Corby murder victim’s mum forgives son’s killer

A Corby woman who finally forgave her son’s killer has laid bare her battle against drink, drugs and unforgiveness in a heart-rending memoir.

Tuesday, 22nd October 2019, 7:00 am
Esther Wright has written Esther's Promise about her life

Esther Wright has spent the past decade writing ‘Esther’s Promise’ about the vow she made to her son Lee after he had been stabbed to death.

She wants the book to inspire and give hope to people struggling with addictions, those living in abusive relationships and other families affected by the murder of a loved one.

Esther said: “Mine is a story of hope. I want to inspire people who are battling unforgiveness, people in abusive relationships and those whose lives are ruled by addiction.

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18-year-old Lee Wright was murdered in the White Hart, Corby on June 7, 2002

“To help others I’ve laid everything bare. It’s a book of hope, to not give up.”

At the time of Lee’s murder, Esther had already battled and beaten her alcohol addiction managing five years without a drink. So as she visited Lee in the mortuary she made her promise.

Esther said: “When I went to see him my instinct was to drink. I cried out to Lee that when I saw him again in heaven, I would be sober. In my darkest days I had to cling on to my promise to him.”

Lee was 18 when he was stabbed and killed in the toilets of The White Hart pub in Corby Old Village after watching a televised World Cup match on June 7, 2002.

Esther Wright with her book Esther's Promise

Newcastle United fan Lee had been planning a trip to Skegness with his girlfriend Michelle and his gran Olive but had delayed his departure to watch the match with his football-mad mates.

During the after-match celebrations Lee briefly left his friends to use the toilet. He was attacked from behind, receiving ten wounds to his hands, face, neck and a fatal blow to his chest.

Thomas McKinnon, 20, who had been armed with a bread knife and a kitchen knife, was sentenced to life imprisonment for Lee’s murder, serving ten years.

Six months after his release, in 2013, McKinnon hanged himself.

His accomplice was jailed for four years.

In the months after Lee’s death, Esther was supported by her mum Olive, friends and family.

Olive had been recovering from a life-saving operation to remove a tumour in her face and despite her own illness found the strength to help her daughter.

Trying to keep things as normal as possible for her other son Jack, then eight, during the day Esther became a virtual recluse receiving food parcels at her door.

But at night she spent time with Lee’s friends, hanging out in the pubs where he used to go.

She spiralled into drug use taking cannabis, speed and cocaine as well as prescribed anti-depressants.

Esther said: “I wanted to be close to him, to be with his friends, I even wore his clothes. Lee’s friends carried me through that time. I was just existing. I was a nut job. I wanted to commit suicide but I had to stay alive for Jack.

“I was off my head. I couldn’t function. My mum would come round to my house all bandaged up to get me out of bed, make me walk the dog. She kept me going. She had huge faith.

After the trial, Esther left Corby to start a new life in Spain with Jack joining her later.

She said: “I sold my house and moved to Spain. It was OK for a while but I ran out of anti-depressants. I was running away but you can’t run away from yourself.

“Mum came to stay and she brought me a bible. I was down to seven stone – I was living off oranges from a neighbour’s tree.

“I cried out to God to get me home – I was home within the week.

“When I was back, I started going to church regularly where I met and fell in love with a man who was everything I ever wanted.

“We had planned to grow old together but Davie’s heart stopped beating when he was 49 – that was ten years ago.”

Davie’s death spurred her on to write down her experiences. As well as working a 60-hour week as a personal assistant to adults with additional needs, she began her book.

Esther said: “I believe it’s God that has pushed me. It’s been painful but therapeutic. I know this is what I am meant to do. It’s a book about hope. I want to inspire people who are ruled by addiction and people who are battling unforgiveness.

54-year-old Esther said: “Just before McKinnon was about to be released the Police Liaison Officer called me and asked if I would like to write a witness impact statement.

“I told them I didn’t want someone else reading it out but I wanted to go in person to meet him.

“I went to the prison and I met him. He sat with his head down and he was different to how he had been in court at the trial.

“I was in control. At the trial I had to listen to him - I couldn’t say a word - but 12 years later I was in control. I told him ‘to forgive you has set me free’. I could feel God’s presence and felt lifted because of his forgiveness.

“I wept when I heard that he had hanged himself and I thanked God that I’d forgiven him.”

“My next step is to get involved in anti-knife crime. It’s not just life that is ruined, there’s a whole ripple effect to all the families – the victim and the other families.

“Jack has also forgiven McKinnon and now goes into prison as a volunteer to talk to people including a murderer.

“Lee’s friends still meet up on the anniversary of his death and they want to get involved with an anti-knife campaign too.”

Michelle, Lee’s former girlfriend, also keeps in touch with Esther.

Esther said: “Lee and Michelle had plans to save up and travel to Australia but they never made it.

“After Lee was murdered, Michelle met another lad, they went round Australia.

“When they got married that was a bitter-sweet moment for me but I was truly grateful to be there to witness it all.”

Esther’s mum Olive died in June this year but lived to see the book finished.

She added: “Mum’s death has left a big void in my life but I feel now that I’m ready for the next chapter in my life.

“I am a victor, not a victim.”

Copies of Esther’s Promise, priced £11.99, are available on Facebook or in Rothwell at Faith and Fabric and Allure Salon and in Corby at at the Boating Lake Cafe, Mushh Room Cafe in Pytchley Court and Corby Voluntary and Community Services centre in Elizabeth Street.