Baroness Newlove glows with pride when she talks about the achievements of her three adult daughters, Zoe, Danielle and Amy. Only she knows the depth of the trauma they have overcome to grow into the accomplished young women they are today.
They were 18, 15, and 12 years old when, in August 2007, they witnessed the brutal murder of their adored father, Garry, 47, by a gang of drunk teenage boys high on skunk cannabis.
The sales manager, who had survived stomach cancer at the age of 32, had left the family home in Warrington, Cheshire, trying to prevent the youngsters from destroying his wife’s car.
They hit him on the floor and kicked his head “like a football,” leaving the bloody imprint of a trainer on his forehead. Three days later he died in Helen’s arms after his livelihood machine was shut down.
Baroness Newlove, 58, a former legal PA, was recognized by David Cameron in 2010 as a conservative bon vivant in recognition of her campaign work against juvenile delinquency
Mr Newlove’s death became symbolic of ‘Broken Britain’ – but it was his widow and daughters who stayed behind to pick up the pieces.
Zoe left the university and couldn’t handle it. Danielle did not reach her predicted GCSE figures and Amy struggled to get out of bed every day to go to school. Helen was suicidal with grief over the loss of her 21-year-old husband.
But somehow they survived, stronger and closer than ever before.
Now, almost 13 years later, Lady Newlove smiles while telling me that Zoe, 30, is a successful makeup artist and social media influencer. Danielle, 28, is a supervisor for the beauty brand Molton Brown, while Amy, 25, works in post-production of the media.
Helen, 58, a former legal PA, was recognized by David Cameron as a conservative bon vivant in 2010 in recognition of her campaign work against juvenile crime.
From 2012 to 2019 she was the commissioner of the House of Lords Victims, a champion for co-survivors of crimes. More recently, she was appointed Vice Chancellor at the University of Bolton and is also Deputy Chairman of the House of Lords.
Baroness Newlove glows with pride when she talks about the performance of her three adult daughters, Zoe, Danielle and Amy
But the foundations on which the family’s hard-fought happiness is built are now in danger of collapsing and Lady Newlove, despite all her influence and friends in high places, feels powerless to prevent this from happening.
For this week, they learned that one of the youth responsible for Garry’s death, Jordan Cunliffe, now 28, is being held in an open prison in preparation for his upcoming release.
Unknown to Lady Newlove, he has had the freedom to roam the streets of Warrington, where the family, including the girls’ 87-year-old grandmother, still lives.
Garry Newlove, who had survived stomach cancer at the age of 32, had left the family home in Warrington, Cheshire, trying to prevent the youth from destroying his wife’s car
Permitted to work and visit his own family without supervision over the weekend, he could have walked past them on the street or ran into them in a store. No one had told them this happened.
In an exclusive interview, Lady Newlove says: ‘It feels like an insult and a mockery for the Parole Board to allow Cunliffe to return to Warrington and not even look at the impact on us, his victims. My daughters are terrified of bumping into one of the men their father has taken away from them.
“The mental scars of seeing their father kicked to death at our door have never been completely healed, and now those scars have been ripped open. My girls are in pieces. Again, we feel that Garry’s life was worth nothing.
“As a mother, although my daughters are now young women, I want to wrap them up and protect them – and I am absolutely mad that I cannot.
“There are people who think that because I was a victim commissioner, I would receive a golden star treatment from our criminal justice system. Well, I can categorically say that I didn’t do that. “
In 2008, Adam Swellings, 19; Stephen Sorton, 17; and Jordan Cunliffe, 16, was imprisoned for life after being found guilty of Mr. Newlove’s murder. Two young people aged 15 and 17 were acquitted.
Zoë, Danielle and Amy bravely provided evidence during their trial at the Chester Crown Court, interrogating individual defendants’ lawyers, while the teenagers murdering their father laughed at the dock.
One of the youth responsible for Garry’s death, Jordan Cunliffe (left), now 28, has been detained in an open prison in preparation for his upcoming release for conditional release. Pictured on the right, Stephen Sorton
Twelve years later, the Newloves understand that the Parole Board recommended the release of Sorton and that he was sent to an open prison. Swellings are eligible for conditional release in five years – and Cunliffe can be released within a few weeks.
“We have been told that after his release to the life permit he will have to wear an electronic tag for six months and look for temporary accommodation,” says Lady Newlove. “But after that, how will anyone ever know where he’s going unless he tells them?”
Lady Newlove calls for a law of the victim to revise the conditional release system and restore what she sees as an unfair imbalance between the legal rights of perpetrators and those of their victims.
There was a revision of the Parole Board procedures in 2018 following the public protest that followed the initial decision to allow infamous serial sex offender John Worboys – the black taxi driver – early release from his life imprisonment, much to the horror of his many victims.
Adam Swellings is one of three teenagers found guilty of the murder of Mr. Newlove
It led the Ministry of Justice to introduce “greater transparency” in the process of conditional release, to ensure that victims are kept informed of important decisions – and offered the opportunity to make a victim statement during hearings and to request certain license conditions once they are released, such as where they live.
Lady Newlove wants to further implement these changes and introduce a victim lawyer with access to legal aid – and for part of the training of lawyers to also understand how traumatic the legal process for victims is; that they are not just a case number.
“The only thing we want as victims is a level playing field,” she says. “We can read a statement at a hearing of the Parole Board, but after that we are not allowed to know anything.
‘You cannot ask questions and must leave the room as soon as you reach the last point of your statement. We can request conditions and exclusion zones, but nobody tells you if they have been granted.
‘Victims are never told why a perpetrator has been released conditionally and many still feel very scared and unprotected.
“I understand that rehabilitated prisoners must be protected against possible revenge attacks, but it is an insult to treat all victims as if they were potential civilian guards. What about our human rights?
