Stab victim's mum Ann Oakes-Odger's reaction to stabbing of Jay Whiston (From Essex County Standard)
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Stab victim's mum Ann Oakes-Odger's reaction to stabbing of Jay Whiston
JAY Whiston’s murder brought back harrowing memories for Ann Oakes-Odger.
Her son Westley Odger was stabbed to death at a cashpoint on Colchester’s Greenstead estate.
It happened on September 12, 2005, and she vividly remembers how she found out her son had been killed.
Ann said: “I got this call telling me something had happened to Westley. I have never found out who that was. I was home alone and in such a state.
“I phoned the hospital to find out how he was, and thought he would be OK. But I heard them talking in the background saying he had passed away.”
She went to the hospital with his sister Rachel and brother Lee, where she met officers who were still being briefed to come and see her and give her the news.
Ann said: “I soon realised you have no mechanism for dealing with this kind of traumatic news. We don’t handle death well normally, but when it happens in such a terrible way you have no idea what to do. Someone has been taken and will never be back.”
The murder in Colchester last Saturday brought all those emotions flooding back.
Jay, 17, was stabbed to death outside a house party in Marlowe Way. It was the first knife-related murder in the town since Westley was killed almost seven years to the day.
Ann said, from her experience, the sense of loss will be with Jay’s family for the rest of their lives.
She said: “When it happened, we were not allowed to see Westley until the following day because of the investigation. As a parent, all you want is to get to your child. My big boy, my baby.”
Ann said seeing her son’s body was surreal. She said: “Part of you feels remote from it. You don’t want to be there and then you don’t want to leave. You don’t want to leave them alone.
As well as campaigning tirelessly against knife crime, Ann has fought to make sure most funerals of victims of crime are held within a month. She had to wait three months for Westley’s funeral.
Ann said the media and public interest in murder investigations means your child is no longer just yours, and that police effectively take ownership of the body. She said: “In the first week you are trying to get as much information as you can but don’t know what to do. The police have to do their job and your son has become part of a much larger process.
“For Jay’s family, there will still be a great deal of disbelief. But among all the despair there is hope. Those still with you are a reason to continue.”
Ann got justice, 11 months after Westley’s death. Andrew Fredericks was jailed for life for murder, and his brother, Mark Fredericks, got seven years for manslaughter. In terms of the hunt for Jay’s killer, five teenagers arrested on suspicion of killing him were bailed on Thursday. Police have not ruled out further arrests.
Ann said: “It will be hard for Jay’s family, knowing the people responsible are out there and free when Jay isn’t.”
Ann said she hoped Jay’s family feel able to contact her. She said: “Nobody other than a parent who has been through this can understand.”
Ann continues to campaign to educate children about the dangers of carrying knives. She has also helped to get a minimum 25-year jail sentence for an adult convicted of killing someone with a knife. Previously there was no minimum tariff. The minimum for an under-18 convicted is now 12 years.
She was made an MBE last year for her work, and admitted: “It has been important to make something good come out of something bad.”