'There Are No Villains, Only Victims': Moving Open Letter From The Grandfather Of Three Children Murdered In Woods

25/04/2013 12:14 | Updated 22 May 2015
'There are no villains, only victims': Moving open letter from the grandfather of three children murdered in woodsSWNS

Ron Tocknell, the grandfather of three children whose bodies were discovered in woods in Shrewsbury has written a moving open letter to his local newspaper, The Gloucester Citizen.

The children's father Ceri Fuller, 35, is believed to have stabbed Sam, 12, Rebecca, eight, and Charlotte, seven, to death in the secluded beauty spot before jumping 65ft to his death in a quarry.

Ron is father of the children's mother Ruth, 35, who is grieving for her children and her husband.

In his letter Ron insists Ceri was a good father who raised them with 'love and joy and laughter' and how he will 'always remain a man I am proud to have called my son-in-law'. One by one he lovingly describes his three grandchildren, the real people behind the headlines, and concludes:


Despite the nature of what occurred, there are no real villains in this terrible incident, only victims. I would ask all to suspend judgment and find compassion for all.


This is his letter in full:

"Family and friends, of course, are in terrible pain but I also know from experience of having read press reports of other such tragedies in the past how painful this is to others who have never known the family.

There have been so many times when I have read something like this and my heart and thoughts have gone out to the families who are suffering this pain.

I have known that my thoughts and prayers have joined with so many others but have never known for sure whether the thoughts, prayers and compassion of so many strangers could really have an impact on those who are directly affected by their personal tragedies... until now

I never thought I would ever be among those who are on the receiving end of the sorrow and empathy of the entire nation and I would certainly never have wished for it.

But we cannot dictate the random paths our lives take. However, this terrible pain has hit us and we must all get through it as best we can.

I could never begin to express the comfort that the love and compassion of so many hearts and minds can bring and I can assure everyone who has shed a tear, sent out a prayer and in some way resonated with the pain, we are all feeling that your love and good wishes come home to rest.

It is a phenomenal source of strength and, for this, I thank you all from the deepest recesses of my torn and ravaged heart.

To most of you, Ceri, Sam, Becca and Charlie were strangers you read about in the press: strangers who touched your hearts.

You may have shed tears. You may have felt anger.

I know all of you felt sorrow and, in some way, shared our pain.

I wish you could have known them. You have felt a little of the pain of their terrible passing but you have never known the joy of their presence.

I want to share a little of that with you.

I want to introduce them to you.


Perhaps some of you feel anger toward him. You know him only as the man who did this.

I know him as the man who fell in love with my daughter.

I know him as the man who worked tirelessly to support the family he worshipped.

I know him as the man who, together with my daughter, raised my beautiful grandchildren in an environment of love and joy and laughter.

He and Ruth taught them responsibility so that they always knew why they couldn't always get their own way and they were able to accept these boundaries with understanding instead of resentment.

I don't think I ever heard the phrase "because I said so" in the Fuller household.

When he played with them, it was never as an adult amusing the children.

He would surrender himself to the joys of playing as if he, too, were a child.

When he had to address misbehaviour, he did so with reason and never with punishment.

Perhaps we will never understand the torment in Ceri's mind that drove him to such an act but I know that this was not an act of malice or spite.

I weep for my daughter's pain, I weep for the loss of my grandchildren and I weep for Ceri's pain and confusion in equal measures.

There are no villains in this dreadful episode. There are only victims.

He will always remain a man I am proud to have called my son-in-law.


Sam was an astoundingly intelligent boy with a surprisingly sophisticated sense of humour.

He was interested in so many things and ate life up with a spoon.

I remember so many occasions I had taken him on walks in the woodlands in the beautiful Forest of Dean, where we live.

When he was very little, he would often select a stick so he could walk ahead of me and fight off all the invisible dragons that would have otherwise devoured me.

At around the age of four or five, he became fascinated with superhero comics and decided that he would be a 'comic writer'.

He invented his own superheroes, usually with bizarre superpowers.

My favourite is "Icky, icky, icky, icky sticky man". This was a superhero who would save the world with his astounding powers of stickiness. I'm not sure exactly how, but I don't doubt the world is a better place thanks to Icky, icky, icky, icky sticky man.

Like his father, Sam developed an interest in science. He loved computers, natural science, biology, maths, astronomy and all the studies that could help him to figure out exactly how the universe works.

