Frank Mullane: how the murder of his sister and nephew changed his life and purpose

8 months ago 97

The archetypal clip Frank Mullane’s sister Julia confided that her matrimony was unhappy, that her hubby of 23 years was controlling and abusive, and that she intended to inquire for a divorce, Mullane responded successful what helium present calls “a John Wayne benignant of way”. “I asked: ‘When tin I springiness him a thump?’” helium recalls. “My beingness is wholly antithetic now, but astatine the clip I didn’t person a clue. I knew thing astir home abuse, but I felt 100% solidarity. I wanted to amusement I was connected her broadside – the cavalry.”

Mullane and Julia were 2 of 8 siblings from a adjacent Irish family. Their parents had travel from Cork to London, past Wiltshire, wherever their begetter built a location large capable for each of them. As adults, they stayed close. “We were a loving family, ever successful each other’s houses,” says Mullane. He was unmarried and had remained successful Wiltshire arsenic a concern advisor for Nationwide. Julia had trained arsenic a caregiver earlier marrying Alan Pemberton, an accountant and businessman. She aboriginal retrained arsenic a wellness visitor. They lived with their 2 teenage children 25 miles away, adjacent Newbury, successful a location they built – large, secluded, acceptable successful acres of woodland.

Three months aft she told her member she wanted to permission her husband, Julia called Mullane successful a authorities of terror. It was a Saturday successful September 2002. She had asked Pemberton for a divorcement and for weeks helium had veered betwixt tears and remorse, past verbal aggression. That Friday night, helium had calmly announced that helium was going distant for a fewer days, but that connected his instrumentality they would “live arsenic antheral and woman for a specified magnitude of time”, earlier helium decided if it was working. If Julia did not hold to these terms, Pemberton said, “I volition instrumentality my life. I volition instrumentality your life.” Before leaving, helium laid retired their wills connected his survey table with instructions for their children successful the lawsuit of their deaths.

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Julia did not uncertainty that helium meant it. Mullane says: “I drove consecutive over, camped successful the location and slept by the beforehand door, everything bolted. This was maine trying to measurement up for my sister. There was a brainsick surrealness. We were calling the constabulary each weekend, begging them to travel out, but they ne'er did. They would not come.”

For the adjacent 14 months, Julia was terrorised by Pemberton. He texted, called and dropped notes done the letterbox of the location wherever she lived with the children. (They read: “It’s appalling. I volition instrumentality my revenge,” and: “You’ve ruined my life, you volition person to look the consequences.”) Julia sought constabulary assistance aggregate times and had interaction with a home unit coordinator connected six occasions. Pemberton was ne'er interviewed oregon apprehended. For six months, Julia had an injunction against him, which was past downgraded by the tribunal to an undertaking by Pemberton to enactment away.

On the evening of 18 November 2003, Pemberton arrived connected the mendacious premise of taking their 17-year-old son, Will, a promising musician, for a driving lesson. (Their older kid was not astatine home.) Julia, 47, had done her champion to assistance the children support interaction with Pemberton. On this day, arsenic an objection owed to atrocious weather, helium was allowed connected to the driveway.

Pemberton changeable and killed Will extracurricular the house, past broke inside, wherever helium killed Julia and past himself. Julia’s harrowing 999 telephone lasted 16 minutes, ending with: “I’ve got astir 1 infinitesimal … He’s coming now,” followed by a shriek and silence. Despite the telephone handler’s proposal to “stay hidden” due to the fact that constabulary officers were “on their way” and “trying to attack carefully”, successful information officers had not adjacent been dispatched. When they were, they could not find the house. When they did, determination was a lengthy hazard assessment. No 1 entered for different six hours.


Eighteen years on, Mullane’s beingness has changed immeasurably. Where erstwhile helium knew small astir patterns of maltreatment and home homicide, present you are improbable to conscionable anyone who knows more. As the laminitis and CEO of Advocacy After Fatal Domestic Abuse (AAFDA), helium has helped hundreds of bereaved families, guiding them done inquests, constabulary complaints procedures and – his country of expertise – home homicide reviews (DHRs). These are exhaustive investigations into home homicides and suicides, conducted connected a no-blame ground – an attack Mullane requested to assistance place each missed opportunity, unheeded outcry for assistance and acquisition that could beryllium learned to effort to forestall specified deaths.

DHRs became a ineligible request for each home homicide successful 2011. AAFDA is simply a centre of excellence, providing the nationalist accredited grooming for DHR chairs and sheet members. As a Home Office reader, Mullane has quality-assured much than 900 of them. Julia’s lawsuit was the archetypal DHR successful England. This was down to Mullane and his dogged refusal to halt asking questions.

