‘Time hasn’t even touched the sides of our grief’: Ellie Gould’s parents reveal their fight for ‘Ellie’s Law’ in their first interview since their daughter was knifed to death by her ex-boyfriend
Ellie Gould’s parents Carole and Matthew are pictured
The scene was one of such unimaginable horror that it still haunts Matthew Gould’s dreams and consumes his waking thoughts.
On a warm May Friday afternoon last year, he returned early from work to find his adored teenage daughter Ellie lying inert in a pool of blood in the kitchen of the family home in Calne, Wiltshire.
The fact that she was dead did not register immediately. And in the panic that enveloped him, Matthew did not notice the knife lodged in his daughter’s throat. Neither did it occur to him that she could possibly have been murdered.
‘I thought at first she’d had an accident, that she’d reached for something in a cupboard, slipped and banged her head as she fell.
‘But there was blood splattered all around the kitchen; too much for that to have happened. It was horrific.
‘The rest is a blur. I phoned 999 and I heard myself say I thought Ellie was dead. They were telling me how to resuscitate her, but she was lying cold and stiff on the floor. ‘I knelt alongside her. There was blood all around her head and neck.
‘I shouted at her, ‘Wake up! Wake up!’
‘I called my next-door neighbours for help. I phoned my wife Carole. I said, ‘Ellie’s had an accident. Come home. Drive safely.’ I didn’t know I was screaming, but Carole says I was hysterical.’
Carole continues: ‘I don’t know how I drove back home. I heard a police car with sirens and I thought: ‘That couldn’t be anything to do with us.’
‘All I could think of during the 15-minute journey from work was that maybe Ellie was unconscious. Perhaps she’d slipped and fallen or had a nasty accident with a knife.
On a warm May Friday afternoon last year, Matthew returned early from work to find his adored teenage daughter Ellie (pictured) lying inert in a pool of blood in the kitchen of the family home in Calne, Wiltshire
‘As I drove round the corner there was Matt crying at the end of the drive and police cars everywhere.
‘Matt was distraught. He was screaming, ‘She’s died,’ and it was numbness, utter disbelief. I said, ‘What? It can’t be true.’ We couldn’t believe it. Even now we can’t. You feel you’re acting out part of a drama. You’re asking, ‘What has happened to our happy, contented lives?’
What had, in fact, happened was unthinkable. Ellie, 17, a bright and beautiful young woman with a life full of hope and promise ahead of her, had been murdered by her ex-boyfriend Thomas Griffiths — stabbed at least 13 times in the neck in a frenzied attack after he tried to throttle her — because she had finished their three-month relationship.
Griffiths, who was 17 when he killed Ellie, was jailed for 12-and-a-half years at Bristol Crown Court last November after pleading guilty to her murder. Both Carole, 50 and Matthew, 53, who own and run a family business, were appalled by the leniency of the sentence and have since campaigned for teenage killers to face longer in jail.
Today the Goulds are speaking fully for the first time, exclusively to the Daily Mail, as they come a step nearer to realising their goal, with the news that Justice Secretary Robert Buckland is considering handing longer sentences to killers aged 15 and over.
The changes, likely to be referred to as Ellie’s Law, are expected to be unveiled next month and will include new provisions for murderers aged between 15 and 17 to be sentenced to at least 15 rather than 12 years.
The Ministry of Justice is also due to put forward proposals for child murderers to face imprisonment without parole, as set out in the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto.
We are delighted by this news,’ says Matthew who, with Carole, met the Justice Secretary in January.
Thomas Griffiths, 17, who pleaded guilty to murdering Ellie
‘Mr Buckland told us he was committed to raising sentences. He showed genuine emotion and great kindness; it was clear he was touched by our case, and it is good that he’s stood by his word and the changes will be known as Ellie’s Law.’
The Goulds also lobbied Home Secretary Priti Patel. Carole says: ‘We told her, ‘It just doesn’t seem right that a young girl sitting at home revising for her A-levels can be brutally murdered and the perpetrator’s punishment is 12 and a half years. How is that ever, ever justice?’ and Priti Patel said, ‘It’s not, is it?’ The punishment should fit the crime, and it doesn’t.’
She adds that Ellie, who planned to go to university to study psychology and hoped to join the police force, would have endorsed the campaign.
‘She had actually just gained an A grade for an extended essay about juvenile murderers and the age of criminal responsibility,’ says Carole. ‘When I think about it, it sends shivers up my spine.
‘Ellie cared about justice and fairness and she would have wanted Griffiths to be properly punished. We’re doing this for her, but also because we’re frustrated by a system that allows someone who commits such a terrible crime to be treated so leniently.
‘Griffiths is an evil monster. He is a danger to society, particularly to women. He became obsessed with Ellie within weeks. He could become obsessed with another woman. I believe he is a psychopath. He should be kept locked up for the safety of other women.’
‘I’m not a person who hates,’ adds Matthew, ‘but I do hate him. I pray daily that he does not make it out of prison. Ellie had so much going for her. She was talented and kind, she loved animals; she was a fantastic horsewoman. And she was just so lovely. You’d expect a father to say that of a daughter, but she was delightful.
‘And as a family, she, her older brother Ben, Carole and I . . . we did everything together.
‘Time has not healed, I don’t think it ever will. It has not even touched the sides of our grief.’
As you listen to Matthew’s voice crack with emotion; as you see Carole’s blue eyes brim with tears, the weight of their grief seems unendurable. Ellie’s murder was as cold-blooded as it was calculating.
