Family's torment 10 year's after murder

IT was a crime that shocked the region. On 21 November 1993, as the first heavy snow of winter fell on Ipswich, young mother Karen Hales was stabbed to death in her own kitchen in Lavenham Road before her body was set alight.

IT was a crime that shocked the region. On 21 November 1993, as the first heavy snow of winter fell on Ipswich, young mother Karen Hales was stabbed to death in her own kitchen in Lavenham Road before her body was set alight.

Despite one of the largest murder inquiries carried out by Suffolk police, her killer has never been brought to justice. On the eve of the 10th anniversary of Miss Hales' death, MARK HEATH spoke to her family about their torment, their grief and their hope her killer will one day be found.

IT is often said time is a great healer, but for the Hales family the 10 years that have passed since their 21-year-old daughter Karen was taken from them have done little to ease their pain.

Her murder has ripped their tight-knit family apart at times and, they said, the mountain of unanswered questions surrounding her death left them unable to carry on with normal life – yet they remained confident Miss Hales murder would be solved.

As they spokes exclusively to the East Anglian Daily Times, Miss Hales' mother, Geraldine, and her two eldest daughters, Jacqui and Angela, made an impassioned plea to the public.

"We still think that the killer will be caught," said Angela, 39. "When you hear of other cases that have been solved after years and years, it gives us hope."

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Of the whole family, Miss Hales' murder hit Geraldine, 58, the hardest. She has broken up with husband, Graham, and her failing sight continues to deteriorate.

"Somebody out there knows something and they're hiding it – they've got to be. I just wish they knew the pain and the suffering that we've been through," she said.

"Just go to the police, for God's sake, so we can try to get on with our lives. We can't at the moment because it's like we are in limbo all the time."

Geraldine added: "It's not just the loss of Karen, but the breakdown of my marriage and my sight getting worse – it's all due to this evil person who took her from us.

"I'm on my own now because of this evil person. I can't see to read my mail or anything like that. If this had not happened, I would have had security with Graham, but now that's gone – I'm just existing really, not living."

Speaking about her father, who still lives in the Barham house where Miss Hales grew up, Jacqui, 37, said: "He has told me that he goes out every single night to friends' to eat just because he can't bear to be in that house anymore.

"I don't think any of us know how he deals with it because it's like he's behind closed doors all the time.

"As a family, we can never ever be the same again. We have lost Karen and mum and dad have separated – but I can't help thinking that they would still be together and we would all be happy if Karen had not been murdered."

When asked about their memories of Miss Hales, the trio become visibly emotional, but smile and laugh as if remembering the light she shone into their lives.

"She was a very bubbly person," said Geraldine. "She enjoyed life and she was very happy – you name it and she was it really."

Through all the pain, the family still have a reminder of Miss Hales' life – her daughter Emily, who is now 11 years old.

"Emily is exactly the same as Karen," said Geraldine, who sees her granddaughter every two weeks. "I see a lot of Karen in her – everything from the way she acts, her mannerisms and everything.

"I do see her regularly and she wants to know different things about her mum and various things that she did.

"She doesn't really ask in any detail about what happened to her and I just hope it won't come to that because I don't know how I would deal with it. One day she did ask whether it was a gun or a knife – that broke my heart."

Angela, who lives in Creeting St Peter, added: "Karen would have been very proud of her little girl – she is really sweet and very bright. It's like I remember Karen as my little sister. Emily is just like that."

Yet, at a time of year when most families are looking forward to Christmas and being together, the Hales family's thoughts are understandably elsewhere.

"November is a horrible month for us," said Jacqui, who lives in Needham Market. "We get edgy and it puts a lot of strain on all of us.

"These 10 years have been a rollercoaster for us. There have been times when the family haven't been as close and it all goes back to what happened. It's driven wedges through all of us at one time or another."

Angela added: "We know that we will never see Karen again, but the rest of the stuff about what happened to her and why, we can never put to rest.

"I often wonder what Karen's killer is doing now – they're probably sitting in their house doing what we might be doing, but they have taken Karen from us and that's so hard to deal with."

Jacqui said: "For the first few years, I used to look at people in the street who were looking at me and wonder if they were the person that did this to us – it's terrible."

Geraldine, who lives in Claydon, added: "We need to know something about why it happened. We can't relax in our lives because we have got no answers.

"I think that why it happened is more important to us now than who did it – but I don't know if even that would help because Karen's still not here.

"A few times I've felt suicidal, but then I've thought about my daughters and Emily and that has kept me going.

"All I want to say to the public is that, if somebody is hiding this information, then please come forward and give us some sort of hope. At the moment, we are serving the sentence – not the person who took Karen from us."

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