On conviction, Swellings received a minimum rate of 17 years, Sorton 15 years (reduced to 13 and then 12 on appeal) and Cunliffe 12 years.
The court heard that the three renowned troublemakers were regularly seen as they drank, destroyed cars and property, and intimidated anyone who dared to confront them.
Swellings had at least 11 previous convictions, including mistreatment, battery and restrictive order violations, and were arrested a week earlier for beating a man who caught the gang that damaged his car. Detained, he was rescued by magistrates on the morning of the day. Garry Newlove was killed.
Over the years, Lady Newlove, who believes that life imprisonment should mean life, has attended almost all appeals from the accused against conviction or punishment, in her determination to keep them behind bars.
Lady Newlove knows that Sorton has also been moved to an open prison in preparation for release, but has no idea where. He could soon walk around Warrington, as far as she knows
She attended Cunliffe’s first Parole Board hearing in 2018 – before being moved to an open prison – but only discovered it was near Warrington last year.
Lady Newlove knows that Sorton has also been moved to an open prison in preparation for release, but has no idea where. He could soon walk around Warrington, as far as she knows.
“My daughters may not recognize them now – but I would have attended their hearings,” she says.
“They look like older, chunkier versions of the teenagers who killed my husband. They never look at me, they keep their heads bowed or look straight ahead. They never asked me to meet, written or shown regret, not that I could accept it.
“I’m sorry, but I can never forgive them for what they did. To see them laugh and make jokes at the dock, with the top lawyers in the country defending each of them, and to know that my daughters had to testify … no. I can’t forgive. “
Nor can she tolerate the thought that her daughters come face to face with one of them.
The events of August 12, 2007 – the day Lady Newlove “woke up a woman and a widow went to bed” – are still fresh in her mind.
Mr. Newlove’s daughters witnessed the attack and tried to help their father. He is depicted with his wife Helen and daughters (from the left) Amy, Zoe and Danielle
Helen was unwell and lay up in bed watching Midsomer Murders when she heard the noise of cars being destroyed outside and asked Garry to go outside and take a look
Before she could call him back, after he had thought twice about it, Garry was beaten barefoot in his pajama pants and vest to tell the youth politely but forcefully to stop.
“I remember descending the stairs, struggling to get my sweatshirt over my head, and Amy saw fainting and collapsing in the hall,” she says.
“On the road a gentleman grabbed me and said,” Don’t look there “- but I did it and saw Garry lifeless on the floor. Zoe shouted, “Mom, don’t come close.”
“She had tried to pull the teens from her father and was covered with blood. Her then friend, Tom, tried to resuscitate Garry.
“Then it’s just a haze. Screaming, sirens, an ambulance that comes alongside the road, neighbors watching me, calling my mother.
“Danielle stepped into the ambulance with her father to give names, but then Garry lay down and they had to close the doors to work on him and rush him to the hospital.”
Newlove had suffered a devastating bleeding in the brain, from which doctors told Helen that there would be no recovery. She was advised to bring their daughters in to say their last goodbye.
“The girls were just broken. Amy looked at her father and said, “Why aren’t his eyes open?” I told her the medication had let him sleep, but he could still hear her. She fled from the room, sobbing. “
The next day the doctors asked Helen’s permission to turn off Garry’s life support.
“It went so fast. I lay on his chest, felt it go up and down, and then it suddenly stopped. “
Their lives changed at night.
“I’m really glad we were very close as a family before this happened,” says Lady Newlove, “but it has been a roller coaster journey.
“The girls lost their father, their house, their education and their innocence. They all remained with anxiety problems and still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
‘We had to sell the house because the girls didn’t feel safe there and couldn’t sleep at night. We moved three times before we settled in a new area. I went to bed with Garry’s ashes and didn’t want to wake up in the morning.
“The only thing that stopped me was knowing that I couldn’t leave my children orphan after all they had been through, so I put on a brave face every morning.
“But it was very difficult to see my girls go up and down and ask,” What’s the point? “They were like zombies. Many of their friends drifted away and Amy was bullied at school.
“Amy and Danielle were very reactive and angry, undergoing ordinary teenage emotions as they tried to deal with the murder of their father, and sometimes I felt like their emotional punching bag.
“Zoë was an A-star student who was ready to go to college when her father died. It only lasted six months.
“She then went to live with friends in Ibiza and only recently acknowledged that she was running away from what had happened.”
With the support of their mother, all three girls finally flourished — Amy graduated from Huddersfield University in 2015 — but it breaks their mother’s heart that they have forever lost the carefree happiness they shared with their father.
“You always have it in your head,” What if I hadn’t asked him to go out that night, “she says. “The girls say,” What if I took his T-shirt, Mom, and stopped him. ” It is like a crust that never heals.
“We all like to meet each other on the anniversary of Garry’s death, but we don’t make a ritual of it, because it’s not healthy. We have compartmentalised it all. We all say ‘we are fine’, but really not, and with this latest news we feel back to home.
“My therapy has always been to stay busy and try to make something positive out of something tragic. I hope Garry would be proud of me, but I can’t stop worrying about our girls.
‘I would like people to understand that the journey never ends. The story does not stop after the process has ended. You may get some comfort while these people are locked up, but the system still works to the advantage of the perpetrator at any time.
“People may say they deserve a second chance. When did they kill someone? Knife crime is at the highest level. Britain is still broken, “she says.
“My daughters really believed that the prison was a punishment, not a rehabilitation center. They are very angry, scared and really broken to think they will see those men again in Warrington someday.
“As my youngest recently said to me:” What does daddy’s life mean to someone? “”
Lady Newlove will give an exclusive interview to Good Morning Britain from ITV on Monday.