'It's tragic enough to lose a child, but to lose one in these circumstances...' - father speaks out year after son was murdered in Norwich
PUBLISHED: 06:30 23 June 2019 | UPDATED: 08:05 24 June 2019
A father whose son was murdered by a stranger who had weeks earlier been spared jail for possessing knives has said he wishes there was something he could do to prevent a similar tragedy.
David Hastings, 48, was knifed in his back, chest, neck and mouth as he walked away from Norwich's Rose Lane car park with his girlfriend in the early hours of June 23 last year.
Norwich Crown Court heard Mr Hastings, of Long Row in Norwich, suffered a total of 13 stab wounds, including a fatal one to the heart, as well as a number of other potentially fatal wounds in the savage attack by complete stranger Rolands Heinbergs.
Heinbergs, 23, of no fixed address, was sentenced to 28 years in prison after a jury took less than an hour to convict the Latvian of murder following a trial earlier this month.
It emerged that Heinbergs had been given a suspended sentence for possession of knives in Thetford weeks before the fatal attack - something Mr Hastings' heartbroken family have struggled to come to terms with.
Speaking to the paper on the anniversary of the murder, Mr Hastings' father, also called David, who lives with his wife Shula, said: "It's been a year since my son was viciously murdered by a coward who should not have been walking the streets.
"He was already on a suspended sentence for carrying two kitchen knives three weeks earlier because the magistrate had decided in his wisdom that he was not a danger.
"It's tragic enough to lose a child, but to lose one in these circumstances which was avoidable..."
The anger felt by the retired builder and his wife echoed the feelings of Mr Hastings' sister Anna and children, Kimberley and Kyle, whose moving victim impact statements detailed the struggle they all felt.
Kimberley, 29, said: "The fact that this man was caught with a knife just a few weeks before he killed my dad but was dealt with so leniently is so hard to take."
She added: "Things could be so different if sentences for knife crime were harsher."
Those comments were not lost on Judge Stephen Holt, who in his sentencing remarks, said: "If ever there was a case that demonstrates that courts must take possession of knives seriously, it is this one."
Mr Hastings said the family's anguish about Heinberg's previous convictions were compounded by the fact he chose not to give evidence during the trial, therefore providing them with no answers.
He said: "I wish there was something I could say or do to prevent another family going through what we have, sitting in the court looking at the scum who just sat there sneering never saying what we all wanted to hear; why? And listening to all the details of that night."
The murder comes at a time when knife crime in Norfolk is on the rise.
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Figures released earlier this year by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed police recorded 286 offences which involved a knife between January and December 2018, a threefold increase compared to 2012 when it was just 97.
The figures also showed that between April 2017 and March 2018 police recorded 220 offences involving a knife compared to just 77 over the same period between April 2013 and March 2014, which represents an 185pc increase in knife offences in the county over six years.
Mr Hastings said something needed to be done to try and tackle the problem before other families lost loved ones to knife crime.
He said: "The answer to this epidemic of knife crimes is that there is no one answer.
"Is it more police on the streets, more cameras, zero tolerance to drugs, severe sentences for carrying knives, deporting guests in our country who have committed a crime?
"The trouble with some of that is that prison doesn't worry some of these people because their friends are there and they come out just the same or worse, so do we make the prisons tougher?"
Remembering his son a year on, Mr Hastings said: "We still miss his cheeky smile and the way he would light up the room when he walked in and his parting words would always be 'I love you, mum".
"It's been a year and we do laugh and smile but the tears are never far away. It takes one word or a song, or somebody will say something to bring all the pain and heartbreak to the surface again."
Parents reveal their devastation at son's murder
The parents of a man stabbed to death in Norwich have revealed the "absolute devastation" the "cowardly crime" has done to them.
David Hastings' parents David and Shula, have shared their moving victim impact statment which was read out in court before Rolands Heinbergs was jailed for life for their son's murdrer.
It said all the memories they have of their son and the thought they will never see him or get a call from him again "leave a deep sadness in the pit of our stomach so much that it hurts".
They state they will "never get over this" with the murder not only depriving them of a son but it "has also taken away the pleasure of our son seeing his children fulfill their dreams and his granddaughter taken her first steps".
They do however take some comfort from comments from his friends which show that "we did raise a good man although we would rather he be here so we could tell him that".