I am honoured to host this powerful and emotive piece on my website. It is written by Eugene Scardifield, a man who, like too many others, has lost a loved one as a result of violent crime. Eugene does not write for a living, so please don’t expect a professionally crafted, and carefully structured piece. His writing is all the more powerful because it has not been reworked by a wordsmith. Thank you very much for reading this. Should you wish to donate to my charity fundraiser, ‘A Million Steps in May’, in aid of the wonderful charity that is ‘Support After Murder and Manslaughter ‘, then please do so by using the link below. You will make a difference to those experiencing their darkest hours. Bless you, and endless thanks.
Once the perpetrator is sentenced it doesn’t end there for the families – it is just the beginning.
Death from natural causes, accidents, terminal illness; you know how and why your loved one died.
The questions and answers are difficult to swallow, and the grief is heart-breaking, but questions are answered, and you can begin your grieving stages. From passing to burial, the process is often within a week.
The possible feelings you may experience:
You have a funeral which gives you possible closure, and although you’ll never get over your loss, you learn to move on with your life.
You’ll possibly have a large support network of family and friends to guide and support your through the dark days and grieving process, which helps you with your state of mind along with your emotional wellbeing.
Mental health and its many forms:
Obsessive compulsive disorder
To name a few.
Mental health is so big in today’s society. It’s all over the national newspapers, the TV and social media. The government, along with the NHS, are doing their utmost to encourage people to talk about mental health, to spread awareness and, most importantly, give people who suffer with mental health problems all the support, care and medication they need. Family and friends will hopefully support them, day-to-day, with their own personal needs or requirements.
Both of the above are horrendous and have a major impact on your life. Individually, either one of them can make day-to-day life unbearable at times, until you’ve been through the processes and grieving stages, however long that may take.
So, could you imagine coping with both of these issues at once, while having more questions than answers – no closure?
When your loved one is taken by murder or manslaughter you don’t go through the ‘normal’ grieving process and stages. You can hop, skip and crash between many of them within a 24-hour period, with the added mental health issues and sleep deprivation there to torture you further. Sleep deprivation has been used in other countries as a form of torture – and it is torture. But how many people do you know that wake up into a nightmare, as opposed to waking up from a nightmare?
Yet the nightmares you have when you are asleep can be just as distressing.
Can you imagine having a loved one taken in such a brutal manner, and turning to people for love, support and guidance, only to find no one is there for you because “they’re too unsure of what to say,” or they think you should “get over it” or you should “move on”? Family and friends you’ve known all your life suddenly become strangers, they move on and leave you stuck in a time lapse.
To add to the already traumatic experience of this loss, and the desperate hope that they catch the animal that did this, you must visit the morgue and see your loved one laid, frozen like a block of ice with a cold touch like nothing you’ve ever felt before. You stand there looking at their face, hoping it’s some sick joke – a made up dummy. Yet it isn’t a sick joke; it’s not a dummy. And if you think that by watching CSI, you know what a dead body looks like, you do not.
You don’t know if their broken face is because of the murderer or the autopsy.
Then you’ve got the wait…
Waiting for the plea and case management, to see what plea they’re going to enter. This doesn’t always go ahead on the date you’re given, so you build yourself up -mentally and emotionally – for the outcome only to be told, “Sorry it’s not happening today” and you get another date.
Waiting for the trial – which again you build yourself up for – only for that to be moved to another date.
And the trial comes around. Some trials last a week, some maybe two, three, four weeks… Every day adds to your trauma, your stress levels, your mental state of mind. Paranoia sets in. You think they’re going to get away with it, regardless of the evidence you’ve been told is stacked against them.
Days can turn into weeks, in and out of court, breaking you more and more inside. Having to look at their family and friends supporting them and thinking, “How can you… just how can you?” Even worse is having to look at them while they’re sitting there without an ounce of remorse.
You try to analyse the jury, watch their reactions as the case is directed at them, to see if they feel sorry for the animal that took your loved one. Can you imagine what it’s like, living through this for however many weeks?
And it doesn’t even end there; forced to listen to every gruesome detail of the pathologist’s report as he details exactly what he had to do to your loved one – their body – to determine the exact cause of death and how long it took your loved one to die.
Then the trial comes to an end and the guilty verdict is given, and with it every single emotion you have gone through – from the day you received the news about your loved one being taken, right up to this day – comes flooding out of you, tears streaming down your face. Fighting to compose yourself, you wait for the judge to pass sentence.
Manslaughter may only be a few years’ sentence. Justice? No not at all; they will be out and free whilst you’re still stuck in the dark depths of the cell which is your mind.
Murder brings a minimum tariff of 15 years, but they could do half on ‘good behaviour’ parole. What the…!? How is this right!? We are serving a life sentence, our whole lives ripped apart never to be the same again, and yet they can be ‘rehabilitated’ and go and enjoy the rest of their lives with their loved ones.
