Family's anger as son's killer is freed

PARENTS who were told one of their son's killers would be freed from jail on the anniversary of his death said today it is a pain they should have been spared.

PARENTS who were told one of their son's killers would be freed from jail on the anniversary of his death said today it is a pain they should have been spared.

Each year Viv and Roy Cooper mark the anniversary of their son's murder by returning to the scene of his brutal killing and laying flowers.

This year, as the anniversary of Darren's death approached, the couple was told one of their son's killers would be released - four years to the day after the murder.

Today, Mr and Mrs Cooper are campaigning for a change in the law to prevent other victims facing the release of a prisoner on the anniversary of their crime.

Darren Cooper was just 24 when he was killed in a savage town centre attack on April 22, 2001.

His killers, Daniel Button who was then 22, and Bradley Galvin, also 22, both pleaded guilty to killing Darren in the vicious assault, which happened in Hemel Hempstead.

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While Button was sentenced to life in prison for murder, Galvin was given a six-year sentence for manslaughter.

Today he is back on the streets after serving four years of that sentence.

Roy Cooper, 56, Darren's dad, said: "He shouldn't even be out but to release someone on an anniversary is absolutely disgusting. To me the system has failed."

Darren's parents moved to Baldwin Road, Stowmarket in 2003 to escape the town where their son was killed.

Today they are attempting to rebuild their lives but say the scheduled release of Galvin is another step backwards.

The couple was told just two days before Galvin's release that he would leave prison on the fourth anniversary of their son's killing - April 22, 2005.

Mrs Cooper, 52, said: "I answered the phone and as soon as the woman from probation came on I knew what she was going to say. She said he would be released at the end of the week and I said you are letting him out on the anniversary. I just broke down."

The couple contacted Clive Elliott at the Victims of Crime Trust who pressured the Prison Service to postpone the release.

At 7pm on the eve of the anniversary Mr and Mrs Elliot were contacted and informed Galvin would be released a day late.

They had travelled to Hemel Hempsted that evening where they were due to lay flowers with Mr Cooper's sisters at the scene of Darren's attack.

Darren was "ambushed" following a minor dispute in a take-away and a heavy, spiked, lump of wood was used to hit him around the head during a brutal attack.

Mrs Cooper added: "I don't think they realise what they have done to everybody and how it has upset us. It has taken everything away from us.

"I am not going to let this rest. I want the law changed for other victims."

Mr and Mrs Cooper are now preparing for the day Daniel Button is released. They still don't know when this will be as a minimum term was not set at his trial.

Although Mr and Mrs Cooper are appealing for a change in policy to prevent other families going through similar trauma, the Home Office said this would not take place.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "There won't be any change to policy because it can be quite flexible when people are released. We were made aware of the anniversary and could change the release date and we can do so in the future.

"The way it works is that a date is worked out and the anniversary is not one on the list of the things that is looked out - if it happens it is by accident.

"This doesn't happen often and it was purely by accident. In this case the date was changed and we apologised to the family."