would outside. I thought to myself, “This boy has caused so much misery and evil.” I didn’t look for the three sixes on the back of his head, but at that moment I thought he was the devil.’
On that long walk to James’s death, Thompson and Venables had plenty of opportunities to walk away from him, to let him live. But they never once showed an ounce of compassion for him, or any feeling for a little boy whose life had barely started.
They were happy to abuse, hurt and kill James, leaving him alone to be dismembered by a train. Their only concern was to cover up their crime and their only regret was that they got caught.
It may oversimplify the arguments, but that to my mind makes them evil beyond belief.

Taken from:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2272350/Ralph-Bulger--story-It-20-years-unspeakably-shocking-murder-James-Bugler-father-given-heartbreaking-account-Until-now.html#axzz2JqJqcMJi


It also shows how brazen that people who are guilty can be in their lies from such a young age.


In homes across Liverpool, anxious parents, including the mother of a young boy called Robert Thompson, questioned their sons.
‘Is that you on that video, son?’ Ann Thompson demanded.
‘Nah, it’s got nothing to do with me,’ he replied.
As if to prove his point, Robert went to a makeshift memorial near the railway in Walton and later took some flowers. When he got home he said to his mother: ‘Why would I take flowers to the baby if I had killed him?’

At another home nearby, Jon Venables told his mother, Susan: ‘If I’d seen them kids hurting the baby, I’d have kicked their heads in.’



‘He never actually told me the truth in the end – far from it,’ said DS Roberts. ‘He lied from the minute we started to interview him.



Carrying out a charade at that age is despicable enough, but carrying one out when you're old enough to know better...

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Re: Ralph Bulger - My Story

Post  wantthetruth on Sun 3 Feb - 14:32

Such a heart rending article. I cried most of the way through it.

And no, you can't fail but to compare.........

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Re: Ralph Bulger - My Story

Post  Loopdaloop on Sun 3 Feb - 14:36

wantthetruth wrote:Such a heart rending article. I cried most of the way through it.

And no, you can't fail but to compare.........

It is heart rending isn't it. I note that he's got a book out and I imagine I would feel the same throughout it.

You can't help but compare can you.
I read Kate's book (For free) as well as the articles online and never had the same feelings.

The gut instinct is more than often right.

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Re: Ralph Bulger - My Story

Post  wantthetruth on Sun 3 Feb - 15:02

I haven't read 'Madeleine' in full, only parts online. I will admit to feeling sympathy for Kate in part. I'm a mum after all.

But you're right. It's not quite the same is it? You read Ralph Bulgers words and it all hits home.........what it really feels like. They way he is so honest about blaming Denise. That's a totally natural reaction and I respect his honesty in expressing that.

We saw it with the parents of Holly and Jessica too. Not so in the case of the McCanns.

JMHO


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Re: Ralph Bulger - My Story

Post  Not Born Yesterday on Sun 3 Feb - 15:07

It's one of those rare cases which aren't likely ever to be forgotten by anyone who was old enough at the time. All parents will have had a nightmare moment when a child wandered off - for James's parents, that nightmare never ended.

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Re: Ralph Bulger - My Story

Post  maebee on Mon 4 Feb - 0:25

wantthetruth wrote:Such a heart rending article. I cried most of the way through it.

And no, you can't fail but to compare.........

Indeed. The Bulgers didn't read from a script. They pleaded from their hearts because it was a genuine abduction :( They went searching for their lost toddler. They didn't go jogging. I've said it a million times because it was my WTF moment in this case. Parents of a missing child DO NOT go jogging within days of their child's "abduction".

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Re: Ralph Bulger - My Story

Post  chrissie on Wed 6 Feb - 13:40

More anguish for Ralph and Denise:

CHILD killer Jon Venables’ former lawyer said yesterday he was “amazed” to learn he had applied for parole — just weeks before the 20th anniversary of victim James Bulger’s murder.

Lawrence Lee branded as “awful” the timing of “totally institutionalised” Venables, who is in jail for downloading child sex abuse images.

