Saturday, November 20, 2010

What murder in a tiny English village has to do with me

The Internet has made our world a much smaller place, and yesterday that fact was illustrated to me with a clarity that I found intriguing and, yes, amazing.

Yesterday, nursing a sinus infection and holed up in my house for the day, I decided to blog.

My book blog, Cindy's Book Club, has woefully few readers (please DO check it out sometime!), and I've been trying to come up with interesting and appealing topics to post.

I decided to blog about a couple of favorite childhood books and how I found copies of them on the internet.

Both books, Red Knights from Hy Brasil and Auntie Robbo, are out of print and fairly obscure, so I was delighted to reclaim them.

You can read more about those books here and here.


While taking pictures of the books, I was struck once again by a sticker on the inside of Red Knights from Hy Brasil.

(My own copy of the book, which ended up being somehow lost, was purchased circa 1965 or 1966 at a small Christian bookstore in Beirut, Lebanon, where my parents were missionaries at the time.)

As you can see, the sticker shows that the book was awarded to Peter Torn at St. Martin's in Owston Ferry, on Christmas 1963. It's even signed by the vicar.

I found that charmingly English, and I could just picture this little British lad being handed the book that I held in my hands 40 years later (I received the book from in October 2003).

So what does all this have to do with murder?

Well, yesterday I got curious and decided to Google Peter Torn, St. Martin's, and Owston Ferry.

Here's what I came up with--a June 2003 article from the Yorkshire Post about the funeral of a girl named Laura Torn:
Almost the entire village of Owston Ferry, near Scunthorpe, turned out to pay tribute to the 18-year-old whose body was found in Misson, Nottinghamshire, last month following a huge search.

Scores of mourners filled St Martin's Church, while the sermon was broadcast over loudspeakers to those who could not get inside the historic building.

...Schoolfriends, neighbours and family held each other and police officers who searched for Laura also turned out in tribute.

The church was packed to capacity by the time Laura's coffin was brought in to the church, followed by her weeping family. Her father, Peter Torn, fought back tears as he held wife Heather and 13-year-old Martin.

Without a doubt, this is "my" Peter Torn. He was 49 years old when his 18-year-old daughter was murdered.

Further Google searches turned up follow-up stories about the case. In April 2004, 31-year-old Guy Beckett, Laura's boss at a local pub, admitted to strangling her to death, apparently enraged when she broke off their secret relationship.

In May 2004, Beckett was sentenced to life in prison.

Even more meaningful...

Reading the story of Peter Torn's loss and grief somehow made the fact that I own what used to be his book even more meaningful to me.

On Christmas in 1963, little Peter Torn was handed a copy of the book that was to be one of my own favorite childhood books, and the book that singlehandedly started my lifelong obsession with Ireland and all things Irish.

Forty years later, just a few months after the death of Peter Torn's daughter, I held his copy of that book in my hands.

If Peter Torn ever somehow stumbles across this post on the Internet, I want him to know that my heart goes out to him and his family for their terrible loss. It's been seven years since he lost his precious daughter, but a parent never really gets over their grief.

My hope is that he finds comfort in the God he learned about as a little boy at St. Martin's Church in Owston Ferry, England. And each time I pick up his copy of The Red Knights from Hy Brasil I will send up a prayer for him and his family.


Lea @ CiCis Corner said...

Well, how very interesting! What did we ever do without Google!

Hope you are feeling better and will be "good as new" to enjoy Thanksgiving with your family.

Blessings abundant!

Unknown said...

I live in Owston Ferry ( next door to the now demolished building where Laura Torn was murdered) and I know Peter Torn as Owston Ferry is a very small village. I'll mark sure to pass your blog link over to him and his family next time I see him



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