A gang of teenagers ambushed Jamie in an unprovoked attack; they were armed with cricket bats, snooker cues and baseball bats and beat Jamie to death. Despite his cries for help a crowd silently watched witnessed the brutal attack on the Osprey Estate in Rotherhithe on 7th August 1997. Fear of reprisals stopped them going to the police with information.
Jamie’s parents, Stuart and Evelyn begged people to come forward to help bring their son’s killer to justice, they did TV interviews and leafleted the area where they lived and where Jamie died. Nobody would volunteer any information to either the police of the family. In fact, there was a huge amount of hostility generated against Jamie’s family who received death threats themselves and had to be given police protection.
At a vigil in Trafalgar Square with 300 other families who had been bereaved through murder, MAMAA made a public appeal for people to come forward, to ask how they would feel if it was their young son who had been killed in such a violent manner.
Local Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes, who assured witnesses they would be protected from possible reprisals and their anonymity guaranteed if they gave evidence, eventually took up the case. He also controversially arranged for the deportation of an illegal immigrant to be overruled, because his evidence was so value to the enquiry.
Finally in October 1999, three of the five charged with Jamie’s murder were detained at her Majesty’s Pleasure.
Geoff Pickett, a freelance journalist interviewed Jamie’s parents …….
How could people have just stood there and watched without doing anything? Evelyn Robe whispers, slowly shaking her head and wringing her hands. After a two year fight for justice the Robe family sighed with relief when Dave Higgins 18, Aaron Cole and James Pierce, both 19, were convicted of murder at the Old Bailey.
Stuart and Evelyn sat through the emotionally gruelling six-week trial, which ended with the three guilty verdicts. Both were forced to leave the court when graphic witness testimony described their son’s last moments. Jamie had sustained 20 separate injuries in the attack. Stuart said ‘There were times when we couldn’t bear listening to witnesses describing the sounds of bats cracking Jamie’s bones. They just carried on hitting him for over two minutes. I was on cloud nine when the jury read out the verdicts; it was the best day for me in the whole of the last two years, to finally see justice served. Two of the gang walked free – moaning they had spent nine months rotting in prison for a crime they didn’t commit.” Stuart said he believed they too were guilty and would not rest until they were also brought to justice
Higgins, Cole and Pierce were sentenced to life for the brutal and savage murder. Sadly since the ruling by the European Courts in the case of Venables and Thompson for the murder of James Bulger, they may be out within eight years. Families of the murderers screamed abuse and threats at Jamie’s family who had to be escorted out of the back of the courts by police officers.
Stuart had to remain in his flat in a secret location due to continued death threats. Although he and Evelyn have been divorced for many years they helped each other through the dark and difficult days following their son’s murder. Stuart recalled the last time he saw him.
“Jamie had gone over to his sister Michelle’s to buy a cheap bottle of whisky off her boyfriend Gerard Dylan. It was his girlfriend Sarah’s grandmothers wedding anniversary and he wanted to buy her a small although he never really had any money at the time,” said Stuart. Apparently Jamie and Dylan started drinking and got a bit drunk and somehow ended up on the street. Jamie was seen being sick in the middle of the road and two blokes came over and an argument broke out between them. Dylan and Jamie chased them onto the Osprey Estate where a big gang of lads were waiting around the flats. The gang chased them on to the road but Jamie slipped and fell. They just attacked him and Dylan ran off and left him there to be beaten and kicked to death.
Evelyn emphasised the families anguish, “That night ripped our whole family apart and we are still suffering even now”
At 1.30 am on August 7th Stuart received the phone call that was to change all their lives forever. He was told Jamie just had concussion but said, “I picked Eve up in a cab on the way over, I knew, I just knew he was dead. When we arrived there were a number of police around and I was asking to see him but they ignored me. Eventually they took me down to see him and Jamie was lying on a trolley, a tube coming out of his throat, he was covered in blood and his face was all smashed up. I went up to Eve and held her, we were taken to the police station but everything was a daze. The police asked where we wanted to go, I knew where but I didn’t know, my mind as just blank.
Evelyn said, “Simon Hughes becoming involved was a turning point regarding witnesses, people who were afraid to talk to the police would talk to Simon. After six months they finally had a breakthrough when a girl called Tracy who knew the accused came forward.”
During the trial Tracy, (who’s identity is protected), was given a torrid time by the defence counsels who called her a liar and a thief and made spurious claims about her character and her reliability as a witness.
“Tracy was brilliant,” said Stuart. “She testified behind a screen to preserve her anonymity and stop those thugs from intimidating her. They had tried to do that from the moment she stepped forward as a witness. They threatened to kill her and her family and they vandalised her mother’s home, but she stood firm and did what she believed to be right. They tried to say she was living a life of luxury since stepping forward but she lost everything when she gave evidence. Her family won’t speak to her and the police also moved them out of the area. She lives in a little flat on her own always afraid they will find and kill her. She swung the whole case on her testimony because she was mates with the lads and watched them batter Jamie to death in front of her.”
“Two kebab shop owners also lost everything,” added Evelyn. “Their shop was vandalised and they had to give up their livelihoods and move out of the area because of the death threats.”
The case rested on the determination of the three officers in charge, DI Tony Cottis, DC Ian Ashby and PC John Weyhill. They had been advised to drop the case but pushed for the murderers to be brought to trial. DI Cottis said “It was a really difficult case to pursue, one minute witnesses would be ready to testify the next they would change their minds.
Stuart Robe cannot hide his gratitude to those officers. “They were brilliant, they put so much into the case for Jamie and we will never forget them for that. They worked for us far above and beyond the call of duty. He also praised MAMAA for the support they have given to his family. “Lyn and Dee came in to support us when we were having a really difficult time. They have worked tirelessly and get nothing back for the work they do and they are always there when we need them”
Jamie Robe was a quiet, shy 17 year old more interested in spending time with his girlfriend Sarah, and his family than going out with friends. Every Tuesday he played pool with the disabled children at their Grove Park School, while the football fanatic dreamed of working with computers after graduating from college.
Evelyn said, “Jamie was such a nice lad, whenever I needed anything he was always there in a flash. Sarah was his first love and was absolutely devastated when he died. It’s all such a tragic waste of a really good life and his death has affected so many people. I still cannot believe I will never see him again.