Led to his death

When Gavin walked into the bedroom, the evil honeytrap turned deadly...

Published by: Laura Hinton and Mark Christy
Published on: 21 June 2012

Pride welled up in my chest as I watched my big brother Gavin blow out the candles on his 21st birthday cake. I didn't tell him enough, but I loved him more than anything in the world.
‘Dad would've been so proud of you,' I smiled, sadly. Our dad Charles, 42, had died 18 months before and Gavin had taken over the family packaging business.
It had hit us all hard. That's why I was so glad that Gavin had people like his best mate Harvey, 20, and his new friend Mandy, 20, who he'd met online.
‘Come on,' I chuckled, grabbing Harvey's arm. ‘I want a photo of you two.' They'd been best mates for six years, and he'd been a rock for Gavin lately.
Soon, my mum Tina, 45, was dishing out slices of cake. ‘Tuck in everyone,' she laughed.
We all had a whale of a time, talked about it for months afterwards. Well, when Gavin was around....
‘See ya, got a party in London,' he yelled. Then the front door slammed shut.
Early the next morning, the police arrived at ours. ‘Is Gavin in?' they asked.
‘Yes, he's upstairs,' I said, concerned. I went to wake him - and froze.‘His bed's empty,' I croaked, coming downstairs. The officer nodded slightly.
‘We've found a burnt-out car with a body in the back,' the officer said. ‘A blue Mercedes.'
‘That's my car,' I gasped. ‘Gavin borrowed it.'
‘No,' Mum cried, collapsing to her knees.
‘We don't know anything yet,' I tried reassuring her, but she was so overcome that we had to rush her to the hospital.
When I got hold of Harvey, he didn't seem worried at all. ‘I wasn't with him last night,' he admitted. ‘But I'm sure there's nothing to worry about.'
‘Okay, thanks,' I sighed, and called Mandy. ‘He wasn't out with me,' she said, voice shaking. It was a far cry from the confident girl I'd met a handful of times. Maybe she was just worried, like me.
Moments later, my phone buzzed with a message. I've heard rumours Gavin committed suicide, Mandy had written.
Why on earth would she send me that?! I'd never heard such rubbish. Still, she clearly believed it, so maybe I should tell the police, just in case.
When I got to the station, they had news for me, though. ‘I'm so sorry - we've confirmed it was Gavin's body in the car.'
For a second, it felt like the whole world was collapsing in around me. The officer's face told me that there was more. ‘Go on,' I urged, tears welling up.
‘We've arrested Harvey and Mandy,' he said. ‘They're being charged with Gavin's murder, along with another man, Darren Peters, 20.
‘It just doesn't make sense,' I cried. ‘I've never heard of anyone called Darren - and Mandy and Harvey were my brother's mates!'
They wouldn't have betrayed him like this, it was crazy. There was worse to come, though - the post-mortem revealed Gavin had been alive when the fire started.
I felt sick. ‘I have to see him,' I sobbed. ‘He suffered 80% burns,' the policeman warned.
‘I need to,' I insisted. ‘For closure.' I didn't want poor Gavin lying there all alone.
But the policeman had been right, seeing him was truly shocking. Burned, battered, lifeless, it was hard to believe it was my big brother. When Dad had died, he'd suddenly become the man I looked up to.
And now he was gone... ‘I love you,' I whispered, tears trickling down my cheeks.
We had him cremated, and scattered his ashes along with Dad's across a beautiful lake. ‘We'll get justice for him,' Mum vowed to me.
When the trial began though, his killers had one more sick surprise in store for us. Mandy claimed that Gavin had tried to rape her in the months before his 21st birthday. Gavin would never hurt a fly!
But Harvey had been secretly in love with Mandy. And when he'd heard her vicious story, he plotted to kill his pal of six years - and roped in a pal, Peters.
When I'd taken that picture of Gavin and Harvey - Harvey with his hand lovingly over my brother's heart - he'd already been plotting the murder.
On the night of his death, Gavin had been lured to Brighton to meet up with Mandy to talk. He'd even stopped at a service station to buy her a teddy. Lying in wait for him in her bedroom were Harvey and Peters. They beat him unconscious, wrapped him in a duvet and bundled him into the boot of his car.
He must have been terrified!
Later, they drove the car to Blackheath where they poured petrol over the car. My only relief was that Gavin was probably unconscious by then. CCTV footage and DNA evidence linked all three to the crime.
Mandy claimed that she didn't know Gavin would be killed, that she thought he'd receive ‘a few slaps or a lecture.' I didn't believe a word of it.
‘It was a honeytrap murder!' I sobbed.
Mandy Mahil was sentenced to six years for GBH, while Darren Peters, 20, received 12 years for manslaughter. Harvey Shoker was given the longest sentence - life. He took most of the blame, probably because of his love for Mandy.
‘You were besotted by her, were prepared to do whatever she asked and more,' the judge told him. And the person who paid the price for that infatuation was my big brother...

• Some names have been changed.

Amanda Singh, 19, Bexleyheath, London