Venables and Robert Thompson were ten when they were jailed for the abduction, torture and murder of James, two, on February 12, 1993. His body was found in Walton, Liverpool.

Venables, now 30, spent eight years in custody before release and lived under a false name before being arrested over the child abuse images. He was jailed for two years and refused parole in 2011. He recently re-applied to be let out.

Liverpool-based Mr Lee, 59, said: “I was amazed. Particularly, I thought the timing was awful just weeks before the 20th anniversary.”

Speaking of Venables’ release after James’ murder, he said: “He couldn’t handle being out. He was always looking over his shoulder. They (Venables and Thompson) may be at liberty but they will never be free.”

He recalled how Venables looked “so angelic” when arrested he thought police had the wrong person.

Read more: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4780764/Bulger-killer-lawyer-shock.html#ixzz2K7sZeXH9

No more money should be spent on protecting his identity, he had his chance and he blew it.

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Re: Ralph Bulger - My Story

Post  margaret on Wed 6 Feb - 14:11

chrissie wrote:

No more money should be spent on protecting his identity, he had his chance and he blew it.

I agree Chrissie. Venebles is an accident waiting to happen IMO.




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Re: Ralph Bulger - My Story

Post  ann_chovey on Sat 9 Feb - 21:50

But most of all I could see shame and disgust. I hated myself because my son was dead. I had failed to protect my own flesh and blood.
When we got back to Marsh Lane Police Station, I just let rip.
‘Where’s my son?’ I screamed. ‘I wanna see my James now. What the f*** have they done to him? I’m gonna kill the b*******.’
‘I’m sorry, Ralph, but you can’t see him now,’ replied the officer, with great compassion.
‘Are you sure it’s him? How do you know it’s my baby?
‘We’re very sure, Ralph, and I’m so very sorry.’
The next thing I remember I was punching the walls and I was just kicking and screaming before I collapsed and wailed like a baby.



http://www.mccannfiles.com/id31.html
Fiona Payne....

Errm... tut, she... she was just bereft, she didn't know what to do, she was just panicking, extremely frightened, extremely frightened for Madeleine and, errm... was wondering where she was or what was happening to her. And the helplessness, errm... of not being able to do anything, what should she be doing, what could they do? Errm... she was angry, really angry, tut, [b]punching walls, kicking walls, she was covered in bruises the next day, because she just didn't know what, what else to do. She was angry at herself, she kept saying 'I've let her down. We've let her down Gerry',


do we think Kate 'knew'? allegedly.

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A parent who admitted when her children died in a terrible accident (and did not cover it up)

Post  Loopdaloop on Sun 10 Feb - 11:47

Here is a story from the other side of the spectrum... This parent's twins died following waking up from a nap and pulling a chest of drawers on top of them.
What the Mccann's should realise from the comments on the article here that people in this country do have sympathy for people who's children die through an accident. Social services also do not take away other children, and unless the twins were drugged as well as maddie, they would not have been taken away as losing a child constitutes having lost a lesson.


'The twins are still a big part of our family': One woman tells how her life was shattered in an instant when her two-year-old twins died in a freak accident at home
Louise tells Catherine O’Brien how learning how to grieve has helped her family rebuild their future – and reach out to others
By CATHERINE O' BRIEN
PUBLISHED: 00:01, 10 February 2013 | UPDATED: 08:53, 10 February 2013


Louise Woodbridge’s house is warm, welcoming and spotless, but it also bears all the hallmarks that come with running a large, boisterous family.
Boots, coats and two golden retrievers fill the side porch, while in the kitchen a whiteboard lists the after-school activities and pick-up times of various offspring.
Everywhere you turn, there are photographs of her children, smiling faces framed with honey blond hair.

Louise Woodbridge struggled to cope at the sudden, shocking death of her two-year-old twins, Betsy and William
At first glance, no casual visitor could imagine the incalculable loss her family has had to bear.
Eight-and-a-half years ago, on an otherwise ‘normal’ Monday, Louise headed upstairs to wake
her two-year-old twins Betsy and William from their afternoon nap.
But as she pushed on the door of the bedroom they shared, it wouldn’t open. Blocking it on the other side was an antique chest of drawers that had toppled over.
‘I am not going to cry as I tell you this,’ says Louise. ‘But I don’t want you to think that I am not crying, because I cry inside every day.’
The scene that confronted Louise once she forced the door ajar is beyond every parent’s worst nightmare.
Sometime during their nap, the twins had clambered out of their cots. ‘Betsy would have helped William because she was the climber,’ says Louise.


