A ticking timebomb!

All my mum had done was love and protect my sick brother...

Published by: Amy Thompson and Ash Anand
Published on: 16th August 2010

A ll brothers and sisters have their squabbles from time to time. Whether it’s over who got the biggest piece of cake, or whose turn it is to hog the TV remote, siblings can’t help bickering.
Most of us grow out of it as we get older, some of us even start to get along quite well. But I always knew me and my big brother Kevin would never get on.
He’d been a real bully as a kid – throwing tantrums, burning holes in my doll’s pram with a magnifying glass, throwing slippers at our pet budgie’s cage every time he chirped…
He’d even set fire to the dolls’ house my dad had built me!
I’d lost count of the number of times he’d got arrested as a teenager. Mum was constantly bailing him out of jail.
We’d all hoped when he met his girlfriend Brenda, when he was 22, and had a little girl, Faye, he might settle down. But he didn’t.
After a few years, they broke up and he was back to his old ways, with Mum sticking by him as usual. She’d always made excuses for him. Just like now…
‘It was an accident,’ she sighed. ‘He didn’t mean it, he’s ill.’
I stared at her, baffled. ‘Mum, this wasn’t an accident,’ I cried. ‘He attacked you and Dad with an ashtray – left you partially blind, with a metal plate in your head!’
I’d been so worried when I’d first got a call from the hospital a couple of months earlier to say Mum and Dad had been attacked.
Kevin had flipped out because the phone ringing had got on his nerves. According to Dad, he’d totally lost it, started screaming on the stairs like a madman.
When Dad had tried to calm him down, he’d grabbed a wooden ashtray and cracked it over his head. It’d split his head open and broken the ashtray in half.
Then Kevin had turned on Mum. The splintered wood had pierced her retina before she could put her hands up to shield herself. He’d only stopped hitting her when she’d warned him he was going to kill her. Now, he was serving a five-year prison sentence.
‘Maxine’s right,’ Dad said to Mum. ‘You can’t defend what he did. He’s not a baby any more – he could have been the death of us!’
Mum bit her bottom lip. I knew how torn she felt. I had two boys of my own Aron, 10, and Charlie, one, and was pregnant with my third. I knew how unconditional a mother’s love was. But even I wasn’t sure I could forgive my sons for something like that.
When Kevin was a baby, he’d suffered from bad asthma and breathing difficulties, though.
Mum had stayed up with him night after night, too afraid to go to sleep in case something happened. She just couldn’t let go of that protective instinct.
‘I’m going to visit him in prison,’ she insisted. ‘He’s my son.’
Me and Dad refused to take her at first. But over the following months, she’d take a bus or train if we wouldn’t drive her. In the end, we gave in.
Just before he was due to be released, though, Kevin dug himself another hole… by attacking two prison wardens.
So he was sent to a psychiatric hospital. ‘He’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and put on medication to help control his mood swings,’ Mum gasped.
So that explained his behaviour. I felt bad to be honest – I’d always thought he was just horrible.
Two years later, he was released. Finally, this was a fresh start for all of us. Maybe we’d get on…
But then my parents decided to let him live with them.
Suddenly, I remembered how Mum had looked after the first time he’d attacked her, all battered, laying in a hospital bed. I couldn’t bear to see her like that again.
Kevin living with them was a bad idea.
‘You can’t trust him,’ I said, begging Mum not to go through with it. ‘What if he stops taking his medication? What if he hurts you again?’
‘What else can I do?’ she frowned. ‘I have to know he’s being looked after.’
Although Dad wasn’t keen on the idea either, Mum talked him round.
I did everything I could to stop it – called Kevin’s psychiatrist, the police, our doctor. None of them thought he was a danger.
‘He’s doing really well on his medication,’ his psychiatrist reassured me. ‘There’s nothing to worry about.’
Well, what could I do? Everyone but me thought there was no problem. Maybe I was wrong.
I still called every day to check, of course.
‘He’s a bit grumpy today, but nothing we can’t handle,’ Mum would say, casually. ‘Oh, got to go, love. EastEnders is starting in a minute.’
Me and Mum always watched the soap, would sit and chat about it whenever we met up for a cuppa.
‘Okay, catch up soon,’ I smiled, hanging up.
A year passed and, although Kevin had his moments, he was getting on well. Clearly, I’d misjudged him.
Soon, there was someone other than Kevin to worry about, too – Dad got sick. Just five months after being diagnosed with a rare lung disease, he passed away.
We were devastated. And with Dad gone, my concerns about Kevin got worse. There was no
one around to protect Mum from him if he got out of hand.
So, when Aron turned 21 and moved into Mum’s to be closer to work, I was relieved.
At least she wasn’t on her own with Kevin. I visited regularly, too, taking her shopping or just having a cuppa.
And we spoke on the phone every day.
‘Have you seen what that Phil Mitchell’s been up to in EastEnders lately?’ Mum would ask, tutting over his antics.
We could natter for hours, and I confided in her when I broke up with my partner Alan after six years.
One day, dropping her home at 4.30pm after shopping and getting some lunch, she turned to face me.
