TONY and Davinia Parker, the parents of murdered teenager Ross Parker, yesterday visited Peterborough Crematorium on the third anniversary of their son's death. They laid flowers and thought of the son who was taken from them in a "racist" killing which shocked the city. Neil Franklin reports on how Ross's family have coped in the aftermath of the tragedy.
TONY and Davinia Parker, the parents of murdered teenager Ross Parker, yesterday visited Peterborough Crematorium on the third anniversary of their son's death. They laid flowers and thought of the son who was taken from them in a "racist" killing which shocked the city. Neil Franklin reports on how Ross's family have coped in the aftermath of the tragedy. IT is three years now since a single, cruel and savage act tore apart Tony and Davinia Parker's happy family life.
And while, to some extent, time has eased the terrible pain of losing their only son, the overwhelming sense of loss is still all too real.
Yesterday, the couple, dressed in black, laid flowers alongside the many others already left by Ross's memorial plaque at the city's crematorium – an act of homage they have carried out every week since his tragic death.
It was part of the grieving process which began when Tony and Davinia's lives were turned upside down in the early hours of September 21, 2001.
Seventeen-year-old Ross was murdered in cold blood by three racist attackers as he walked along a city centre cyclepath with his girlfriend on a warm late-summer night.
Ross bled to death after being stabbed with a 12-inch knife, beaten with a hammer and kicked on the ground.
Just hours before, Ross had hurriedly left his family home in Bozeat Way, Westwood, Peterborough, to work a late-shift as bar support at the Solstice pub, in Northminster, city centre.
Today, his room remains almost untouched – his clothes, bed, hi-fi, TV and computer where he left them on the fateful evening.
It is a place which will always be their son's, a place where his parents and 25-year-old sister, Leanne, can go to remember him.
Tony (52) said: "His room has been cleaned and tidied to a degree, but all his belongings are still there. We have just left them there – the way it was. It means you can sit there and look at his things.
"It was always his private space and he would moan like hell if his mum went in there and tidied it up. We still see it as his private space."
To mark the third anniversary of Ross's death, his family, friends and relatives also toasted Ross's memory with the schnapps Goldschlager, which was one of his favourite drinks.
They held a similar get-together at their home on August 17, when Ross would have celebrated his 20th birthday.
Tony, a self-employed motor repairs engineer, who shared a love of Formula One motor racing with his son, said: "It is not a thing you ever get over. You move on to a degree but, obviously, you never forget.
"The pain does get easier, generally, but there are times when it comes flooding back and it hits you hard. It can be at any time and it can be for no reason whatsoever.
"You try and motivate yourself and get on with your job and hobbies, but you will wake up one morning and feel really low with no motivation. And it seems nothing has sparked it off.
"Then, another morning you wake up and you feel motivated again, but it is difficult. Quite often you just have to write days off and hope you wake up feeling different the day after."
EVERY May, Ross Parker's former team-mates gather for a special football match in his memory.
Ross was a keen footballer who was one of the most liked players at the city's Netherton Junior Football Club.
The teenager used to play in defence for them in the Peterborough Youth League.
Ross, who was a fan of Peterborough United and Premiership giants Manchester United, was just coming back for his third season at the club when he was murdered.
Following his death, Ross's family organised a memorial match – the first was held in 2002 and they are now held annually.
His former team-mates form a side called Ross's Rangers, who play men's, women's and children's sides made up of Ross's friends, relatives and family.
The event is held at The Grange, in Netherton, where there is a plaque in the teenager's memory.
Ross's father Tony (52) plays in the men's side and Ross's sister Leanne (25) plays for the women.
Tony said: "Even the women have won it – with lots of cheating. The football matches have been good and we get a fantastic turnout with all his old friends coming along."
Timeline – September 21, 2001, to December 19, 2002
Friday, September 21, 2001.
1am: Ross and girlfriend Nicola Foot (20) finish working a late shift at the Solstice pub, in Northminster, Peterborough, but they fail to get a lift to a friend's home in Bourges Boulevard. They decide to walk, Ross wearing just a short-sleeved polo vest.
1.15am: They walk through the city centre and get to the cyclepath near Russell Street, adjacent to Bourges Boulevard, where Ross is attacked and murdered by a gang, some wearing balaclavas.
4.30am: Detectives visit Ross's family and break the news of his death.
9am: Friends of Ross's at Jack Hunt School are told about his death.
• Saturday, September 22.
A number of people are arrested by police, including two of the men eventually convicted of Ross's murder.
• Tuesday, September 25.
Ross's family appeal for calm across the city as fears grow that yobs are using the killing as an excuse for violent and racist attacks.
• Wednesday, September 26
Three men appear at Peterborough Magistrates' Court charged with murder.
• Thursday, September 27.
A furthr man appears before magistrates charged with murder.
• Tuesday, October 23
Hundreds of mourners gather for Ross's funeral at Peterborough Crematorium.
• Monday, May 13, 2002.Ross's family question a decision to release all four of the men accused of his murder on bail. They write a letter to Home Secretary David Blunkett.
• Saturday, September 21, 2002
On the first anniversary of his death, close family and friends join Ross's parents, Tony and Davinia, and sister, Leanne, to lay flowers at the spot where Ross was murdered.
• Wednesday, November 6, 2002.
9.40am: Ross's family arrive at Northampton Crown Court for the first day of the trial of four men accused of murdering Ross.
• Thursday, December 19, 2002.
Ahmed Ali Awan, of Gladstone Street, Shaied Nazir, of Cromwell Road, and Sarfraz Ali, of Harris Street, were found guilty of murdering Ross in a "racist" attack.
Awan, who stabbed Ross with a 12-inch hunting knife was ordered to serve a minimum of 18 years, while Nazir and Ali were jailed for a minimum of 16 years each.
A fourth man, Ziaraff Mahrad, was found not guilty of murder and manslaughter.