The F-word for my wife’s killer
THURSDAY, July 1, 2010 – Judgment Day. As he unlocked his bike, Eamonn intoned: ‘Write in your diary that it’s all over. Thank heavens.’ Once more he succeeded in capturing in simple words what we all felt. No doubt that included the motorcycle cop, whom we’d just shaken hands with.
He was found guilty of Jennifer’s death. The sentence deviated from what the prosecutor had called for. Instead of a two-month conditional prison term, he was given 120 hours of community service. In keeping with the sentence, his driver’s license was suspended for six months. During sentencing, R sat in the dock and cried. We were in the front row, on the left, and looked stoically straight ahead.
What we felt? Relief, of course, that this chapter could now be closed. Actually it was all over two weeks before, after the trial. That was the worst day, the pain of reliving the accident and the first real confrontation with the culprit who sat there looking straight ahead, like a dead bird. Now and then he mumbled a few words, but he could not summon the courage to publically express his remorse.
‘What a nightmare,’ he stammered, as we sat opposite one another in the lawyer’s office. At my request, the meeting took place immediately after sentencing and on site. There were no lawyers present. That’s the way Eamonn – and Sander, too – wanted it, and actually I couldn’t see myself coming back sometime next week and reliving the nightmare. We want to look ahead.
I said that I didn’t really know what to say. That now, eight months later, things were getting a bit better. He began to cry. And so did I. And his girlfriend. The children said nothing.
Of course, there wasn’t much we could say. We looked one another in the eye. Then, finally, came the expression of regret. The extended hand. We said we realized that he had never wanted this and that we remembered how he had immediately tried to help Jennifer. That he had snarled at Sander to get the dog out of the way. Of course he couldn’t have known that he was the victim’s son, with Elsa, her Elsa.
Sander spoke. ‘I don’t hate you. But I do hate what you did. This is probably the worst mistake you’ve ever made in your whole life.’
Eamonn said nothing and buried his face in the crook of his arm. R looked at him and began to cry again. Then the moment had come. I talked about forgiveness. The word rolled across the table in his direction. We were the first to leave the room. He and his girlfriend remained behind. There was no reason to look back.
Eamonn was right. Thank heavens it’s all over. Sander cycled on ahead of us and Eamonn told me that he’d been a bit afraid of R. and the judge in his black gown, whom we had thanked afterwards, had also given him a bit of a fright. Intimidating and overpowering. Still, there was one bright spot because what he had feared the most did not happen: ‘No images of the accident came back to me. Nothing.’
What did bother him was the fact that two grown men had sat there bawling. His father and the perpetrator. ‘I just hated that.’ Tears rolled down his cheeks as we crossed Stadion Road. THE Stadion Road. I told him how proud I was of him, and I said the same thing to Sander.
Jennifer’s children. They’re good. It’s all right.
Later that afternoon I sent the following statement to the press:
‘Today the truth has been established beyond the shadow of a doubt: A motorcycle policeman has been found guilty of causing Jennifer’s death. The police are supposed to protect us, give us a sense of security. At the same time, we are aware of the risks that policemen run and the risks they sometimes have to take in order to protect us, the public. We understand that.
But what now? I call upon the Amsterdam authorities, following this sentence, to take disciplinary action. In my view, this man no longer belongs on a police motorcycle. I also expect you to send a clear signal to all police personnel who participate in traffic. Let this be not only a lesson that cost our dear Jennifer her life, but also one that can prevent such tragedies in the future.
This verdict in no way diminishes the pain. The decision of the court cannot bring Jennifer back. It is unacceptable that someone who stepped onto the crosswalk when the light was green did not survive that act. And it remains unthinkable that the life of a young mother can be snuffed out by one moment of recklessness. My children and I will go on living. We love Jennifer and that’s something no one can take away from us.