Betsy and William, above, were two when they died. Louise, says, ‘We talk about them every day’
‘They had had a fantastic time, pulling their books and crayons off the shelves.
And from what we could work out, Betsy then opened the bottom drawer of the chest – she knew that was where William’s clothes were kept and probably wanted to get him dressed.’
As she climbed in, the chest had tipped over, crushing them both.
Louise, who was then seven-and-a-half months pregnant, saw Betsy first.
‘Her head was hanging out of the drawer, her eyes closed.’ Somehow – she cannot believe now that she found the physical strength to do it – she lifted the chest and found William beneath it.
‘He had been just sitting there – sucking his thumb.’ Louise remembers screaming as panic and adrenalin took over.
When I was told that grief is a heart full of love, I thought, ‘I’m going to be OK’
‘I had to try to resuscitate them. I thought they can’t possibly be dead – I was just hysterical.’ Louise’s mother, who was also in the house, dialled 999. Two builders, who were working downstairs, ran up and tried to help.
Amid the terror, Louise called her husband Paul, who was at work ten miles away. ‘Come home now. I think the twins are dead,’ she told him, ‘and he drove, I don’t know how.’
Within minutes, 22 paramedics had arrived at their house near Windsor in Berkshire.
William was airlifted to hospital by helicopter, Betsy went in an ambulance.
Everything was a blur of sirens, blue lights, tubes, bleeping – and then nothing.
‘All bereaved parents know that nothing,’ Louise says, ‘that moment when the noise that you sometimes wish for five minutes you didn’t have in your life turns into a deafening silence.
And that moment is so terrifying that you find yourself in a place you never knew existed.’
Every year, according to the charity Child Bereavement UK, almost 3,000 children aged between one and 19 die through illness or accident.

William in a family snapshot on holiday, around two months before he died
Few, however, are lost in such freak and anguished circumstances as Betsy and William.
Their deaths left Paul and Louise with no target at which to point blame. ‘We’ve had many moments of utter despair,’ says Louise.
‘But I remember Paul saying, “We have lost two of our children and we are the only people in the world who know how that feels – we are not going to lose each other.”
Together, we became passionate about not letting this forever damage our family, and actually, we are a success story.’
Composed and dry-eyed as promised, Louise is sitting on a plumped sofa in her living room.
In a couple of hours’ time, she will watch her eldest daughter Lily, 12, in a netball match before scooping up her three youngest children, Fleur, eight, Poppy, six, and Teddy, four, from school and nursery and immersing herself in the nightly ritual of tea, homework, bath and bed.
She relishes the hubbub – ‘Ultimately, it’s my family who have kept me going’ – but she also values the moments of calm contemplation.
‘I used to be afraid that I would become clinically depressed,’ she says.
‘But then someone explained to me that depression was a heart full of emptiness, and grief is a heart
full of love. As soon as I heard that, I thought, “I’m going to be OK because I am bursting with love for Betsy and William and all my children.”’

