BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK
Bridge murder mother's loss and grief
Linda Baxter's son Timo (also pictured) was killed after being beaten unconscious and thrown into the Thames
Linda Baxter's son Timo was killed after being beaten unconscious and thrown into the Thames by a gang of youths. Speaking publicly for the first time, she told the BBC series Crime Kids how writing has helped her express grief and anger.

In the early hours of 18 June 1999 two 24-year-olds, law student Timothy Baxter (known as Timo) and his music student friend Gabriel Cornish, walked home across London's Hungerford Bridge after spending the evening partying with friends.

As the young men began to cross the bridge three youths walked onto the bridge from the other direction. At the moment they passed each other the youths attacked and mugged Timo and Gabriel.

I write my poems about Timo...It helps me express all this pain, grief and anger

Linda Baxter
By a terrible coincidence a second group of three youths were also heading for Hungerford Bridge and stumbled upon the robbery.

Gabriel appealed to the second group for help but, unbeknown to the two students, the second group of three youths were friends of the first.

Instead of helping the students, they spontaneously joined in the attack. As the beating became more ferocious mugging turned into murder, as the youths hurled the by-then unconscious students into the Thames.

Mugging became murder

Gabriel, kept afloat by the rucksack he was wearing, awoke to find himself being swept past Big Ben. In a state of shock and already suffering from hypothermia, he was plucked from the river half an hour later.

Timo Baxter
Timo: Had "such a lot of potential"
But Timo never regained consciousness and he drowned, the Thames finally gave his body up a day and a half later.

The incident became all the more notorious after it was revealed the attackers were all aged between 14 and 21, including a 16-year-old girl, and that it appeared they had killed for fun.

Det Chief Insp David Shipperlee who led the investigation says: "They may be youngsters but I think they knew exactly what they were doing.

Timo 'killed for fun'

"Probably a five-year-old would know that if you beat someone unconscious and throw them into the river Thames that they will die. And that's exactly what happened."

Hungerford Bridge
Hungerford Bridge stretches across the Thames in central London
During an interview for a new BBC Two series investigating youth crime, Timo's mother Linda Baxter said: "I couldn't believe it. I mean, the whole business about their ages. The oldest was only 21, and that one of them was a girl as well."

Her husband Sam expresses disbelief at the apparent lack of motivation behind the attack: "At the end they killed our only child Timo, it seems to me just for fun, and we are left with a lifelong hole where he would have been."

She adds: "The pain, grief and anger are still there and they don't go away. Despite the fact that one carries on with one's life, the emotions are still there, and are very strong."

Linda has turned to writing, particularly poetry, as a means to express her grief and attempt to make sense of her son's murder.

Die them in the river, Die them, Die them in the river, Whoops over the rail, Bash them punch them kick their Heads in Chuck them in the river, Whoops over the rail

Extract from 'Die Them' by Linda Baxter
She says: "I write my poems about Timo from time to time and I find that does help. It helps me express all this pain, grief and anger.

"It helps me. It's not everyone's way, but it helps me."

Although the poetry has helped, Linda says it is impossible to make sense of the murder.

"The death of my son is a complete waste - the loss of my son, the loss of someone with such a lot of potential.

Linda Reid
"The emotions are still there... very strong"
As for the attackers, Linda adds: "I'll never forgive them, there was no reason for them to do that. It [the attack] was completely unprovoked and unnecessary."

Gabriel, who remains haunted by the savagery of the attack and the loss of his friend, has never spoken about it publicly.

Eventually all six youths were found guilty of Timo's murder and the attempted murder of Gabriel Cornish and are all serving life sentences in prison.

The attackers, Alan West, Shaun Copeland, Toni [Antoinette] Blankson, Sonni Reid, John Riches and Cameron Cyrus are part of a wider, frightening trend in the UK.

Sonni Reid
Sonni Reid, one of six convicted of Timo's murder
They were all low-achievers with few aspirations, most had troubled home lives and had replaced family with the camaraderie of the down and outs on the street.

All of them found themselves on the margins of mainstream society, and like many deprived children and young adults, they turned to crime.

Crime Kids: Murder on Hungerford Bridge will be broadcast on BBC Two on Thursday 9 May at 2150 BST.
See also:

19 May 00 | UK
Bridge murder gang get life
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories