Slaughter of a hero

The stranger wanted fags but took a life instead...

Published by: Jai Breitnauer and Justine Marklew
Published on: 10th May 2010

As me and my husband Martin smooched in the corner of the Makadown Social Club, I heard one of the regulars shout across the bar.
‘You two should know better!’ he sniggered. ‘You must’ve been married 20 years!’
‘Err, 22 actually,’ I grinned proudly. ‘And we’ve been together for 33 years – since we were 16.’
I chuckled as I remembered the cookery classes at school where we’d met. Martin McCrory – Macca everyone called him – was a real heart-throb, he’d only taken cookery to chat up the girls.
One day, I’d got so annoyed with his messing around when he’d bent over to open the oven, I’d poked him in the bum with my pencil!
But later that night, he’d come around to my house.
‘Jenny, will you go out with me?’ he’d smiled.
Would I?! I’d fancied him for ages.
The next day, I’d held his hand proudly as we walked into school amid a chorus of wolf whistles.
That had been the summer of 1973, and we’d been inseparable. We’d even got the train one day all the way to Great Yarmouth, and had fish and chips on the seafront.
‘Macca, stop!’ I’d squealed, as he chased me around the beach, tickling me. Eventually, he’d grabbed me around the waist and dragged me into the sand.
‘You’re so lovely,’ he’d said, nuzzling my nose. ‘You’re my darlin’. I want you to marry me, Jenny – say you will.’
‘Of course!’ I’d laughed.
We’d walked down the aisle 10 years after we’d started dating and, soon after, we were doting parents to three wonderful kids, Katie, Joe, and Tom.
They’d grown up so fast – Katie working, Joe in the army, and Tom studying for his GCSEs – but our romance had never got old. Macca remembered every anniversary, brought me home a bunch of yellow roses more times than I could remember.
Even when he got a job as a long distance lorry driver, nothing came between us. Yes, we spent weeks apart but, when he came home, laden with gifts for the kids, we were more in love than ever.
That’s why we still smooched on the dance floor sometimes – like now. ‘I’m a lucky so and so, fellas,’ he boasted to his mates. ‘Jenny’s the love of my life.’
Walking home hand in hand, we talked about the future. ‘Now the kids have grown up, I want to show you all the places I’ve visited over the years,’ Macca smiled.
‘You won’t get me riding in that smelly old lorry!’ I chuckled.
‘No!’ he grinned. ‘A few more years, then I’ll retire and take you on a cruise.’
I rolled my eyes.
‘I’m serious! I’ve been saving for years. Only the best for my darlin’.’
Not for the first time, I felt like the luckiest woman alive. Later that week, as I packed Macca’s bag for his next trip, I smiled. Won’t be doing this for much longer… no more lonely nights.
Macca came up behind me, wrapped his arms round me and kissed my neck. ‘It’s just a quickie to Copenhagen,’ he sighed. ‘I’ll be back before you know it.’
He was delivering exhibition pieces to a museum.
‘Make sure you are,’ I winked.
A few days later, I was cooking Tom some bacon and eggs – revision food – when I saw a police car pull up outside.
‘Bad news for someone,’ I sighed. I was just flipping the eggs when I realised… they were walking towards our house.
My heart was in my throat as they knocked on our door.
‘It’s my son Joe, isn’t it?’ I gasped. You hear about accidents at army bases…
‘Is there anyone else at home?’ they asked, making me sit down. I called Tom and Katie, who had the day off work.
‘They’ll be here in a minute,’ I said. ‘What’s happened?’
‘Mrs McCrory, it’s your husband,’ one of them said. That was the last thing I’d expected. God, had there been a massive pile  up on some European motorway?
‘I’m afraid your husband is dead,’ the police told me, gently. ‘He was attacked in the street. Danish police have arrested a man for murder.’
I shook my head, trying to keep the tears at bay.  ‘No… there’s been a mistake…’ I said, voice shaking. ‘Who’d attack Macca?’
But their faces… it was true. Screaming, I ran. Didn’t know why, didn’t know where – just had to get away. I got outside before my strength failed, collapsing in front of the house.
‘What’s wrong?’ my neighbour Lynn cried, running over to me.
‘He’s dead,’ I wailed. ‘Lynn, my Macca’s dead.’
She helped me back inside and within 10 minutes my house was full – neighbours, friends, the blokes from the social club. It seemed like everyone who knew Macca was there to support us.
All I wanted was a cuddle from my husband, though.
The next day, I flew to Copenhagen with the kids to identify the body. I was frightened as they pulled back the sheet. Would he be covered in blood? Would his face be twisted in fear?
They only showed me his head. He just looked like my Macca.
Afterwards, I went to the spot where he died. Police had told me he’d been having a drink with some people from the exhibition. When one of the girls, Simone, was leaving, he offered to help her find a cab. Such a gentleman.
As they walked up the street, a guy started hassling them for cigarettes. When Macca told him they didn’t have any, the man got angry and pulled out two knives.
‘Simone said he pushed her out of the way, and took the full force of the attack,’ the policeman told me as we walked up to the bloodstained pavement where he died.
I nodded. It was typical of my Macca, always putting others first.
‘He was stabbed 102 times,’ the policeman continued.
No! It was impossible to get my head around. My bloke had been butchered because of some fags? I felt faint just thinking about it…
‘Afterwards, the killer crossed the road and leaned against a wall waiting to be arrested,’ the officer added, softly.
At the site, a crowd had gathered – local people shocked at such an appallingly violent crime.
‘It’s devastating,’ one woman said to me in broken English. ‘Things like this just don’t happen here in Copenhagen.’
I slowly turned around to look at her, teary-eyed.
‘I’m his wife,’ I whispered.
‘Oh, I’m so sorry,’ she croaked. As she watched me lay flowers, silent tears ran down her cheeks.
It was four weeks before Macca’s body came home. More than 800 people turned up at Corpus Christi Church in Birmingham to pay their respects.
‘This is where we married,’ I whispered to Katie. ‘I remember your dad’s face as I walked up the aisle.’
It was another year before Macca’s killer faced trial in Copenhagen, but I was determined to see Thomas Obele Nwosu in court. A 20-something loner with a history of mental health problems, he told the jury voices in his head ordered him to murder someone.
He’d been walking the streets for seven hours looking for a victim before he found Macca.
As I stared at him, he wouldn’t look me in the eye. But he didn’t look very sorry, despite pleading guilty. He was sentenced to life in a secure unit – he’ll never be released again.
Walking into the fresh air, I tried to tell myself that justice had been done. Problem was, it wouldn’t bring back Macca.
Suddenly, I spotted a nervous-looking woman coming towards me. ‘I-I’m Simone,’ she said. ‘Your husband, well… he saved my life.’
She broke down as she told me how she’d cowered behind a parked car, seen every plunge of Nwosu’s knife. Poor girl had been sedated for months after the attack, had a nervous breakdown.
But now she smiled sadly, taking my hand. ‘All he’d talked about that night were you and the kids,’ she said. ‘He was going to buy you yellow roses for your anniversary, and he was so proud of Katie and the boys. I didn’t know him well, but he was a hero.’
Sobbing, I put my arms around Simone. ‘Thank you,’ I whispered.
Life is hard without Macca, and a day doesn’t pass when I don’t hope it’s all some horrible dream.
But Simone is right – my husband was a hero, and I had 33 wonderful years with him. I feel proud to have been his darlin’, just like I did that first day I held his hand in school.
Jenny McCrory, 53, Birmingham