In November 2003, successful the aftermath of the murders, helium was arsenic stunned and numb arsenic immoderate bereaved member and uncle could be. He recalls lasting successful his mother’s room successful the aboriginal hours of 19 November and his sister Siobhan asking: “What bash we bash now?” “I looked astatine her and said: ‘Breathe,’” says Mullane. “There is nary representation for this – but 1 happening that happens is that we breathe.”

In the pursuing days – identifying the bodies, visiting the transgression country – the household began to get angry. Why was Pemberton ne'er apprehended? Why was Julia’s code not successful the constabulary strategy erstwhile she had been assured it was? Why did it instrumentality truthful agelong for officers to participate the house? “We got immoderate answers, but past they abruptly refused to springiness immoderate more, truthful we got organised,” says Mullane. “We’d person meetings astatine Newbury constabulary station. I retrieve erstwhile determination were 20 of america there. I had 70 questions from friends and family.”

Mullane became the household spokesperson. “It was thing to bash with my nature,” helium says. “My occupation was astir studying systems and procedures. I’d been trying to support Julie live and I was disgusted by the constabulary response. I did not similar being denied information. It riled me. I thought: ‘You’re not a backstage constabulary unit – you’re a nationalist body, paid for retired of taxation. You’ve got to unfastened the books. How situation you?’”

The inquest shed nary light. The coroner exonerated the police, adding that immoderate enactment mightiness person escalated Pemberton’s plans by “enraging him adjacent further”. He besides referenced events from Pemberton’s position – the accent of the injunction, the impending divorce. Unsurprisingly, Mullane walked retired of the court.

By now, the Mullanes had a lawyer and were connected bully presumption with their MP, Julia Drown. She told them astir plans to present DHRs successful England. Why not propulsion to marque Julia’s lawsuit the pilot? It made consciousness immediately. “Julie’s communicative inactive hadn’t been told,” says Mullane. (She was known arsenic Julie to her family. He chose Julia, her fixed name, for authoritative documents.)

“The inquest had allowed nine to deliberation determination was thing incorrect with the constabulary response. How outrageous. We wanted the facts that were inactive outstanding to us. We wanted the communicative of this fearfulness told accurately – and we wanted to spot change.”

The reappraisal took 2 years. The sheet interviewed everyone progressive – aggregate members of Thames Valley police, the Pembertons’ GP, friends, colleagues, employers, adept witnesses. The Mullanes supplied Julia’s diaries and sourced telephone records. Mullane was integral – it took implicit his life. Before it was finished, helium had near his job.

“By now, I’d begun to amended myself,” helium says. “I’d Googled ‘domestic abuse’ – I inactive question wherefore I didn’t bash that erstwhile Julie was alive. I was corresponding with radical successful the sector.

Mullane being awarded his MBE by the Queen successful  2019
‘It has fixed maine unthinkable purpose’ ... Mullane being awarded his MBE by the Queen successful 2019. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

“What truly struck maine was, first, its gendered quality and, second, its prevalence,” helium continues. “The presumption of the transgression isn’t precocious enough. It’s got obscurity adjacent the presumption of terrorism, yet it kills much radical and ruins galore much lives.

“I ever accidental I had some taken Julie earnestly and believed her, and yet someway didn’t recognize the dangerousness of these men. People underestimate the information of home maltreatment perpetrators, they truly do. But Julie didn’t. She predicted her ain murder.”

In November 2008, the 300-page Pemberton homicide reappraisal was published. It pointed to a bid of failings, idiosyncratic and systematic, wrong Thames Valley police. There was nary home maltreatment argumentation and nary strategical knowing of home maltreatment oregon hazard assessment. The firearms argumentation was overcautious. It included pages of recommendations and was followed by a written apology from the main constable.

“It was a large thing,” says Mullane. “It gave america capable accusation to consciousness similar we were implicit the line. Something I accidental to bereaved families is to deliberation astir wherever the enactment is for you – otherwise, you’ll beryllium determination each your life.” But it did not mean that this was the end. “For me, it meant a cupful of beverage and we commencement again. What were the constabulary doing with the enactment plan?”

Mullane present has a beardown narration with Thames Valley constabulary and has started an grant for immoderate nonrecreational successful the portion who has gone beyond the norm to tackle home abuse. The John Latham grant is named aft the lawyer who represented them, who died successful 2010.

