A HEARTBROKEN mother drew on the memory of her daughter killed in a car crash to find the courage to meet the burglar who broke into her home.
Margaret Foxley told the burglar the laptop he stole contained treasured photographs of her daughter Jessica, who died in a car crash with two friends in Colne six months later.
It was the first time in Lancashire that a victim had gone into prison to meet the person who committed a crime against them as part of the ‘restorative justice’ programme.
Mrs Foxley admitted that the prospect of coming face-to-face with the offender, who was arrested just before last Christmas, had made her “very anxious.”
But she said the words of her 21-year-old daughter, a former Westholme pupil who “saw the good in everybody”, inspired her to go ahead with the meeting.
According to Mrs Foxley, of Laneshawbridge, her story struck a chord with the burglar who said a family bereavement played a part in him embarking on a life of crime.
She is hoping the “bond” between them and the words they shared prevent the burglar from returning to offending on his release from prison.
When the burglar was arrested by police last year he asked officers to pass on his personal apology to the family whose home he targeted.
It was Jessica’s reaction that led to their involvement in the restorative justice scheme, aimed at steering criminals away from re-offending.
Mrs Foxley said: “When we told Jessica she said ‘bless him, what him a shame’ because she always saw the good in everybody.
“She knew there could have been a deeper reason and said he might have done it so he could feed his children. That’s what she was like.
“That’s mainly why I agreed to meet him. Throughout the whole interview I felt she was saying ‘Come on mum. You can do it.’ I felt very close to her at that moment so it was not at all upsetting from that point of view.”
The family’s most recent photographs of Jessica, who was bidding to become a professional singer, were on the laptop and are now lost as the burglar sold the item.
According to Mrs Foxley, it was only after she told the offender about the death of her daughter in July that he began to open up.
She said: “It was awkward at first and I had started to think it wasn’t going to go anywhere at all. At the beginning I felt like he was in neutral.
“I think it became a lot more emotional when I talked about my feelings. I expressed to him how I felt that night. I told him I felt like it was no longer my house and that I was scared to come home in the evening and I got him to explain why he chose my house.
“He said it was nothing personal, but I told him there were a lot of personal memories and photographs on the laptop. I really pushed him to tell me how much he got for it, which was something very small, and I became quite angry at that point.
“I was leading up to telling him about Jessica. When I told him I wanted him to recognise the consequences of what he had done.
“He was genuinely devastated and I made eye contact with him and he really did take part in the full conversation.”
PC Dave Pasco, of Burnley Police, attended the meeting at Preston Prison between Mrs Foxley and the burglar.
He said the offender, who is serving a four-year-sentence, told them about his own family bereavement, which had affected his life.
But the man later told them he did not go into detail about his own experiences as Mrs Foxley was “reliving her grief” at that point.
PC Pasco and Mrs Foxley said the offender’s conduct after she had told him about her daughter showed “real integrity.”
As well as monitoring the offender’s progress through communication with PC Pasco, Mrs Foxley also plans to meet him again next month.
In addition, she is hoping to set up a meeting in a year’s time in which the man will report how the original interview has affected him.
She is confident he will stay on the straight and narrow. She said: “I need him to know I’m not going to let him get away with it again.
“We’re both helping each other in a way. All the things I have had to face have definitely made me stronger. What else can they throw at me?”
Mrs Foxley and PC Pasco travelled to London yesterday to meet Sir Charles Pollard, who a leader in restorative practice.
Jessica, 21, her boyfriend Tom Petty, 25, and friend Philip Wright, 25, died in crash in Skipton Old Road, Colne, in July.