Dead Man’s Father

He came over and introduced himself. His voice was even and firm despite the tragedy. His houndstooth blazer, gently infused with cigar smoke, strained against his stomach. He reached out his hand and I shook it. He was the dead man’s father.

“I tried to catch your eye yesterday but you didn’t look up,” he said. “Do you work at the Herald?” It was half way through the trial and he had listened to the details of his son’s death pieced together by legal experts and played out in the court. The woman at the centre of the love triangle had stood in the witness box, but her estranged husband, the man responsible for stabbing this father’s son, waited in the dock.

“How are you coping with the trial?” I asked him. His movements were slow and racked with grief, but his voice stayed steady, “It’s been good to piece together what happened to him on that night. There’s a lot we didn’t know.” He talked about his faith pulling him through and about his son, his eyes welling up but his face displaying little emotion. His openness and honesty disarmed me.

Never before had a bereaved relative walked over to introduce themselves and spoken so readily about their feelings. “If it was up to me he would be hanged,” the elderly Christian father said. He was concerned the jury wouldn’t find the tattooed defendant, whose jealousy and possessiveness led him to kill, guilty of murder.

We spoke again after the jury delivered their verdict. Two hours they sat in the room and unanimously decided the killer was not a murderer. Eight years for manslaughter and he’d be out in three. Fighting back the tears the dead man’s father took out a cigar and lit it facing away from the wind. Smoke curled up between his yellow finger nails. His thin white hair blew across his face.

“He has destroyed nine people’s lives and not even got one year in his sentence for each of those lives he has ruined. He will probably be out in three or four years and have his life back. We will never pick up the pieces,” he said.

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