On the day of the murder Griffiths was filmed on CCTV taking a bus home, early in the morning from Hardenhuish School, Chippenham, the ‘high performing’ academy both he and Ellie had attended since they were 11.
Back at his home he hid in a wardrobe until his mother, a school’s special educational needs co-ordinator, left for work.
Then, although he had not passed his driving test, he drove illegally in a Ford Fiesta his parents had bought him to the Goulds’ four-bedroom home in the quiet market town.
Ellie had, according to friends, ended their relationship the day before because she found Griffiths’ attentions ‘suffocating’.
Within an hour of going to her house he had left again, having murdered her before placing her hand on the handle of the knife to suggest she had inflicted the fatal wounds herself.
He then coolly returned to school as if nothing had happened.
Later, in an attempt to cover his tracks, he sent Ellie messages asking if she wanted to meet and claimed the scratch marks on his neck — where Ellie had most likely tried to defend herself — were self-inflicted because he was ‘depressed’.
Carole recalls how she and Matthew welcomed Griffiths into their convivial family home.
It seems an added violation that so despicable a crime should take place in the sanctuary of their own home.
She says: ‘They started going out at the beginning of February last year. Griffiths was her first boyfriend. Until then, she’d been more interested in her ponies than boys. She was petite, 5ft 3in, and so fearless.
‘For her 17th birthday — February 6 — she asked, ‘Is it all right if Tom comes to tea?’
‘It was about the second time we’d met him. We had a Chinese and prosecco. Griffiths had some cider. We had a cake. It was low-key because it was a school night.
‘We thought he was quiet. We couldn’t understand what Ellie, who was so bubbly, saw in him.’
‘Actually,’ adds Matthew, ‘it seemed a complete mismatch. He was dull and had no conversation. His table manners were slovenly.’
Carole remembers the last conversation she had with her daughter. ‘She was learning to drive. I’d said, ‘You can practise this weekend,’ and she was looking forward to doing some show-jumping. Then the last thing I said to her was, ‘Make sure you do your revision, won’t you?’ That afternoon their lives became a waking nightmare. Carole returned from work to find the road to her home swarming with police; her access to the house — and Ellie — blocked.
‘I thought: ‘There’s an ambulance and paramedics there. Surely they can do something?’ Matt and I were sitting in the back of a police car. We didn’t want to leave Ellie, but they couldn’t let us into the house. It was a crime scene.
‘The police had seen the knife in her neck by then. There was talk about it possibly being suicide and it breaks my heart to even think that was a suggestion.’
Matthew adds: ‘But pretty soon afterwards, the police were asking us if she had a boyfriend, and the next-door neighbour described a young man coming to the door with a hood up, fitting his profile.’
Carole goes on: ‘And then the penny dropped.
‘We were utterly destroyed; in complete shock.
‘A couple of days later we went to see Ellie and it was really hard. She looked very peaceful in a white gown and they had put plasters over the stab wounds in her neck. I want Griffiths’ mother to read that; what her son did,’ she cries.
Inevitably, the police investigation and court case brought additional stress.
Carole says: ‘Our barrister said: ‘We’re expecting him to get 12 and a half years’ and you want to scream and shout. ‘No! That can’t be the outcome! You haven’t got that right.’
Their rage is volcanic. ‘I believe in an eye for an eye.
‘Twelve years is deemed a life sentence for someone of 17, but it isn’t life, is it? Is this really British justice at its best?’
‘We were happy people before this,’ says Carole. ‘It’s not just us. The ripple effect on wider family and friends has been so wide. One person has caused so much damage to so many. It’s just wrong.’
There has been much, too, that has compounded their grief and outrage. Griffiths’ parents and younger brother remain in the area; a proximity they find unbearable. ‘I went to their house on the anniversary of Ellie’s death,’ says Carole. ‘I wanted them to carry with them the image of the pain in my eyes.
‘They said, ‘Our lives have been destroyed as well.’
‘But I can’t let anger ruin my life. I have to channel it through Ellie’s charities, through Riding For The Disabled, and by standing up for women who are killed by men.’
Even so, she cannot suppress her frustration that the justice system is skewed, she believes, in favour of the perpetrator.
Like all prisoners serving sentences for murders committed when they were under 18, Griffiths will be eligible to have his tariff reviewed half way through his jail term.
‘If he has made ‘exceptional progress’ he will be able to apply to have his sentence reduced,’ says Carole. ‘Some prisoners have had a year taken off their sentence and that’s just wrong, isn’t it?’
They remember back to the court case. ‘Griffiths stood in the dock with his head down.
‘He did not look up at us at all. He was a coward,’ says Carole. In a letter read to the court by his barrister, Griffiths expressed ‘heartfelt remorse’ and said that he had been under a number of stresses, including his father’s cancer diagnosis, as well as exam pressure.
Carole is not convinced: ‘He has not shown proper remorse. He has never explained why he killed our daughter.
‘We think about what might have been. Ellie used to talk about her future . . . this monster has taken it all away.
‘The most difficult times are the milestones. A-level results week was terrible. Her 18th birthday was awful.
‘And then every Friday we watch the clock and think about what happened.
‘We cannot leave this house because although Ellie died here, she also spent her entire life here. We wouldn’t want to move because there are happy memories, too.
‘We have left her bedroom just as it was on that day.
‘We keep the window shut because the room still smells of her perfume. Her school bag is as she left it.
‘But all I have left of my precious daughter is a box of ashes and a lock of her hair.’
Source: Read Full Article