On 21st March 2004 - Mothers Day, the police knocked on the door to inform Vanessa Hyman that her 17 year old son Anton had been found dead.
Anton has last been seen by his mum the day before when he had come into her bedroom to ask how she was. She told him she was fine and he said ‘cool, cool’ and then he went out, never for a second did she imagine that would be the last time she saw her beautiful son alive.
On Sunday morning when she realised he had not returned home on Saturday night Vanessa began ringing police stations and hospitals but could not find any information regarding his whereabouts.
Mothers Day should have been a happy time with her family but Vanessa’s day was filled with phone calls and worry for her oldest child. At 1.10 am on Monday morning the police knocked her door to tell her that Anton had been shot and beaten and had multiple stab wounds. He was then thrown into the River Brent in Greenford where he was found. Vanessa had to tell Anton’s father Delroy Elliot what had happened.
Initially ten suspects were arrested but later released on bail. After further enquires all of them were freed with no further action being taken. Almost two years on nobody has been charged with the brutal killing of a young man.
Anton has a little sister Cheyna, she was only six when she lost her big brother and has had the innocence of childhood taken away. One minute she is playing and the next she just breaks down and cries and screams that she wants Anton. How can she understand that he is not coming home? The lives of Cheyna, her parents and their family have been changed forever. They need answers, they need to know what happened but most of all they need justice.
On the first anniversary of Anton’s death a memorial service was held at St Mary’s Church in Acton. Vanessa said they were overwhelmed by how many people came to his funeral and to his memorial service. Old ladies that she did not know turned up on her doorstep, some of them very frail and walking with sticks had climbed three flights of stairs to tell her how sorry they were and how much they liked Anton. She wasn’t even aware that he knew these people. Pensioners gave her little bits of their pension to put towards his funeral because his family could not afford to pay the bills. Nobody expects to bury their child and nobody should have to worry about funeral costs when they are still in shock and reeling from the loss of someone they love to murder.
Although no parent wants money in exchange for the life of their child, they have a legal entitlement to make a claim to the CICA. It is usually barely enough to pay funeral expenses but it helps. Vanessa was turned down because Anton had a conviction for delivering drugs to someone. He was arrested in the January and the court case was set for March 27. The police had searched Anton’s home and found nothing and he was only charged with possession of the drugs to which he had pleaded guilty.
During the period of time leading up to the hearing someone came to the flats where Anton and his family lived. The lock on the security door was broken and access could be gained by anyone who wanted to enter the building. The police came back to the building one morning and checked all the electric meter cupboards, which are outside the front doors to the flats. They also checked a water mains box which nobody has access to except the water board personnel. Inside the box were 3 guns and 2 parcels of crack cocaine and heroin. Anton was arrested but released when none of his DNA was found to be on any of the items. All charges relating to the guns and the parcels of drugs were dropped.
The finding of the guns frightened him and he took it as a warning that someone was after him. He asked the police to take him into custody because he was scared of being on the streets. He was held at Feltham Young Offenders until his hearing where he was sentenced to 12 months of which he had to serve 6. He was transferred from Feltham to Ipswich Prison. Vanessa picked him up from Ipswich and he was home for Christmas – his last one with his little sister and his family.
Vanessa was invited to take part in a photo shoot for a CD single called ‘Why’ this is about gun crime and the culture surrounding it. It was at the photo shoot that she met Lucy Cope from Mothers Against Guns. Lucy had been trying to find her to offer support but this was the first time they had met. Lucy has been a great help to the family and with her help they have organised a march in memory of Anton on the 14th May 2005 from Ealing Hospital to Acton Park. Vanessa and Delroy felt they had to do something for Anton, they couldn’t just sit around waiting for things to happen.
Vanessa said they have had fantastic support from the police and especially their FLO Gary Fuller from the incident room at Barnes. What they need is support from the community. Somebody must know who killed Anton, somebody must have noticed something or seen something. Just as in the case of Jamie Robe there seems to be a wall of silence around the killers. How can people stand by and treat life so cheaply? Gun crime will never be overcome if people don’t come forward, anyone of us could be in the same situation tomorrow.