Some vile crimes have a wider impact than their immediate victims, so much so they can affect us all.
Now, almost three years on, the final chapter in the Ken Handford murder has hopefully finally been written, it is worth reflecting on this horrible incident. But it is not the depraved and pernicious behaviour of the murderers, their craven ice addiction or their even more ignominious pursuit of some quick cash that is worth dwelling on.
Truth has been served in the revelations of the court and justice may well have been served in the weighty sentences on the criminals but despite it sounding like a cliche; neither of these things bring back the man Ken Handford, all he was and is remembered by. What we know is he was a man much loved by his family and his community and that is worth dwelling on.
During the trial this paper chose not to publish accusations made by the accused that part of the motivations for the stabbing was the false allegation Ken Handford was a paedophile. The judgement makes this clear both of the accused knew this was false. Moreover Judge Jane Dixon notes even the mistaken belief by the stabber Cooper was not a mitigating factor but rather an explanation of his loss of control. There may never be an explanation to the facile stupidity of careless, violent men nor their grotesque self-justification. The real story here is in the resonating damage to a family and a community of a pointless crime.
Justice Dixon notes in her judgement Ken Handford was held in high regard and the shattering effect his murder had on his family.
“Kenneth Handford’s son and daughter-in-law have felt unable to grieve properly because of the violent way he met his death. His daughter, Margaret Murray, said that nothing could have prepared her for the way her father died. Each of his grandchildren have been greatly distressed by the knowledge of what was done to their grandfather. Ronald Handford said that nothing can take his mind off the way his brother was murdered. Anita Maher who found Kenneth Handford’s body cannot forget the traumatic image of what she saw that day.”
The dreadful ripples go on. These were tight and loving families, an open and generous farming community changed forever.
Most telling of all is Justice Dixon’s sobering line, like Donne’s meditation;
“Crimes such as yours diminish the confidence of the community in the security and safety of their domestic lives.”
– It tolls for thee.