Billy Dove: A murder that changed Hemel
Next month will mark the fifth anniversary of a death which touched lives of countless people across Hemel Hempstead.
Billy Dove died in the early hours of November 6, 2011 in Hemel town centre.
In the first of a two-part feature Tanya Whitney, the partner of Billy’s father, re-visited the story of his murder which caused so much pain – and yet has been used to such positive effect by Billy’s friends and family.
“Billy had been at a bonfire party that evening,” says Tanya, whose eyes immediately well up when she begins re-telling Billy’s story and do so again throughout our interview.
“He went down the the Functions Rooms with some friends, and was just having a night out.”
Billy, who was just 21 years old, worked as a trainee mechanic at Bone Motors.
Tanya describes him as a “loving, caring, typical 21-year-old, who loved going out, girls and music”.
But she adds: “One thing I can tell you is that he wasn’t a fighter.
“He had plans to travel the world, and that’s something that was taken from him.”
The stabbing happened at1.30am, and anyone who was in Hemel that weekend will remember how the streets, from the top of Marlowes outside Dacorum Civic Centre to the parade of shops in Market Square and the bus station, were cordoned off all day while police carried out investigations.
It would later become clear that a group of youths had been out in Hemel town centre, high on drink and drugs and looknig for a confrontation.
Darren McGrath, then 17, of Essex Mead, Hemel Hempstead, was already on a supervision order for stabbing a schoolboy and drug offences.
Ben Sears, 18, of Belsize Road, Hemel Hempstead, would later be described in court as “a nasty drunk” who had taken cocaine and was armed with knuckle dusters.
Also in the gang were Charlie Samson, 18, of St Agnells Lane, Hemel Hempstead, and Carl Williams, 21, of Barnacres Road, Hemel Hempstead.
Tanya takes up the story: “There were four boys and the only one with their hood down was McGrath – he had the knife in it.”
The evening had seen two separate flashpoints between Billy and his friends, and their attackers.
“When they first started on Billy and his friends, Billy had reveived a good hiding,” says Tanya.
“Then later came the awful part. They cornered him again.
“Billy’s dad Paul had always warned Billy – ‘If you see someone with a knife, run.’ But when McGrath tripped and the knife fell on the floor Billy just stepped back.”
In the moments that followed Billy was stabbed by McGrath, the knife piercing both lungs and his heart in one blow.
For Billy’s family it felt like the end of the world.
But in the time that followed they used their pain to make the world a safer place.