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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 July, 2003, 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK
Sins of the father
Andrew Aston has the dubious distinction of serving the longest prison sentence in UK history - 26 life terms - for a string of attacks on elderly people. In BBC One's My Son the Killer, broadcast on Thursday, his father Roger comes to realise the part he played in shaping a killer.

CRIMES OF A CRACK ADDICT
Reconstruction of break-in
Andrew robbed and attacked 26 Birmingham pensioners in 2001
Two died - George Dale, 87, and Frank Hobley, 80
The 29-year-old received 26 life sentences in February 2002

Andrew is still my son, there's a love and a hate. We all know that our children can do wrong, but murder, maiming - this is evil.

Because of the way I've gone through life, I've possibly made mistakes. The only conclusion I come to is to say that we shouldn't have brought him into the world. That way this wouldn't be happening.

I believe in corporal punishment - a slap on the back of the legs usually suffices, nothing hard. My way of bringing children up, a normal slap is usually enough. If you've lied to me, and I find out you've lied to me, then the second slap will be a bit harder. It's my way of teaching right and wrong. Andrew always took the second slap.

He was always in a denial mode: 'I haven't done it, Dad.' He was adamant throughout his childhood and right until his conviction: 'I haven't done it, it's not me.'

Clash of wills

Once when he was 13, he'd done something wrong - knowing me, it was probably something trivial. I grabbed his left arm and slapped him on the legs.

Roger Aston in My Son the Killer
Roger Aston: "I feel sorry, guilty..."
Andrew didn't cry so I slapped him again, harder than I'd slapped anyone before. I needed to make him cry so he would know I had ownership over him.

After the slapping, I looked in his eyes because I wanted to see the tears - and Andrew's eyes bored through me. Call it defiance, I don't know. I had to defeat him. All my life, if I want to achieve something and make others achieve it with me, I will browbeat them, bully them verbally into doing it Roger Aston's way.

Sometimes Andrew would come into the bedroom and say 'can I jump in with you, Dad?' and he'd snuggle up. Whether he was feeling insecure or lonely, I do not have a clue.

No home, no job

When Andrew was 15, the wife and I divorced. I'd see him once a month, once a fortnight, once every two months. Because I was dealing with my own life, I suppose he got ignored. Not purposely ignored - 'don't want to know you, Andrew' - just that I was out having my own life.

Andrew Aston, as a child and on his arrest
From happy child to convicted killer
I didn't know at the time but people have told me that it had a major impact. By all accounts he cried on many occasions, saying that he wanted Mum and Dad back together.

After the ex-wife threw him out, he came to live with me before he went on to his criminal life. He lived at various properties - with me and the second wife, and also with me and another woman with who I was having an affair.

Throughout his 20s every time he came out of prison, he looked well for the regular meals, the routine, and help getting off drugs. He looked clean and tidy and happy. In a sense, it was his home.

In the dock

After Andrew was arrested, he tried to use me as an alibi so I had to testify against him.

Andrew on police interview tape given to the programme makers
Andrew always denied the attacks

Giving evidence was hard. But approaching Mrs Dale [wife of victim George Dale] after Andrew was found guilty was the hardest thing I've ever done. She took me in her arms, told me it wasn't my fault. She held me like a mother would.

I got it wrong in the way I tried to mould him. I didn't give him as much love. I should have got stuck in, played footie on the grass. I should have been there more. But the biggest failing was that I was so wrapped up in me own life that I didn't even recognise what was going on with him.

My Son the Killer was broadcast in the UK on BBC One on Thursday 3 July at 21:00 BST.


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