On the day that Gerry White’s killer pleaded not guilty to murder, his widow Lee has spoken to the Isle of Wight Observer about the tragedy, and the support of the Island community that is helping her and her family to cope in the aftermath.
The 73-year-old former Isle of Wight councillor was killed in woodland off Scotchells Brook Lane near his home in Lake on May 27, and yesterday (Sept 12) Jonathan Stasiuk (60) appeared in Southampton Crown Court charged with his murder. He pleaded not guilty but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He was remanded in custody ahead of a murder trial expected to begin on November 4.
Lee, who was with Gerry for 25 years, told the IW Observer that she wanted Mr Stasiuk to be found guilty of murder, saying: “I’m just an ordinary person and no legal expert, but my personal feelings are that it couldn’t possibly be manslaughter,” adding that she wished the killer had accepted the charge of murder and pleaded guilty to avoid all the pain that a full trial would bring to her family.
She is aware that the hearing was delayed for more psychiatric reports on the killer but is glad that if it must go ahead at least things are finally moving forward. She believes that things will come to light during the process that will shed light on why the Police are still pressing ahead with the murder charge. She doesn’t know all the details, but “it’s a small Island and people talk.”
Lee was keen to stress that the Island community is helping her cope and come to terms with the loss of Gerry: “People have been fantastic. I have been hugged in the street by total strangers, which was a bit overwhelming at first, but over time it has meant a lot to me because it shows how much Gerry was loved and appreciated by so many people. Some do tread carefully because they don’t know what to say and because of the shocking circumstances in which he died, but there is warmth when they talk to you and they always ask, ‘How are you?’”
Gerry was the landlord of the Stag Inn in Lake and they have erected plaque up in memory of him and are arranging to have a bench dedicated to her husband across the road. It’s clear that the tribute means a lot to her and she talks about how much of a friend Paul McManus, Gerry’s business partner has been.”
“I’m not sure that it has really sunk in yet. Gerry was such a huge presence, but somehow you just have to keep on going. He was a such a loving family man with me, his children, grandchildren, sister, brother, nephews and nieces.”
Those who knew Gerry will understand why his loss is felt so deeply. Lee reveals, with sadness, that some members of the family have needed sleeping pills, anti-depressants and counselling to try to help them cope with the trauma of losing such a much-loved figure in such a horrific way. It’s clear that the prospect of a full trial unfolding in public isn’t helping.
Special praise is reserved for her Police Liaison Officer, who she describes as simply wonderful: “I couldn’t have asked for better; she speaks to me in a way I can understand and makes the professional way in which the police must do their job more personal and I can always talk to her. I’m not sure if I can name her – sometimes it’s hard to know what I am supposed to say, but I would like her to know I appreciate everything she has done for me.”
She is determined that Gerry should be remembered for what he was, a kind man, fiercely loyal who enjoyed helping others and was always up for a laugh. She says, “It’s hard to explain properly, but Gerry existed. He was what he was, and I want people to remember him as he was. He’s left an enormous hole in my life, but he also touched the lives of so many other people. It’s only now that he’s gone that I have fully come to realise that. I’m not saying he was a saint, but he would do anything for anybody, and he really loved his charity work with the Rotary Club.”
Finally, Lee voices what so many of us think: “It’s hard to believe that this has happened to us here, on the Island. It affects your sense of security. Sometimes you can see why these things happen; I’m not saying it’s right, but for instance when somebody has endured months of domestic violence you can see how they might snap. That’s not the case here. What happened to Gerry was senseless, just so senseless.”