Debbie’s Story

In 2005, Debbie’s brother was beaten to death by two men that he thought were his friends. 15 years later, Debbie met one of the men who had killed her brother in a Restorative Justice meeting. The meeting allowed her to get answers to her recurring questions and gain a sense of closure. 

This story is not to be reproduced without the express permission of Why me?. We would like to thank the Thames Valley Restorative Justice Service, who facilitated the case, for their support.


Whilst in prison for killing Debbie’s brother, the harmer heard about Restorative Justice and wanted to partake in it. “It wasn’t that he expected to get anything out of it. But he thought it was the right thing to do.” Debbie was contacted by her Victim Liaison Officer who asked if she would be willing to take part. She agreed to speak to a Restorative Justice facilitator to find out more about the process. 

“I was very tentative, so all I agreed to initially was to have contact with the facilitator and find out about what would be involved. I didn’t have to commit myself to anything right from the start.”

Why did you want to take part?

The court process had left Debbie with a lot of questions about why the two men had killed her brother. “Right from the start I was aware that this was a chance to get some questions answered.” Through conversations with her facilitator, Debbie realised she also had other questions that she wanted answers to. “She got stuff out of me that I didn’t even know was there. I think the facilitator got out that I felt very guilty. You know, maybe I could have stopped it, was it my fault for not being sufficiently involved in my brother’s life?”

Debbie also spoke to her brother’s children to see if they wanted her to ask the perpetrator anything on their behalf. One of his daughters wanted to know why they had done it. “I was able to go back to her with those answers, although it probably wasn’t nice to hear, it was good to be able to do that.”

“It seemed like Restorative Justice would be a good thing to do because it might reduce the risk of the perpetrator that I met reoffending in the future. Maybe that will be something good that would come out of the whole situation.”

Debbie was reassured by the fact that she could withdraw from the process at any point. “I could have said no, actually, I don’t want to go any further with this. So I felt fairly confident about that. You’re not embarking on something that couldn’t be stopped.”

The process

“Initially, when I heard what the process was going to be, I thought ‘can’t we just have the meeting, just get it over with? Do we have to do all these phone calls and meetings and preparation?’ But actually, it was definitely worthwhile…  nothing surprised me, I felt well prepared for what was going to happen at the meeting.”

In the meeting, the harmer “was very open about what happened, took all the responsibility, wouldn’t make any excuses for himself and answered all my questions.”

At the end of the restorative meeting, Debbie and the perpetrator were offered refreshments and the opportunity to have a more informal conversation. “I suppose there was a sense of relief on all sides. It hadn’t been that tense in the meeting or anything, but it was definitely more relaxed.”

The impact of the meeting

Debbie didn’t expect to get much out of the meeting herself, instead taking part because she believed it was the right thing to do. However, she found that she got a lot more out of the meeting than she expected. Thoughts about, ‘could he have been found?’, ‘was he still alive?’ had really played on her mind in the years since the murder because the police and coroner had been unable to say with any certainty whether or not her brother was still alive when the perpetrators left. The perpetrator was able to say categorically that he was not alive when they left, which gave Debbie a sense of relief knowing there was nothing she could have done.

“People talk about closure, don’t they? And I suppose there is that feeling that ‘okay, that’s it really’.”

Following the meeting, Debbie discussed her options for next steps with the Restorative Justice facilitator. “I didn’t feel I needed any more direct contact. I didn’t really want that. To know that he’s holding down a job and not getting into trouble with the police or anything, it just helps to feel that maybe what we’ve done has helped with that.”

“I’m glad I did it. As I said, it gave me closure. I was pleased to have had those questions answered, it did make a big difference. I’d encourage anyone to do it…  it makes something good come out of something bad.”

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