Video: Mother of Norwich murder victim Danny McGhee speaks of her decade of heartbreak
11:44 18 February 2014
The mother of Norwich murder victim Danny McGhee has spoken of her decade of heartbreak, and how news his killer is due to be moved to an open prison has intensified the emotional torment she endures daily.
The court case
Thomas Cusack was jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum of 13 years in prison after he was convicted at Norwich Crown Court of murdering Danny McGhee.
The court heard Cusack had stabbed Danny - who was a stranger to him - in the neck with a large kitchen knife during a confrontation at a house in Magpie Road, Norwich, on November 15 2003. While Danny fought for his life, Cusack went for a drink in the nearby Cat and Fiddle pub. Cusack, who at the time of the trial in July 2004 was 40 and of Magdalen Street, Norwich, had previously been convicted of 84 offences, many for violence.
After the sentencing Danny’s family issued a statement via the police which said: “Today is the 258th day of our life sentence. A sentence of which there will be no reprieve.”
Diane McGhee, 56, should have been celebrating her son Danny’s 36th birthday on February 23 but instead this month she is struggling to deal with the knowledge that Thomas Cusack, the man convicted of killing her 25-year-old son by stabbing him in the neck in November 2003, is on the brink of a move to an open prison.
The mother of five and grandmother of seven said she had been left devastated by the news, and that hearing the decision was “almost as bad as the day I was told Danny had been murdered”.
She said: “I am saying, you have given him [Cusack] a sentence, make him do the sentence. There’s no open prison for me because here in my heart and my mind I have no freedom.”
Ms McGhee said she had been informed last March of plans for Cusack’s parole hearing, and at the hearing in November she had read out a statement urging the parole board not to grant Cusack’s move to an open prison.
But she has been told that, subject to the justice secretary’s final say, Cusack was due to make that move.
On receiving the result this week, she said she was devastated and felt as though her voice had not been heard.
Ms McGhee said that what happened to Danny just over a decade ago still felt like yesterday to her.
“There is never a day that goes by when I don’t think of my son,” she said. “I now have post-traumatic stress disorder and I believe a lot of it is from being in the courtroom and listening to the disgusting details of what happened. Even now I cannot use a knife to chop my vegetables. I have to use a spoon or a fork handle to pierce my jacket potatoes.”
She said that she knew she must carry on for the sake of her other children – Leanne, Matthew, Tamianne, and Terry – and her grandchildren, but each day was like “climbing Mount Everest”.
A Norfolk and Suffolk Probation Trust spokesman said: “As an independent body, the parole board takes the decision about any move to open conditions.
“Before the prisoner can be moved, the decision has to be signed off by the secretary of state for justice.”
Comment – Page 30
On Diane McGhee’s mantelpiece is a treasured photo of her five children altogether.
She said Danny was a much-loved son, brother and uncle, and the family keep him alive through their memories.
A character and practical joker, but also a good soul who lightened up the room, is the way Mrs McGhee remembers her son, and she said his letters and belongings help give her some comfort.
“I have letters that he wrote me. I was one of those mums that kept everything my children made me, and I am so pleased I kept all those things because I can get them out and think, ‘that’s what his handwriting was like.’ It really is a comfort to know that it was his hand that wrote it. I have got his vinegar bottle with his greasy finger prints on it. It sounds silly but it is all I have. You hang on to these things, to me it’s priceless because I know he touched it.”
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