Murder victim’s friends buddy up to help dog walkers fearful after woodland killing
PUBLISHED: 18:52 24 June 2018 | UPDATED: 08:27 25 June 2018
His brutal murder had a profound effect on fellow dog walkers, many of whom felt unable to return to the tranquil woodland where that day’s tragic events unfolded.
But now, nearly a year on from Peter Wrighton’s death, members of the community have united to start a new buddy scheme to help dog walkers feel more comfortable going about their daily lives.
For many, Sunday’s walk around East Harling woods was the first time they returned to the area since the 83-year-old’s killing last August.
Mr Wrighton, from Banham, was targeted by former soldier Alexander Palmer in a savage attack, being stabbed multiple times in the head and neck.
Even though Palmer, of Cringleford, was arrested shortly afterwards and sentenced to a minimum 28 years in prison in February this year, East Harling resident Jane Challis said: “Even though we now know the reasons, it just makes you feel uncomfortable and quite vulnerable.”
So with some help from police officers in the area, dog walkers have now formed a buddy scheme where they will arrange to go out in groups so that everyone feels safe.
People can join a Facebook group to find out when walks are and the scheme was launched on Sunday, with around 50 people talking a 40min walk around the woods.
PC Amy Lucas, Breckland engagement officer, said: “We’ve started the scheme to bring the community together and create reassurance for the dog walkers to go back out into the wooded area - but ultimately to create some friendships and bring the community together.
She said people had been “more cautious” about walking their dogs in the area since the murder, adding: “People were very hesitant about coming up to the wooded area and there are people who haven’t returned still.
“We’re hopeful with the dog walking scheme that it will give them the power to take control of the situation and come back to walk their dogs at this beautiful heath.
“We’ve had a brilliant turnout from the local residents and surrounding towns and villages as well.”
Ms Challis, who was walking her Jack Russell Terrier Lilly and her friend Sandra Dewsbury - who also brought along Jess the Labrador - said: “We wanted to come here and show our support. It’s something that’s very close to our hearts.
“This is the first time I’ve walked here since it happened. It’s a good idea and makes you feel more comfortable.”
Susan Smith, 67, from Attleborough, who was walking with her 77-year-old husband Raymond and their King Charles Spaniels Alfie and Monty, said: “After poor Peter was killed it unnerved us.
“They say lightning doesn’t strike twice but it unnerves you. Quite often, Raymond would come up here on his own.
“Coming today has made us feel better about it again.”
Mr Smith had spoken to Mr Wrighton just a few days before the attack, adding: “It could’ve been me.”
Others felt the murder had actually led to more people using the woods by people determined not to let the events of last August prevent them from going about their lives.
Rachel Greenfield, 40, walking with her two-year-old greyhound Gary and her partner Ryan Fulcher, 46, said: “I think people are a bit more cautious about the times they come here, but they still come here.”
Miranda Conboy, 36, of East Harling, who came with her husband John and dogs Rufus, four, and Wilson, 18 months, said: “It’s lovely for people that were put off because they didn’t have anyone to walk with.”
A collection was also held for a memorial bench that will be made to remember Mr Wrighton.
The bench, being produced by a chainsaw artist, will include two full-size wooden dog sculptures and be placed in Harling woods.