Murder blighted Suffolk family

SATURDAY, April 21 2001 is a date that will live in the memories of Roy and Viv Cooper for the rest of their lives.It was that night, at around 11.20pm, that their son Darren was brutally murdered in a vicious town centre attack.

SATURDAY, April 21 2001 is a date that will live in the memories of Roy and Viv Cooper for the rest of their lives.

It was that night, at around 11.20pm, that their son Darren was brutally murdered in a vicious town centre attack.

He left a daughter of just 18 months, Chloe, and his girlfriend of three years, Nikki.

But what made the loss so much harder for his family to come to terms with was the circumstances surrounding it.

It all started as a minor dispute inside a late-night takeaway but rapidly degenerated into a vicious beating by at least two men.

The attack, which happened in Hemel Hempstead, left Darren's body so battered it was barely recognisable even to his own parents.

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A heavy lump of wood had been used to hit him around the head during the frenzied assault, which was captured on closed circuit television.

This helped the successful prosecution of two local men, although another suspect was cleared.

Daniel Button, who was 22 at the time of the attack, is currently serving a life sentence for murder, while Bradley Galvin, also 22, is serving six years for manslaughter. Both were unknown to Darren until that night.

The sequence of events that ultimately claimed Darren's life started when his girlfriend, Nikki, left a queue in a KFC restaurant to get some money.

When she took her place again, a man behind, later to be revealed as Button, took exception and accused her of pushing in. Darren stepped in and words were exchanged, but the incident seemed to be resolved.

Button then left the takeaway to speak to two of his accomplices.

Mr Cooper said: "When Button left, he pointed to our son as if to say, 'I'm going to get you' and then started talking to two mates outside.

"They were obviously planning what to do. The two mates walked in and started staring at him.

"They started pushing and hitting him, while Button had gone to a van to get what looked like a baseball bat.

"Button then came up behind and hit him over the head with it. When he fell over they started kicking his chest and head. They broke every bone in his head.

"They had damaged his chest and face so much. They were kicking, hitting and doing anything they could to hurt him.

"One witness said they were like wild animals."

Darren was pronounced dead in hospital that night, but it was not until two days later that his parents were allowed to see his body.

Against professional advice, they decided they wanted to go through with this.

A funeral director later told them it was the most brutal injuries she had ever witnessed in her time in the job.

GETTING over the trauma of their loss has proved impossible for Mr and Mrs Cooper.

They even decided to leave their hometown of Hemel Hempstead to escape the "constant reminders".

Even today, they are still searching for answers about why the attack happened but are now trying to settle into their new home in Suffolk.

In May, they moved to Baldwin Road, Stowmarket to be near Mr Cooper's brother, but their life is still in turmoil.

They even admit they are now fighting for their marriage, after more than 32 years together.

Mr Cooper, 55, said: "This has certainly put a strain on our marriage, but we won't let them win.

"We won't let the people who murdered Darren break up our marriage - but because we're such a close family it hit us so hard.

"It's just a different world now and we're trying to pick up the pieces of our life in Stowmarket.

"I've spoken to counsellors but I'll never accept why they killed him. Never."

GRIEF-stricken but defiant, the Coopers are today as determined as ever to force a change in the law following their son's death.

They want it to be altered in favour of victims of crime rather than the criminals themselves.

Their call comes after they were forced to wait six weeks before their son's body to be released and a further six months for his brain.

This was while three post mortems were carried out, but it meant the family had to endure two funerals - one for his body and one for his brain.

Had the culprits had entered guilty pleas at the beginning of the case, as they eventually did, the family would not have been forced to go through such a long process.

Mr Cooper said: "Even when Button admitted it he had a smirk on his face and had to sit there and look at him. They prolonged it and made it worse for us.

"Nine months we had to wait before it went to court and they kept pleading not guilty, but then guilty."

Mrs Cooper, 53, said the law definitely needs changing in this respect.

She said: "It certainly seems there's more support for the criminals than there is for the victims."

She also called for the government to back the Victims of Crime Trust, which has been a great comfort to her.

She said: "I feel the government is too busy putting money into the criminals. Why don't they put it into the trust, something that helps the victims?"

Mr Cooper hit out at the sentences given to the two thugs responsible for his son's death.

He said: "There doesn't seem to be any deterrent.

"We were told that a life sentence could mean only eight to 12 years if they behave themselves. What sort of sentence is that? Ours is life."

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