Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The deaths of John and Joan Stirland

Some readers of When I Was Joe may find it hard to believe that there are organised criminals in the UK prepared to kill those who cross them.
Others may ask questions about the competence of the police when protecting vulnerable people (this is especially relevant when you come to read Almost True)
Well, one of the cases I looked at for research was that of the shooting of Joan and John Stirland in 2004. Six years later their deaths have been the subject of an inquest, which found today that Nottinghamshire police failed to protect the couple properly.
The Stirlands went into hiding when their son Michael O'Brien was found guilty of killing Malvyn Bradshaw, a shooting assumed to be meant for Mr Bradshaw's best friend Jamie Gunn, 18 who was sitting next to him in a car when he was shot. Jamie never got over his friend's murder, stopped eating and started drinking heavily. He died of pneumonia a year later.
Jamie Gunn's uncle Colin, was a big player in Nottingham's criminal underworld. He tracked down the Stirlands to their bungalow in Lincolnshire, helped by corrupt police officers who he paid for information, British Telecom workers who also provided information and the incompetence of the police investigating him who failed to share information with their collegues who were charged with protecting the Stirlands.
The Sitirlands knew their lives were at threat but had turned down the chance to have new identities, because they could not face losing touch with friends and family. After they were killed their other children were immediately moved into police protection. One can only imagine their feelings as they started their new lives.


  1. What an awful and tragic story.

  2. That is a tragic story. Being from New Jersey in the US a state that's pretty much known for corruption and organized crime, none of this is very shocking for me, not that I've ever had any dealings with this sort of thing myself, thank God.

  3. That is truly terrifying and heartbreaking.

  4. I can't imagine how it must have felt to be in their position.

  5. Margo de Beijer5 March 2010 at 03:05

    Your book should come out in Dutch as well! My son (13) will love it I believe.

    Good luck to you Keren!