Harold Hill man’s killer brought to justice at last
�Kevin Taylor hadn’t taken his wedding ring off in 33 years when he slipped it on the finger of son Christopher as he lay in his coffin in the family’s Harold Hill home.
Christopher – known as Chrissy – had always told his parents his greatest ambition was to marry and have a large family, but that future lay dead with him.
“The ring was a symbol of what Chrissy stood for – family and love,” said Kevin. “And I wanted a part of me to be with him forever.”
Chrissy, 25, was the second eldest of five children in a tight-knit and loving family, including Kevin, mum Sue, both 55, brothers Ray, 36, Colin, 30, Paul, 26, and sister Shanna, 19.
They were a family Kevin himself describes as “completely normal”, but that all changed, literally overnight, during New Year celebrations to see in 2004.
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“We went from a family who read about awful things in the news to a family who were being read about,” said Kevin. “You hear about murders all the time, but, as everyone says, you don’t think something like that will happen to you.”
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Chrissy was stabbed eight times in a frenzied attack by a stranger, now known to be Mark Parrish, 37, from Hilldene Avenue, Harold Hill.
Ray said: “That man took away so much from my family. My mum wasn’t able to kiss Chrissy goodbye because of forensics.
“He has three nephews and nieces that he will never see and weddings he never got to go to.
“Every big moment in our family is tainted by a strange feeling, because even during the happy times there’s always something missing.”
Parrish was practically a neighbour and had gone to the same school as his victim, King’s Wood.
He was the first person hauled in for questioning by police six weeks after the killing, but he was let go following an arrest.
“We used to pass him in the street,” said Ray. “We saw him in shops and in his car. We knew he had been questioned and we believe he knew us. That was difficult.”
Chrissy’s murder was a heartbreaking case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He had been celebrating the New Year at the Electric Board Social Club in Ashton Road, Harold Hill, with his friends and family.
The evening, an annual fundraiser for Little Haven’s Children’s Hospice, was due to finish at 1am, but the night was going well, everyone was having fun, and a decision was made to extend the party an hour.
Outside, a bitter and enraged Parrish was on a drink-fuelled rampage in the area, a serrated knife in hand.
He struck while Chrissy was embroiled in a minor lover’s tiff with girlfriend Jamie Girvan – the first two knife wounds were to Chrissy’s back.
Chrissy, a printer, was officially pronounced dead at just after 3am on New Year’s Day, but Ray said he watched the life leave him in the back of the car taking his brother to Oldchurch Hospital.
Kevin crawled through the doors of A&E; he knew his son was gone and the enormity and pain of the situation had literally knocked him off his feet. “My legs wouldn’t work,” he said. “I felt as though my whole body was made of lead. I couldn’t get up off the ground.
“There are no words to describe the feeling of knowing your child’s died – and in such a way.
“The happiest day of your life is when you see your newborn baby for the first time. This was the opposite of that moment.”
A thousand people went to Chrissy’s funeral – a testament to a man described without fail as kind, fun-loving and the life-and-soul of any social situation.
Sue said: “Even as a baby he was always smiling. After he died, strangers would come up to me, old ladies, saying how Chrissy had helped them with their shopping bags. I was so, so proud.”
For seven long years, the family appealed for information on the killer, and held their breath.
Then five years ago police charged innocent landscape gardener Darren Masters with the murder, and he stood trial.
The case collapsed when Darren’s defence team proved he was not the man.
“It was probably the hardest moment since Chrissy’s death,” said Kevin. “We had our hopes raised and then dashed.
“Of course, we’re happy an innocent man didn’t go to jail, but we just felt it was back to square one and our search started again.”
Anniversary after anniversary of the death saw the family make and distribute their own posters in the area – but a community was at once behind them and against them.
“We had so many people asking us if there had been new news,” said Kevin. “Most people in Harold Hill are decent, but we knew there were people out there sheltering the killer.”
Parrish was again brought before police 18 months ago after four women – including his ex-girlfriends – came forward with evidence, and last Friday saw the end of his three-week trial.
“The tension in the court room on that last day was unbearable,” said Sue. “We knew Parrish was the man, but you don’t know what the jury are thinking – these 12 strangers.
“We had gone through three weeks of the most unimaginable emotions,” she added. “None of us had slept properly, and a lot of the evidence we were only hearing for the first time.”
But the jury took just six hours to return a unanimous guilty verdict, and on Tuesday a judge sentenced Parrish to a minimum of 26 years in jail
“It’s strange,” said Sue. “After the verdict, the resolution and relief, I felt as though Chrissy would walk through the door again.”
The family home, in Heaton Way, is dotted with photographs of Chrissy – a handsome blond, always smiling.
Sue says she still keeps her son’s clothes in his room upstairs and she treasures his picture and a curl of his hair in a locket around her neck.
The home is by no means a shrine, but has the feel of a place where a family have had to come to terms with an enormous evil.
However, from the maelstrom of madness the family have found a glimmer of light.
“We never fight or bicker and we are closer than ever now,” said Kevin. “We know that life is far too short and that you never know what’s around the corner.
“It’s sad that something so terrible has to happen to make you realise what’s really important.”
The family would like to thank all the witnesses who came forward to give evidence against Parrish.