'We have seen almost every murder case since 2008' - two friends spend more than 1,000 days at Norwich Crown Court
PUBLISHED: 08:52 11 February 2018 | UPDATED: 09:49 11 February 2018
Copyright: Archant 2018
Listening to the harrowing details of high-profile murder cases might seem like an unusual hobby to take up in retirement.
But not for David Harris and Richard Egerton, who have spent more than 1,000 days watching criminal cases unfold at Norwich Crown Court.
Over the past 10 years, the two friends have used their free time to observe proceedings from the court’s public galleries.
And during that time they have witnessed some of Norfolk’s most well-known murder cases.
Mr Harris, 67, from Drayton, said he first became interested in the criminal justice system while serving as a juror in Lincoln in the 1970s.
After realising the public could freely sit in court rooms, he then started using his work holiday allowance to watch cases.
The former Jewson manager said he finds the whole court process fascinating, but admitted it did have some impact on the way he sees the world.
Mr Harris said: “It does make you more conscious about what can happen out there. I think a lot of people take the attitude ‘it will never happen to me’, but unfortunately it does.”
The married grandfather-of-four, who is a Norwich City season ticket holder, has recorded every day he has spent in court since retiring in 2008. He believes that by the end of February he will have reached 1,000 days.
“I would say we have seen almost every murder case heard at Norwich Crown Court since 2008”, he said. “The worst was the petrol murder in 2009 it was just horrific.”
Former printer Mr Egerton, 75, from Thorpe St Andrew, shares his friend’s interest in the criminal justice system.
He said he became fascinated with the courts while sitting as a juror on a horrific murder case in 2005, which involved a man being decapitated by a chainsaw in west Norfolk.
“The law is what we are really interested in,” he said. “I sometimes think the sentences are no way near realistic, but judges are restricted in what they can give.”
Over the years, the two friends have got to know all of the court staff, including the security, barristers and judges.
“We have a lot of respect for all of the staff at the court, as well as witness support,” Mr Harris said.
The pair said one of their favourite judges was Peter Jacobs, who has since retired.
Mr Egerton said: “He was such a character and he had a terrific sense of humour. You knew that when you went into court and he was there it would be interesting.
“He would also always acknowledge us.”
Mr Harris said he believed more people would sit in and watch court cases if they knew they were allowed.
As for himself and Mr Egerton, he said: “Providing our health will be alright, we will both be here for another 1,000 days.”
An increase in certain types of cases
The two friends said in recent years they had noticed an increase in certain types of offences going to court.
Mr Harris said: “In the past few years there seems to have been more people going on trial or pleading guilty to taking advantage of the elderly by stealing from them. It is a case of abusing their position of trust.”
Mr Egerton added: “There is a lot of rape and drug-related cases on at the moment too, but we don’t really go to many of them.”
The pair said as well as having “massive respect” for prosecution and defence barristers who sit in such cases, they also have a lot of respect for Norfolk and Suffolk Police, especially its major investigation team.
Mr Harris said: “It is amazing how they are able to piece together evidence. And it shows you just can’t go anywhere without people knowing where you are, whether it is through your mobile or by using a cash machine.”
Their five most memorable court cases
David Harris and Richard Egerton said there were five cases that stood out due to their horrific nature.
1. Petrol murderers: Three people were jailed for life in 2005 for the murder of student Simon Everitt. He was tied up, doused in petrol and set alight near Great Yarmouth.
2. Kerri McAuley murder: Killer Joe Storey was locked away for 24 years in June 2017 for a “sustained and brutal” attack on his former partner.
3. Warren Ricardo Blake: The 18-year-old drug dealer was jailed for 17 years in June 2016 for stabbing Andrew McGowan, 33, to death in Great Yarmouth.
4. Steven Murphy murder: Killers Andrew Cameron and Alexander Dewar from Blackpool were given 25-year jail sentences for stabbing Mr Murphy to death in Fakenham in October 2009.
5. Snettisham pub murder: Landlord Michael Tucker shot his girlfriend Becky Thorpe in the bath, before hiding her body in a freezer. He was jailed for a minimum of 26 years in May 2011.