Sam Fitzgerald’s mum tells of witness protection ordeal which forced her out of Islington following son’s death
The grieving mother of Sam Fitzgerald, who was stabbed to death with a golf club, has spoken about life since her son was killed – including a witness protection ordeal that forced her out of Islington.
Kathleen Fitzgerald, 48, had to leave the borough, her home for 28 years, after witness statements for the trial of her 20-year-old son’s killer were found in her local park.
And in an exclusive interview with the Gazette, the mother-of-four has branded the six-year sentence given to the man responsible as “an insult”.
Last month Anthony Leader, 22, of Sidmouth Street, King’s Cross, admitted manslaughter in a brawl outside the Thornhill Arms, Wynford Road, Islington, during an Arsenal versus Spurs match on April 14, 2010. As he started to lose the fight, Leader plunged a broken golf club into Sam’s chest.
Miss Fitzgerald has now revealed that after the death she was forced to leave the borough after several statements for the trial, including her own, were found in Bingfield Park, Islington, by a friend.
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The former youth worker said: “The police put me in the witness protection programme – I just didn’t feel safe. I left a good job and all my friends.
“I couldn’t tell anyone I was leaving and couldn’t even say goodbye. One night everything went into a van and off I went.”
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“The community was so together – they raised seven or eight thousand pounds to help me bury Sam. Keeping that secret from them was awful.
“Everything just fell apart after the funeral. They arrested some people after they found the statements, but nothing happened.”
Miss Fitzgerald went on to develop a stammer after Sam’s death but has got her “voice” back as life in her new neighbourhood started to improve leading up to the sentencing.
However, the result has proved to be another major setback.
“I would have liked to see him get 19 to 25 years,” she said. “That would be a comfort. Six years is nothing – my grandchildren will only be getting out of nursery when he’s released.”
Miss Fitzgerald also explained it was like “a slap in the face” when Leader said in a statement he was friends with Sam and she insisted they had been in another fight previous to the fatal brawl.
She said: “He had already got away with a lenient sentence and he should have left it at that. He didn’t need to lie. I wanted to forgive him, but not after he told those lies. To be honest, I hate him.”
“The only comfort I got from the trial is that Sam was in shock when he died and didn’t suffer,”
Now the trial is over, Miss Fitzgerald doesn’t feel she can fully move on. She added: “I still don’t know why he was killed and that is the worst thing, it makes me scared for other members of my family because anything can happen.
“I want to see if it is worth lodging an appeal. The police left no stone unturned in the case, but they met a wall of silence.
“If they tell me there is no point, I will try to move on and let Sam rest.“
Just weeks before he was killed, Sam Fitzgerald found out he was going to be a dad.
And his mum, Kathleen Fitzgerald, said baby Alfie, who turned one in November, has been a blessing to the distraught family.
She claimed the news changed Sam and gave him a more mature outlook on life. Miss Fitzgerald said: “He became more of a man. He said ‘I think I am becoming a dad and if I am, I will be a great dad’. He started walking all the grandkids to school. You could see the change.
“Alfie is beautiful. He looks so much like Sam and has his character.
“We are very lucky he is around, and that his mother is so nice – we can have him whenever we want.”
She said the pain of losing Sam will never go away and things have been tough, both financially and emotionally, for the family.
“It will always be there,” she said. “It was the loss of my life. We used to go everywhere together – it was me and Sam against the world.
“We haven’t even been able to afford a headstone. But we have put a lovely bench up there and I go up with Sam’s dog.”
Miss Fitzgerald described Sam as a real “dog lover” and he is buried with the family’s old Jack Russell, Lady. Also buried at the cemetery is his cousin as well as friend Jessie Wright, who was murdered in 2010. Miss Fitzgerald, who worked with her killer Zakk Sackett, said claims Sam and Jessie had been a couple were untrue.
“They were close – Sam used to look after her. They were never going out though, too much of an age gap.”
Miss Fitzgerald was overwhelmed by the community’s support after Sam’s death and wants to thank The Chapel Bar in Penton Street, The Dallas Burger Bar in Caledonian Road, Crumbles Castle Adventure Playground in Bingfield Park, her neighbours, the residents of Wynford Road, and Diane Lewis.