A COUPLE fighting to curb the freedom of their daughter’s killer after he was released from prison after serving 14 years for her savage murder are today celebrating a possible breakthrough in their campaign.
Bereaved mum and dad, Marie and Ken West, of Bolton-le-Sands, met with new Justice Minister Jeremy Wright who has pledged to intervene in a parole board decision relating to the conditions of release for David John Bonnell, now in his mid-40s.
Bonnell was freed in summer after being jailed for bludgeoning to death his wife Tracey West, 23, with a piece of wood back in November 1997, in what the sentencing judge called a “forceful, frenzied, savage and sustained attack.”
Under the terms of his release, a parole board set an exclusion zone - an area within which Bonnell was not allowed to go - to help minimise the chances of an encounter with the victim’s relatives, including Marie, 57, and Ken, 60, who adopted the couple's two young children as their own.
However, the couple from Church Brow, have been arguing that Ken’s job as a part-time paramedic working for the North West Ambulance Service, means he can be called to emergencies in Lancashire, Cumbria and North Yorkshire, which raises the risk of seeing Bonnell.
Speaking after the meeting in London, Mrs West, said: “At the moment we feel very positive and think it will make a difference. "The Justice Minister is going to write a letter to the parole board and hopefully they take it on board and understand our unique situation.
“The parole board might change its mind and if it doesn’t the Justice Minister has heard all about how the system from our point of view and it might stop this happening to others.”
The pair have already had their attempt to see Bonnell banned from three counties turned down on the grounds that it could be “unlawful and disproportionate,” to his “successful reintergration into the community.”
The latest meeting suggests that Mr Wright will call for the parole board to widen the exclusion zone to incorporate Preston, Lancashire, where the Wests have family and some work.
Said Mrs West: “At the end of the day, the Minister has more power and is higher up than us. We are just the parents.”
The meeting was arranged following representations from their MP, the Morecambe and Lunesdale Conservative representative, David Morris.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Morris said: “Decisions such as this (setting exclusion zones) are not up to politicians but Jeremy has said he will do everything he can with every power he has got, to help. It is sad it takes 14 years to get to this point but this job is all about results and if I can get a result on this for the West's, I’ll be a very happy man.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "We do not comment on the content of private meetings.
"The Parole Board is independent and Ministers cannot intervene in their decision making. Where applications for exclusions zones are being made, victim liaison officers should help victims identify areas they frequent and then, with advice from the Department, make appropriate representations to the Parole Board for them to consider."