AAFDA was launched that year, 2008. “I knew determination would beryllium tons of families retired determination that wouldn’t person the cognition my household had acquired,” says Mullane. “The enactment disposable was passive – beverage and sympathy. What you request is advocacy.” But dealing time in, time out, with murder? “Well, injustice makes you anxious and I learned that that creates adrenaline – and with the assistance of my beauteous family, it has sustained maine ever since,” helium says. “You don’t hide astir execution and injustice. They support filling your substance vessel to person a spell astatine making things better.” Mullane’s siblings and extended household are cardinal to his life; immoderate unrecorded lone minutes away.

One of the archetypal cases helium assisted connected was that of Claire Marshall, who was stabbed to decease by her erstwhile spouse successful 2009. Her 3 children were taken successful by their grandparents and Mullane supported them successful each mode imaginable – warring for funds, getting an hold built connected their house, securing a taxi to instrumentality Marshall’s traumatised girl to school. Mullane adjacent assisted them successful the household tribunal erstwhile their solicitor did not amusement up.

A much caller lawsuit was that of Suzanne Van Hagen, who was recovered dormant astatine location successful Birmingham successful February 2013 alongside her partner, John Worton. West Midlands constabulary insisted it was an accidental overdose, contempt Worton’s agelong past of home maltreatment and grounds that Van Hagen was killed arsenic she attempted to leave.

For 8 years, AAFDA supported the household arsenic they pushed for and won a DHR and a constabulary review. “The lone credible decision is that Suzanne was killed successful home abuse,” says Mullane. “Her bequest has been restored.” Last month, West Midlands constabulary yet issued a nationalist apology, admitted liability for its failings and agreed to wage important compensation.


Mullane is acutely alert that determination is truthful overmuch much to beryllium done – but helium believes policies and consciousness are improving. He has worked to marque definite the professionals successful DHRs are treated appropriately, excessively – helium is not funny successful attributing blasted oregon scapegoating, but alternatively wants everyone’s penetration and testimony. Mullane wrote overmuch of the DHR statutory guidance, including a seven-step exemplary to marque families “integral” to the process. The connection utilized antecedently was “involved”. (“‘Involved’ is simply a wedding invitation,” helium says. “The guests person a constricted role. ‘Integral’ means overmuch higher presumption – to a degree, it’s a associated review.”)

He is pleased that the antheral who, with others, started the reappraisal movement, Neil Websdale astatine Arizona State University, told him England’s DHRs are “hugely influential”. With an AAFDA unit of 16, his aboriginal aims see moving to springiness much children a dependable aft fatal home abuse, arsenic good arsenic helping to amended household and friends connected harmless interventions erstwhile they fearfulness a loved 1 is astatine risk. In 2019, Mullane was awarded an MBE for services to families bereaved by home homicide.

His beingness has much meaning now. “It has fixed maine unthinkable purpose,” helium says. “Two radical mislaid their lives and 2 women a week person been murdered ever since. I was rudely awakened and my beingness has changed totally.”

Julia remains astatine the bosom of it. “I person her 999 telephone connected a portion upstairs,” says Mullane. “I’ve work the transcript, but ne'er heard it. I started listening a twelvemonth ago, but stopped it successful 1 second. My sister and I person said we’ll perceive 1 time together.” Why would he, I wonder? “It’s astir being a witness,” helium says.

“When the location was nary longer a transgression scene, I went connected my ain 1 evening to basal successful the country wherever my sister was murdered – it was a tiny storeroom. For implicit a year, Julie had thought each time erstwhile she went retired that he’d beryllium waiting successful the bushes to sprout her. She took temazepam to get immoderate slumber and inactive lone got 2 hours a night, due to the fact that she thought helium was coming for her.

“On the nighttime Julie died, she indispensable person been thinking: ‘I’ve been telling them each on and nary of them rather got it,’ truthful I wanted to acquisition it with her. I wanted to basal successful the acheronian and acquisition the fearfulness – but I couldn’t crook disconnected the last light. I was excessively frightened.”

He sobs suddenly, past composes himself. “It’s ridiculous, arsenic I couldn’t simulate it – I’d person had to person got shot, wouldn’t I? But it was maine trying to say: ‘There’s 1 witnesser to this, Julie and Will. You’re not alone.’”

In the UK, Samaritans tin beryllium contacted connected 116 123 and the domestic maltreatment helpline is 0808 2000 247. In Australia, the situation enactment work Lifeline is connected 13 11 14 and the national household unit counselling service is connected 1800 737 732. In the US, the suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 and the domestic unit hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other planetary helplines tin beryllium recovered via befrienders.org