‘Will you be okay?’ she frowned, concerned. She could obviously tell I was still upset about the split.
‘I’ll be fine,’ I smiled, resting my hand on hers.
Just then, we saw Kevin walking back from the local pub. As he stormed up to the house, he totally blanked us, face like thunder.
My stomach twisted. ‘How’s he been lately?’ I asked.
‘I think he’s struggling a bit,’ Mum admitted. ‘But I’m sure he’ll be all right.’
I didn’t like the sound of that. Even though it’d been years since he’d attacked her, I still couldn’t trust him completely.
‘Maybe you should stay at mine tonight,’ I offered. ‘I don’t want you around him if he’s on edge. He could flip out.’
‘Nonsense,’ she scoffed. ‘I’ll be okay. Besides, if anything happens, I’ll just pop across the road to Joan’s.’ Before I could protest, she gave me a peck on the cheek and got out the car. From her front door, she blew me a kiss.
‘See you soon, love,’ she waved. ‘And don’t worry, Aron will be home from work soon.’
I waved back, but something about the way she said it unsettled me. She’d spoken louder than necessary, almost like she wanted the whole street to hear.
Or maybe it was for the benefit of one person – Kevin. Was she warning him that Aron would be home, that they wouldn’t be alone?
I wanted her to come home with me, but knew how stubborn she could be – I’d have had to drag her back to mine. ‘I’ll call you later,’ I promised, reversing off her drive.
Back home, I nodded off on the sofa. I didn’t wake up until 8pm, when the EastEnders theme tune blared out from the telly.
Instantly, I thought of Mum. Picking up the phone, I called to check she was okay. It rang out.
‘Must be watching telly,’ I thought, settling down to watch it myself.
I’d already arranged to go and see my niece Faye afterwards. I’d call Mum again later.
But an hour after I arrived at Faye’s, my mobile rang. It was Aron’s girlfriend Ali.
‘Maxine, we’re at your mum’s house,’ she said, frantically. ‘Something awful’s happened, you need to get here quick.’
Jumping in the car, I drove to my mum’s home.
Had she fallen, was she ill? My mind raced. Pulling up at the end of the road, I saw police tape sectioning off the house, an ambulance parked outside.
What had Kevin done this time?
Racing down the driveway, a police office stepped out to stop me. ‘Please, I want to see my mum,’ I begged.
He wouldn’t let me pass, though.
Suddenly, Aron was at my side.
‘What happened?’ I asked desperately.
He shook his head, crying. ‘I came home late from work,’ he whispered. ‘When I opened the door, I saw Nan on the kitchen floor. She was covered in blood, had a towel over her face…’
I stared at him in horror.
‘Aron… is she alive?’ I breathed.
‘I-I don’t know, Mum,’ he said, before breaking down.
My heart stopped. How could this be happening? I’d seen her just a few hours ago, smiling from her front door…
A policewoman walked towards me. ‘Do you have any idea where your brother might be?’ she asked.
Anger exploded inside me. ‘It was him, wasn’t it?’ I fumed. ‘He hit her again! I knew this would happen, why didn’t anyone listen to me?!’
I couldn’t stop the venom spewing out of me.
‘The evil…! Where’s Mum? Are you taking her to the hospital?’
The officer
just looked at me sadly. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said, gently. ‘Your mum’s dead.’
I felt like the whole world came crashing down.
As my knees gave way, I collapsed in heavy sobs. I could hardly breathe, and had no idea how I got home.
Even when the police called the next day to tell me they’d found and arrested Kevin, who’d confessed to Mum’s murder, I couldn’t come to terms with what had happened.
Nothing made sense.
Five weeks after she’d died, we finally got to hold Mum’s funeral. Saying goodbye to her, all I could do was pray she was at peace, reunited with Dad.
But I still needed answers before I could grieve properly.
At Wolverhampton Crown Court, I saw Kevin stand in the dock and plead guilty to the manslaughter of our mum on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
It was revealed he hadn’t been taking his medicine properly.
In his defence, he said he’d been out of his mind when he’d started punching our mum and dragged her into the hallway.
He explained voices in his head had told him to hit her with a poker from the fire, smashing her skull.
My heart broke when I heard the last words she’d spoken.
‘Oh for God’s sake, Kevin, don’t hit me again,’ she’d pleaded, bleeding on the floor.
Unlike the last time he’d attacked her, though, her cries fell on deaf ears.
Again and again he’d hit her with the poker, before dragging her lifeless body into the kitchen, and going to the garden shed to fetch a hammer.
After bludgeoning her with that, he’d then boiled the kettle and poured scalding water over her face. My poor, gentle, loving mum.
‘He’d been sleeping upstairs when he heard the EastEnders theme tune on the telly,’ we were told. ‘Then voices in his head told him to go and kill his mother.’
My blood ran cold as I realised at the exact moment I’d been worrying about Mum as our favourite soap started, my brother had been murdering her.
I felt sick. If only someone had listened to me…
Kevin Roberts, 50, was ordered to stay in a psychiatric hospital indefinitely. He could be released at any time.
It’s been almost five years since Mum was killed. Aron has been my rock, but I still can’t forgive my brother.
Mum always stuck by him, forgiving him time and again.
All she ever really wanted was to love and protect her son. I just wish someone could have protected her from him.
Maxine Roberts, 47, Whitchurch, Shropshire