Mums, dads, sons, daughters, siblings destroyed. Looking at your wage slip and focusing on ‘tax paid.’ I’m paying for that animal’s wellbeing in prison. How much does it cost the taxpayer to keep these animals caged?
The period from receiving the devastating news that your loved one is gone, to the trial, can be a year or more. That means you still haven’t been allowed to lay your loved one in their final resting place. So now is the time you begin to arrange the funeral and build yourself up for what is to come. And chances are you’re going through massive denial at this point, but you want to make it perfect – not perfect in your eyes but perfect in theirs – what you believe in your heart that they would want. Because you try and convince yourself that if this is your loved one’s perfect send-off you can have them back… we can have them back, right?
Then there are the ‘firsts’: the first Christmas without your loved one there, that empty seat at the dinner table. The first birthday without being able to celebrate the day with your loved one. Depending on the loved one taken, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day can feel so empty, alone and even riddled with guilt – spent at a graveside, devastatingly broken-hearted.
Possibly the worst is the first anniversary of your loved one’s murder or manslaughter because it takes you right back to square one again. But the difference now is that your focus points have gone – no trial to focus on, no funeral to focus on, no ‘firsts’ to focus on. So all you have left to focus on is what happened to your loved one, what they went through – what were they thinking? What were they feeling? Was it painful for them? Were they begging for their life?
You become extremely paranoid and sensitive to normal day-to-day activities like food shopping, as though you’ve got a big arrow above your head: “Oh look, it’s such-and-such whose relative was murdered.” You become stigmatised. You become a statistic. You don’t want to put the TV on for fear of what you might see. Your loved one’s story can be used, without your consent, because once to court case is over it goes into the public domain for anyone to access.
You hear phrases like “I could murder a bacon sandwich” or “I could murder a cup of tea.” To you these phrases may seem innocent but to us, just hearing that word can hit you like a sucker punch, knocking the wind out of you. Then there are the inappropriate jokes about killing someone if they don’t have a coffee or a cigarette, which again you might find innocent but to us it can be very distressing.
When it comes to support there is very little. As a family you try your best to support each other but it’s very difficult when you’re going through so much heartache, personally, and with the added mental health issues. Your friends don’t know what to say in fear of saying the wrong thing, so you’re avoided, which makes you feel so alone and alienated. The doctors don’t know how to go about dealing with you, so they just want to prescribe anti-depressants. But you’re not depressed – it goes so much deeper and soul destroying than just depression.
You could have the best counsellor or therapist available but if they haven’t experienced what you’ve been through, they won’t be able to give you the genuine support you need. They’ll be able to give you good advice and techniques, but there’s a professional barrier preventing any emotional connection or attachment, so you don’t get what you really need; that genuine understanding and a knowledge of exactly what you’re feeling and going through.
All of this has a huge impact on you, making you incredibly angry and very bitter. This in turn can lead you down a very dark path with very dark thoughts. It can lead you to turn to drink or drugs as a form of release. But as you well know, bingeing on drink and drugs is not only bad for your own health, but it also affects those who love you. It can lead to you being in and out of the doctors or in and out of the hospital, or even worse, can lead to your own death.
The anger can also conjure very dark thoughts of seeking retribution – even wanting the killer’s family to suffer the same way you are. You can fantasise about what you would do if the killer ever got released from prison. If these issues aren’t given the attention they need, they will impact on the already grieving families, the NHS, the police force, the justice system and the taxpayer.
There are days when you think you’re going insane and losing control of your mind. Your memory becomes blurred, and you find things where they shouldn’t be, like car keys in the fridge and shoes in the food cupboard. You can find yourself standing in an aisle of a shop not knowing why you’re there or even how you got there.
“Remember to keep yourself alive, there is nothing more important than that.” – Afeni Shakur, mother of murdered rap star Tupac Shakur.
“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” –
In the 1980s AIDS was the elephant in the room but now this is openly discussed. In the ‘90s cancer was the elephant in the room and look how far we’ve come in society bringing that to daylight. Coming into the ‘00s mental health was the elephant in the room and now that’s widely discussed through TV, the newspapers and social media. It is now my aim to do the same with murder and manslaughter. It is time to drop the stigma and free the mind. Don’t be scared about saying the wrong thing, don’t think that by mentioning their name we’re going to break down. By talking about our loved one you’re keeping their memory alive and that is a positive thing.
In 2015 my brother, Michael Scardifield, was one of 573 murders in England. My brother was one of many that had his life snatched away because of the atrocious act of another. My brother was one of many innocent people… because not all murders are the outcome of the stigma the media portrays them to be.
My brother will never be a statistic while I have air in my lungs. This is my life now – as it is for many others.
Thank you for taking the time to read my personal thoughts.