I've never felt less like hugging a hoodie
For Garry Newlove, it was all about improvement, making things better. In his lifetime, he married and raised three daughters, endured a bout of stomach cancer, tried running his own business and always looked to the future with optimism.
Like millions of good men, he was extraordinary in an ordinary, everyday way. His girls thought his jokes were rubbish, but loved him just the same. Oncologists gave him a slim chance of surviving his cancer, but he battled through, and won. When he and his family moved to their new home in Warrington two years ago, Newlove was determined to do something about the spiral of youth crime that was blighting the immediate area. Youth crime.
There's a nice euphemism for the unsocialised behaviour of feral teens; those hopeless louts who hang around lampposts feeling aggrieved, waiting to fill their bodies with cider and cheap drugs, then create the first kind of mindless havoc they can think of. A gang of them used to hang out in the underpass next to Newlove's home and, when their behaviour began to affect residents, he decided to do something about it. Fathers of young daughters often feel more keenly than most about these things.
Following meetings with the community police, the 47-year-old sales engineer posted leaflets to neighbours and was in the process of organising a Neighbourhood Watch unit. Good for him. Newlove wanted only what was best for his wife and children, and for the people who lived around him.
The irony of this, and his terrible death, is piercing. On Friday night, he went to remonstrate with yobs who smashed the window of a vehicle in his drive. By way of retaliation, they allegedly kicked him in the head, and reputedly filmed each other doing so.
Later, Newlove's wife lay weeping on the ground by his side as medics tended to her husband.
During the 36 hours he battled for life in hospital, his 12-year-old daughter wrote him a heartfelt note urging him to live. It is impossible to read it without weeping. "You are the best dad anyone could ask for … don't give in," she concluded, in what was obviously her best handwriting.
Garry Newlove died without ever seeing this letter, or managing to take his family to Lanzarote on the holiday he had planned and paid for this week. Instead, his story ended right outside his own house, protecting his own property.
When something like this happens, who honestly feels like hugging a hoodie, unless its to crush them until their ribs snap? Most people in this country have reached the point of zero tolerance with them and their lawless ilk, and now only wish that politicians, alongside courts and police, would act correspondingly.
To be frank, I don't care how difficult the life of the average hoodie has been, or how much any of these callous youths have suffered at the unseen hands of an absent parent, or general, festering resentment that stems from their troubled home situations.
Yes, life is tough, but nothing excuses shattering the lives of people such as the peaceable Newlove family, for no good, earthly reason. What are you supposed to do, as the rocks rained down on your drive? Ignoring the vandalism is perhaps the only sensible course of action, but is that always realistic?
Call the police and sit tight is another encouraging option. Don't take it personally. Detach yourself from the reality of some shaven-headed moron, high on crack cocaine, smashing in your headlights because his mum doesn't love him enough and his breakfast toast was cold.
Could that work? Not really. None of it is realistic. We all know that the police can't always come when you call them, and, if you ignore the problem of neighbourhood violence, the perpetrators will only return again and again.