How does a mother rebuild her life after her husband kills her children A woman who endured the ultimate agony tells her story
21:40 GMT, 8 August 2012
Denise Williams has a recurring nightmare. She is going down on an escalator. Below, in the far distance, is a car: inside it are her husband and two sons.
Her husband produces a knife and turns on the children. Denise is frantic, but the escalator starts moving upwards, taking her further and further away.
She is powerless to stop what is about to happen. Denise wakes up in a sweat, crying. But the anguish does not turn to relief upon waking — for this is a nightmare built on an even more horrifying reality.
Tragic: Brett, eight, and Bradley, seven, left, were murdered by their own father
Ten years ago, after Denise told her husband Steve Wilson she was leaving, he took the most despicable revenge. He drove their sons, Brett, eight, and Bradley, seven, to a golf course and stabbed them to death.
How could a mother ever move on from such pain At the outset, Denise was suicidal, but from somewhere deep within her she found the strength to keep going.
And then she met Kevin Griffiths, who became her second husband and with whom she was to have three more children, Owen, nine, Katie, six, and two-year-old Grace. They have become her reason for living.
‘When Brett and Brad were murdered, I wanted to die,’ says Denise, an administrator, who lives with Kevin, 48, and their children in a terraced house in Birmingham. ‘Of course I still have bad days when I go into the bedroom and lie down and cry.
‘I can’t stop the flashbacks and the nightmares, but I cope, I deal with it.
‘When something truly horrific happens to you, you have a choice — to sink or swim. I chose to swim. You don’t get over it — you get through it. I love my husband and children, just hanging out with my children and doing everyday things makes me happy.’
But the pain returned in all its ferocity last month when Denise turned on the television news and watched a report about Ceri Fuller from Milkwall, Gloucestershire. Fuller had driven his three children to a secluded spot and stabbed Sam, 12, Rebecca, eight, and Charlotte, seven, before jumping to his death from an 80ft cliff at a disused quarry.
Revenge attack: Denise had tried to escape her violent partner, Steve Wilson, right, and he punished her by killing their sons
In a short statement issued after the bodies were found, the children’s mother, Ruth, a 34-year-old artist, said: ‘I don’t have the words to describe how I feel at the moment.’ Hers is a pain which is impossible to imagine. Unless you’ve been through it, like Denise.
Denise, 36, met Wilson when she was in her teens and they married in 1993, a week before her 17th birthday. Wilson was 35, a father-of-two whose first wife had died from cancer.
He was a fantasist who used to brag that he had been a member of the SAS. In fact, he had served just 138 days in the Army when he was 19. He had been discharged from the Queen’s Regiment in 1977 after being caught fighting other recruits.
The couple settled in Birmingham but early on in the marriage, Denise discovered her husband was a violent bully.
'He said: “I've just killed the kids and
I'm going to kill myself.” I
thought, no, there's no way he'd do that'
‘I suppose he must have had a good side for me to marry him,’ she recalls. ‘But when he started drinking, he turned violent. He was a Jekyll and Hyde.’
But the arrival of Brett in 1993 and Bradley a year later brought joy into her world. ‘They were like a double act, a comedy duo,’ she says. ‘They were really happy-go-lucky little boys.
‘When Steve wasn’t drinking too much, there were good times. We had nice holidays and did lots of things as a family.’
But the violence became worse. ‘Steve beat me so badly once I had to go to hospital. I ran off to a women’s refuge but came back because of the boys.
‘They would say to me: “Mummy, why can’t we be a happy family” So I’d try to make it work for their sake. But they were seeing too much violence. I had to get us out.’
One night in February 2002, Denise fled in the middle of the night after another violent row and was taken in by a friend.
The next day she summoned up the courage to tell Wilson she was leaving. ‘I told him things had gone too far, it had to stop.
‘I said the boys could stay with him while I sorted out new accommodation. Steve was not happy but there was no indication of what was to come.’
Murder scene: Police at the golf club in Handsworth where the brothers were brutally killed
On February 6, four days after moving out, Denise arranged to meet her husband and the boys and take them to McDonald’s.
Denise took a tram to a McDonald’s at West Bromwich, where Wilson and the boys were waiting for her in the car park. ‘When they saw me, the boys said, “We’re happy to see you, Mummy”. It was so lovely to be with them.
‘But Steve was odd, there was a dead look in his eyes and he was snapping at the boys.’
After the meal, Wilson asked Denise to come back to the car ‘for a cigarette’. ‘I don’t even smoke, but I just wanted to keep the peace so I agreed.’
