Christopher Laverack & Kirsty Carver
Two notorious murders had a big impact on my young imagination, and in both cases police officers turned up at our house with awkward questions. Could these two lives cut short explain my fascination?
In 1984, a young boy was murdered. He was called Christopher Laverack. It shocked Hull and the country beyond. It shocked me, mainly because I was eight, just about the same age as the victim. But the crime also shocked adults, and continues to bother me. The murderer was known to police, an uncle, but never convicted. No doubt mistakes were made, but they always are. Mistakes are only human. The real reason is that forensics were poor in 1984, and the body had been submerged in water in a carpet bag for two days before it was found. At least there was a body. That was the only positive news.
One of the reasons this case stuck in my mind is that Humberside Police visited everyone in Hull who had a new carpet that year, and our address was on the list. One evening, officers came to take fibres from our new carpet, along with (presumably) many hundreds of other carpet samples. How on earth could they suspect us, wondered the eight year-old me.
In 1998, Kirsty Carver was murdered inside the office at a petrol station near our house. I was older now, over 20 and recently graduated from university. I was home alone when the police came. They hadn’t found a body yet and the pressure was intense. Kirsty Carver worked for the police, and this, following the failures of the Laverack investigation — still no culprit after 20 years — was becoming an issue. Could we take a quick look in your garden, son? No. They could not. Unknown to them, but known very well to my impressionable young mind, was the existence of a mound of earth. It was the exact shape and size, with all the characteristics, of a freshly dug shallow grave. I gulped. What should one do? I waved them into the back garden, and hid in the house. I could not be present at the awful discovery of the body. I waited. The doorbell again. I offered my wrists for the cuffs. This was awful. Thanks, son. They left. They had missed an obvious clue.
The killer of Kirsty was obvious and once there was a body, there was an arrest and a trial. The man is still in prison, but seems likely to move to an open one soon. He’s clearly a maniac and he killed on impulse. The victim had been roaming those Yorkshire villages in the hours before dawn when she turned up in a car looking for petrol or snacks. She lived for only an hour or so longer after arriving at the Rix station in Willerby, a very public location that still reminds me of the murder when I pass it.
Christopher continues to bother me. When so many are wrongly convicted, and so many ‘guilty as hell’ get let off, why was there no trial? It must have been worth a punt. Any Hull jury would have convicted their own uncle to get some kind of closure. Brady and Hindley continued to haunt Yorkshire into the 1980s. The Yorkshire Ripper was a recent, open wound. The gruesome murder of a young boy was sure to be the horrific start of another spree of depravity. But it was not. Why? All logic states that paedophiles continue until caught, like Brady. The truth is that Christopher’s killer did continue. But Melvyn Read stopped short of murder next time.
Melvyn Read continued to assault boys throughout his life, and this caught up with him in 2001. An astonishing unravelling began. As Read went to prison for his crimes, Humberside Police quietly reopened the Laverack case. The man they always knew as the Laverack killer was in prison for assaulting other boys. They used modern forensic techniques to pin Laverack on Read, as they had always hoped one day to do.
After Read’s death, they presented the evidence to the family. As expected, they ‘already knew’ and accepted the findings. Case closed. But such a case cannot be closed. If it continues to affect me, how many other Hull kids of the 1980s were affected? How must the family feel now? A killing within a family is one of TV drama’s most horrific possibilities, yet this was real life.
As we age, certain things from our childhood stand up like tent poles in our lives. The horrific car crash that killed a family friend and three others. Christopher Laverack. The Ian Brady story haunts me even though he was behind bars before I was born. These things happened to us, not many miles from our houses. Children remember.
The point is that you don’t get to choose what you remember. Why do you remember these things, and not the ice creams at the seaside? Why is the big question in any kind of writing, or in life. Why this, why not that? Why. Why is always the easiest question to answer. Melvyn killed Christopher because he was a disgusting paedophile. Simple. Every question that begins with ‘why’ has an easy answer. But the memory is not dulled by knowing. If anything, it is even more keen.