By the age of 12, he had developed an interest in engineering and, along with being a 'comic writer', an astronaut, a base-jumper (whatever that is), a globetrotting adventurer, a journalist, a film-maker and a superhero, he added engineer to his ambitions.

His careers adviser would have had a lot to sift through.

Sam could hold his own in any conversation with adults and his sharp wit and humour always shone through.

I am so grateful for the time that I had with him.


Becca was the quiet one. Until very recently, she was intensely shy and introverted.

She was also very camera-shy and I deeply regret that we had managed to get so few photographs of her, because the few we had managed to get are now all that we will ever have.

In the last year or so, however, she began to blossom.

She became more outward and able to communicate her thoughts. She was artistic and articulate and very much like her mother.

Ruth is an artist so there were always plenty of art materials around.

Becca was always free to indulge her creativity not only with the chalks and crayons and modelling clay that children are generally familiar with, but also with oil paints and canvas and pottery clay and sculpture materials.

She was just beginning to explore the concepts and ideas that, for so long, had remained hidden beneath the veil of shyness.

In effect, we were only just beginning to know her when she was taken from us.

She was just beginning to show her competitive streak and her will to accomplish.

It was as if she had been quietly observing life to find the path she wanted to take.

Like her brother, she was beginning to show signs of a sharp wit and acute sense of humour.

I could see her as a writer and felt within my heart that this would have been the path she would have taken.

Although there were no favourites as such, there was clearly a very special bond between Ruth and Becca: like a grown-up version and a child version of the same person.

I was just beginning to know her and now the little I have is all that I have left to cherish.


Charlie is the youngest and the absolute opposite of Becca. Many of the photos I attempted to take of Becca wound up as photos of Charlie leaping in front of the lens. She was extroverted and assertive.

There was not a trace of Becca's shyness. She once became besotted by another little boy at her school and decided that he would be her boyfriend (at the age of four).

She had an interesting approach to early childhood courtship: marching up to the object of her heart's desire in the playground, she demanded: "Marry ME, you bugger!"

She was the most demonstrative of her love and never shy of showing her affection.

We never had to 'steal' a hug from Charlie. She was as keen for hugs and kisses as she was for photo opportunities.

Charlie found everything funny and was constantly laughing.

Everything seemed to be a joy to her.

She also enjoyed art and her rather surreal view would be expressed in the drawings and paintings she produced in copious quantities.

They were always a little crazy, such as her drawing of a caterpillar pushing a rock up a mountain. Ruth had given both Becca and Charlie a canvas each and some oil paints so they could paint a 'proper' picture like mummy does.

Becca painted a green field with flowers and a blue sky with the classic shining sun. Charlie, on the other hand, painted a complete abstract with no attempt to portray anything figuratively.

Ruth asked what it was and Charlie explained it was a picture of "everything going backwards". The crazy thing is that, once explained, we could see that it actually was.

I have little doubt about the woman she would have become. She would have been a wacky, bohemian artist with a love of the oblique.

The photos of her at her parents' wedding with her distinctive 'bobbly' hairstyle show her personality.

Ruth had fixed her hair like that to set it so that it would fall in ringlets when brushed out. Charlie was having none of that. Lots of other girls would have ringlets but Charlie insisted on keeping her hair in bobbles. She said she wanted "crazy hair", not the same as everybody else's.

These are the people whose horrific deaths you have read about. I hope this helps to balance the news reports with a little of their lives too.

We had them for so short a time. No grandparent should have to bury their grandchildren and no parent should have to bury their sons or daughters.

But this has happened and we must deal with it. Each day is hard to get through. Today has been hard, yesterday was hard and tomorrow will be hard.

The pain will be with us forever and will never ease... but we will get stronger and we will survive this.

Despite the nature of what occurred, there are no real villains in this terrible incident, only victims. I would ask all to suspend judgment and find compassion for all.

I thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers. I thank everyone who has laid flowers and messages both at the family's house and at the scene of the incident.

Ruth will receive these and I know they will be of great comfort to her.

I also thank all who have sent out their thought and prayers. These also have been received and have been a source of comfort to all of us.

Now is the time for us to weep in privacy, to remember and cherish the exquisite memories we have.

Now it is time for us to try to begin some kind of recovery from this terrible ordeal. Thank you."


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