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Double death latest: Cromer trying to cope with grief

09:00 05 December 2012

Helen Pritchard, wife of Cromer deputy mayor David Pritchard, and friend of Keith and Andrea Johnson, lights a candle of remembrance at Cromer church.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Helen Pritchard, wife of Cromer deputy mayor David Pritchard, and friend of Keith and Andrea Johnson, lights a candle of remembrance at Cromer church. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2012

Horrifying crimes like the double death in Cromer rarely if ever affect just the people directly involved.

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The impact undulates out from the immediate and distant family, to friends, to colleagues, to acquaintances - and, finally, to the community where it has happened.

The pain hits everybody because in towns like Cromer, everybody feels part of the fabric. When the town is hurt, its people bleed. They unite to celebrate events like the carnival and Crab and Lobster Festival, and are equally united in times of trouble.

The pain is particularly intense when the people involved are well-known and popular.

In the case of Keith and Andrea Johnson, Cromer has lost two larger-than-life characters who have left voids that it will be next to impossible to fill.

Some people find that it helps to have a focus for their grief and confusion. And yesterday, the first visitors filed into Cromer Parish Church to spend time in silent prayer and reflection in the side chapel, and to light a candle in memory of the tragic couple.

The penetrating gaze of the national media also has an impact on a town. Such intense attention happens perhaps once every generation, and there is a feeling that the entire nation is peering at Cromer through the lens of the tabloids and TV.

At Compit Hills, the peaceful, pristine close that is a picture of suburban England, the gaze has been direct, with police ever present and journalists knocking on doors to try to find the answer to the age-old question - why?

When they leave, when the story of the week moves to another location, that will not be the end.

For they will leave behind a town with wounds that will take a long time to heal.

While Compit Hills in Cromer is no Hungerford and no Dunblane, for some time its name will be associated with one of the town’s darkest deeds.

For the people who chose to live in this quiet place, that notoriety is as unwelcome as the double shotgun shooting was unexpected.

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