As he smoked his cigarette, Denise chatted to her sons, and then decided to head back to where she was staying.
It was then that Steve Wilson turned murderously violent. ‘He grabbed me, pulled me towards him and began punching me really hard,’ she says.
‘He said: “I’ve got a knife, if you don’t keep quiet, I’ll kill you.” I managed to kick the door open and fell on floor. Steve sped off.’
Denise knew she urgently needed to get Brett and Bradley away from their father. Moments after walking into her friend’s flat, Denise’s mobile rang.
It was Wilson. She says: ‘He said: “I’ve just killed the kids and I’m going to kill myself.” For a split second, I believed it, then I thought, no, there’s no way he’d do that. I refused to believe it.
‘Everything was so confused. I walked into the police station and said: “My husband has phoned to say he’s killed our children.”
'In my nightmares I can see the look of terror which must have been on their faces when he killed them'
‘I noticed it seemed really busy.
Everyone was running around. Then a police officer told me they’d had a
call from Steve saying he’d killed the children. Even then, I refused to
‘I was told to wait in a room while
the police searched for them. I could hear a helicopter overhead. It was
all so strange, but I was sure they’d find the boys and bring them to
‘At 10pm, the police sergeant came in. He knelt in front of me and took my hand. He said: “Denise, we’ve found the boys.”
‘I said: “Oh brilliant, when are they coming here to play” and he replied: “Denise, they can’t play, we’ve found the boys and they’re dead.”
‘I remember slapping him and then passed out. When I came round, there was a doctor with me. He asked if there was anything he could give me and I said I wanted a lethal injection. I truly wanted to die.’
What Wilson did to his own sons is beyond comprehension. He drove them to Handsworth Golf Club, outside Birmingham, and parked the car.
He slashed Bradley’s throat with a craft blade and then stabbed him with a screwdriver. Brett watched his brother being murdered.
Then Wilson used the screwdriver to stab Brett. The carotid arteries in the boys’ necks were punctured and they died within minutes. Wilson stabbed himself in the chest but suffered only superficial injuries. The police found him slumped in the back seat of the car next to his sons.
‘In my nightmares I can see the look of terror which must have been on their faces when he killed them,’ says Denise. ‘The fear they felt haunts me.’
New life: Denise went on to marry Kevin Griffiths and have Owen, nine, Grace, two, and Katie, five
As the shock wore off, the pain set in. Today, Denise describes feeling like her heart had been ripped out.
‘I spent every day with the boys in the chapel of rest and played them songs by Westlife, their favourite band. I washed and dressed them in their tracksuits and trainers for the funeral.
‘As for their father, I cannot begin to describe the pure hatred I felt for him, and still feel. You ask yourself why someone would do that. In my case it was revenge. He wanted to teach me a lesson I’d never forget.’
Among the mourners at Brett and Brad’s funeral was divorcee Kevin Griffiths, a family friend who had known Denise for many years.
'I think about what might have been, what Brett and Brad would be like now, what they’d be doing'
‘He said that if I wanted to talk, to give him a ring. In the weeks after the funeral I felt completely lost and suicidal and I phoned Kevin one day.
‘Things went from there. We began a relationship very quickly. I was reaching out for comfort. I fell pregnant very quickly with Owen.
‘Some people will say it was too soon but the fact is I might not be here today if it hadn’t been for Kevin. As I was in labour, all I could visualise were Brett and Brad. But once Owen arrived, I completely bonded with him.’
In March 2003, four months after Owen’s birth, Wilson’s trial was held at Birmingham Crown Court. He was convicted of the double murder and given a double life sentence.
A week later, on March 30 he was found hanged in his cell at Blakenhurst jail, in Redditch, Worcs.
‘I got a call from a police officer. He said he didn’t know if it was good news or bad news. In a way I was relieved,’ says Denise, ‘but in another sense I felt cheated. He’s not suffering now, is he’
Denise and Kevin married in 2005. Katie was born the following year and Grace arrived in 2010.
‘I’m moody and snappy at times,’ says Denise I think about what might have been, what Brett and Brad would be like now, what they’d be doing.
‘I go up to the crematorium, where the boys’ ashes are, and take teddies to them. They are with me all the time, in my head and in my heart.’
But despite everything, life goes on – and that is the truly remarkable thing about Denise’s story.
‘I just wish it could be me, Kevin, Owen, Katie, Grace — and Brett and Brad. But I’m happy, I didn’t realise it was possible to have this sort of life. Every day is a bonus.’