Betsy in a family snapshot around two months before her death
Now 41, Louise has an irrevocable sense of ‘life before bereavement, and life after’.
And life before was, by anyone’s standards, blessed.
The daughter of wealthy parents – her father Norman Grundon runs the UK’s largest family-owned waste-management company – she enjoyed, along with her elder brother Neil, a ‘privileged but grounded’ upbringing.
After leaving school, she did a catering course and briefly worked for a hotel chain, but her vision for the future was clear: ‘I just wanted to get married and have babies, and I have no problem telling anyone that.’
She and Paul were friends for several years before they got together when Louise was in her mid-20s.
A salesman in her father’s company, Paul was four years older than her, had been married before and had a two-year-old son, Ben, which fleetingly made her parents nervous.
‘Taking on someone with a young child wasn’t exactly what they’d had in mind for me,’ Louise says. ‘But when Paul and I fell in love they soon came to realise how special he is.’
After their wedding in 1998, Ben became an instant part of their family – ‘I’ve always included him and he always includes us.’
Within 18 months, Louise had given birth to Lily and in 2002, she was pregnant again. She remembers the moment an early scan picked up two heartbeats.
‘We were ecstatic. I kept saying, “Aren’t I big? It’s because I’m having twins.”
I wanted the world to know.’ Betsy and William arrived six weeks prematurely and had to spend a month in special care, but then they were home, ‘and I had the family I had dreamed of’.
As Betsy and William grew, Louise delighted in watching their characters evolve. Betsy liked to sit and daydream (‘she had an aura about her’), while her brother was tactile and loving, ‘a typical boy’.
They played together – Louise recalls how Betsy would sit in the doll’s pram while William pushed her around the garden – ate together and shared a pink and blue bedroom.
‘Everything was two and two and two – two highchairs, two cots and a double buggy – and I think that is what added to the cruelty in their death, that it was also a double whammy.’
Despite all efforts to save them that day in September 2004, the reality was that Betsy and William died instantly from suffocation due to chest compression.

Louise and Paul with, from left, their children Fleur, Teddy, Poppy and Lily
Their bodies were lifeless but perfect, with no broken bones and only superficial bruising. In the A&E department of Slough’s Wexham Park Hospital, Paul picked up Betsy and laid her in the same bed as William, and Louise then held them both for she knows not how long, before she and Paul emerged and faced the hardest of many monumental tasks ahead of them: telling Ben, then ten, and Lily, who was four, what had happened. ‘We had no idea how to handle it,’ says Louise.
‘So we said that Betsy and William had gone to sleep and not woken up and now they were in heaven.
And Lily laughed because she didn’t understand that she wouldn’t see them again.’
Paul and Louise decided that Lily and Ben should not be among the 600 mourners at Betsy and William’s funeral, held a week later at their village church in Berkshire.
‘Had I known then what I know now, I would definitely have had them there,’ says Louise.
‘Your knee-jerk reaction is to protect them, but eventually you learn that children cope much better when they have honesty and closure.’
For months Louise and Paul were in pieces, barely eating or sleeping.
And layered on top of their grief were the demands of coping with a new baby – Fleur was born five-and-a-half weeks after the twins died.
‘The delivery was a blur. I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. My grief felt so acute, I thought it might kill me,’ says Louise.

Louise and her husband Paul have used their experience to help other grieving couples
They desperately needed help, but getting the right support was fraught with pitfalls.
A well-meaning therapist told Louise that the loss she was experiencing was like having a mirror that had been smashed into a trillion pieces, and that it was going to take her a lifetime to put it back together. ‘She was trying to be sympathetic, but her words were too overwhelming.’
Then a friend gave Louise a number for Child Bereavement UK, and a counsellor came to the house. ‘She held my hand and said, “I’m here to help you, but I am never going to make this better for you.” And I felt this huge relief, because finally someone was being truthful with me.’
With the expert counselling offered through Child Bereavement UK, the Woodbridges began the gradual process of rebuilding their shattered lives.
As parents, Paul and Louise learned how to talk to Ben and Lily with the right degree of clarity. ‘Children are accepting but they needed to know that Betsy and William’s bodies didn’t work any more and that they were never going to see them again.’
And as a couple, they learned that although their grief was shared, it was normal for it to play out in different ways. Louise wanted to burn the chest of drawers that killed Betsy and William, but Paul could not bear to part with it. ‘To me it was a murder weapon; to him it was the last thing they touched. So we keep it in a shed in the garden.’
‘We’ve had many moments of despair, but became passionate about not letting this forever damage our family’

Louise frequently needed to scream and cry and bang her head against a wall; Paul, 45, who is now a property developer, immersed himself in ‘restorative grief’, a more typically male approach which often involves some sort of building project.
He bought a dilapidated bungalow in Cornwall and spent 18 months transforming it into a six-bedroomed holiday home where they now spend every summer.
Among the furnishings are pictures of Betsy and William and a bench dedicated to them. ‘It is a place that they have never been to but they are very much part of.’
As for their family home, Paul and Louise briefly contemplated selling, before realising that moving would also mean abandoning precious memories.
So they stayed. Louise’s yearning for another baby was absolute. She conceived just over a year later – the first time that she and Paul were able to make love after Betsy and William’s deaths ‘because in grief, you can’t cope with intimate contact – when someone touches you, it is too raw, like your skin has been burnt’. And then came an unbelievably painful blow.
Louise was expecting twins, but the pregnancy had implanted in her cervix and was not viable. At 12 weeks, she had to go through a termination. ‘It was indescribably sad.’
Mercifully, they went on to have Poppy and Teddy, and Teddy’s arrival meant that, after five years, Betsy and William’s bedroom – a place where Louise had spent much time grieving – needed to be put to use again. Lily helped Louise to clear it – ‘an ordeal for both of us’ – then it was redecorated in lilac and is now a fresh, bright room for Poppy.
Across the landing, Lily sleeps with the twins’ pyjamas under her pillow, but many of their other treasures – teddies, pictures and toys – have been placed in a wooden box in the living room so that the children can play with them at any time.
‘We talk about the twins every day – they remain a big part of our family,’ says Louise.
All around, photos of Betsy and William are interspersed with those of the other children.
Poppy has Betsy’s smile and Teddy has William’s eyes, ‘although William was curly-haired and Teddy’s couldn’t be straighter,’ says Louise.
It is natural to make comparisons, but those who have suggested to Louise that she ‘must feel so much better now’ that she has gone on to have Fleur, Poppy and Teddy are misplaced in their kindness.
‘You don’t ever replace your lost children,’ Louise says. ‘That all-consuming grief for them is still there, and if I want to, I can feel it instantly.
But we owed it to Betsy and William not to let this destroy us and to be the good parents we always wanted to be. That is what keeps us going.’

'GRIEF IS A LONELY PLACE': HOW TO SUPPORT CHILDREN IN BEREAVEMENT
After the twins died, Louise recalls people she knew crossing the road to avoid her.
‘I wouldn’t have known what to say to me in those early days,’ she says. ‘But you are always better to say something than nothing, because grief is a lonely place, and the last thing a bereaved person needs is to feel more isolated.’
For the past six years, Louise and Paul have been patrons of Child Bereavement UK.
They have been tireless fundraisers — their most recent venture, a bike ride from London to Paris to mark what would have been the twins’ tenth birthday, raised £105,000.
This year, their focus is an awareness initiative. The twins’ deaths were a rare tragedy, but 92 per cent of children experience a significant bereavement before the age of 16, and one in 29 has to cope with the death of a parent or sibling.
‘That’s one child in every average school class,’ Louise points out.
Together with Child Bereavement UK, the Woodbridges have devised the Elephants’ Tea Party, a scheme to be run via primary schools which will start conversations about what it feels like to lose a person, or pet, that you love.
The campaign is based on Paul and Louise’s experience, and also that of Ben and Lily, who returned to school just one day after the twins died.
‘We know what a huge difference having the sensitive support of friends and teachers made to them, but we also know a grieving child is vulnerable and that careless remarks can be devastating.’
Elephants provide an apt theme for bereavement. Grief is often referred to as ‘the elephant in the room’, and elephants go through a process of grief when one of their herd dies.
So the idea behind the campaign, which will take place in June (more than 100 schools have already signed up), is to provide teachers with stories, poems and drawing materials to help make the subject of death less taboo — but also to have fun by holding elephant-themed tea parties.
‘Children don’t need to know everything, but they do need to understand that death is part of life and it’s OK to feel sad and cross and to talk about it,’ says Louise.
‘And there are lots of adults who need to know that, too.’ elephantsteaparty.co.uk; childbereavement.org.uk


Taken from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-2273975/Death-children-One-woman-tells-life-shattered-instant-year-old-twins-died-freak-accident.html#ixzz2KUnyANJP

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