Moira Jones was abducted yards from her home in Glasgow and forced into a nearby park, where she was raped and murdered.
As her family struggled to come to terms with their loss and the brutal nature of her death, her mother, Bea, started to write a diary.
More than a decade later, she has shared that journal with BBC Scotland and recorded her words for documentary The Dark Shadow of Murder.
Maybe my pain will be eased if, as I write of my desolation and despair, I also write of my lovely Moira and the wonderful person she was.
This is something that may help me, something which will keep me focused, by giving me a purpose and it may help others to understand the anguish associated with the violent death of a loved one.
Moira was deliberately beaten, raped, killed. She was alone with a terrifying monster in the dark and none of us knew.
None of us will ever truly know what she went through.
How can you be prepared for something like this? How do you cope? How do you absorb the enormity of it all?
Table Of Contents
Bad news from Scotland
On the morning of 29 May 2008 a park ranger discovered a woman’s body behind a privet hedge in the middle of Queen’s Park, Glasgow.
Just over 24 hours later, a plain clothes police officer turned up at the Jones’ home in Weston, Staffordshire, some 270 miles way.
The officer told Bea that he had bad news from Scotland.
She rushed to the garden where husband, Hu, was tidying the shed. He initially thought there had been a road accident.
They were told that a body had been found in Glasgow, and that the police thought it was their daughter.
Bea remembers thinking: How could a body in the park be Moira?
Arrangements were quickly made for the couple to travel north, but first they had to break the news to their son Grant, who was living in Perth, Australia.
Bea wrote: I won’t ever forget Grant’s shout of despair, the anguish I could hear when I told him. I tried to tell him slowly.
First I said that I had bad news, then that it was the worst possible news, and then I just had to say it… that Moira was dead and that we thought she had been murdered.
‘What had happened to our lovely girl?’
After a four-hour drive to Glasgow, Bea and Hu were led into a room with a wall-mounted black and white monitor to perform the most traumatic duty of their lives.
In the mortuary I looked straight at the screen and for a second, just one second, I recognized Moira.
I think I gasped and blurted out: “Oh, Moira.”
And then it was gone. It was not Moira. Her face, something about the whole picture, wasn’t right for Moira.
Her hair was spread up behind her head onto the table and it had waves and curls, because it had been wet and tangled. It wasn’t straight and classy like Moira wore it.
Hubert said he didn’t think it was Moira. But I knew. In that very first instant I had known. I had recognised the bone structure around her eyebrows and forehead.
What had happened to our lovely girl to change her? What had been done to make her look different?
Less than 48 hours after hearing the news about his big sister’s murder, Grant was reunited with his parents at Glasgow Airport. Together, they travelled to the crime scene.
It was as if we were driving into a vacuum and all the usual signs of life had been sucked out of the area.
It was as I imagine a film-set to be, a film set without the cast.
The park was like a huge empty stage and policemen were positioned around the perimeter to keep the audience out.
Afterwards they were driven to the mortuary so Grant could see Moira for the final time.
As before, they were not allowed to touch her – but this time, instead of a monitor, they were allowed to see her through a glass screen.
The next 10 minutes were deeply distressing.
Grant could not stay to look at his lovely sister and he was there for only a couple of minutes.
Hu and I remained there a little longer and wept over the fate of our beautiful Moira.
This time Hu was left in no doubt that the woman before him was his beloved daughter.
We knew it was Moira and I wanted to stroke my girl’s face but couldn’t, and there was no warm smile, no expressive gesture, no dancing eyes.
Moira wasn’t there anymore.
I know we tried to say goodbye but there could be no hugs or kisses and everything was heart-wrenchingly, horribly wrong.
Moira, so good, so loved, so loving, lying there cold, alone, in a police mortuary – dead!
She had been the best daughter, sister and friend in the world and, although we spoke to her while we wept, I did not feel as if I was saying a proper goodbye.
I will never feel as if I have said goodbye to my girl.
‘My heart was really breaking’
Britvic sales executive Moira had moved from London to Glasgow in 2003 and the city quickly became her home.
She warmed to its people, and at the time of her death had been dating boyfriend Paul Thompson for four years.
Two days before the murder, Moira told Bea she had bought the invitations for her belated 40th birthday party – which she had planned for September.
In her diary, retired teacher Bea mourns for the future her daughter never had.
I was deeply distressed that Moira would never experience the absolute joy I felt when she was born, the joy that she had given us every day of her life.
I believe that there is no deeper love on earth than that of a mother for her child, a love that will never diminish, and she would never know that now, never experience that very different all-consuming love.
She would have been such a wonderful mother. My heart was really breaking.
‘My imagination terrified me’
In the months that followed, Bea became tormented by her daughter’s ordeal.
The family still knew very little about Moira’s final moments.
We were in hell on earth, hurting, bewildered and still knowing very little about what had happened to our darling girl.
The death certificate had simply said “head and neck injuries” and that told us nothing.
We did know that Moira’s murder was a brutal one but had no detail.
My imagination terrified me.
We are going through the agony of not knowing while we await the agony of knowing.
The investigation into Moira’s abduction and murder was a complex one.
Detectives soon had a DNA profile of the suspect, but it didn’t match any on record in the UK.
CCTV footage showed a mystery man walking towards the park with a woman and later leaving alone – but then the trail went cold.
However, door-to-door inquiries at a bedsit near the park provided the breakthrough.
The man police were hunting – described by detectives as a “ghost” – was 33-year-old Marek Harcar. He had only been in Glasgow for a matter of days before the savage attack.
At dawn on 1 June the ex-soldier fled Scotland and returned to his homeland of Slovakia. He was eventually tracked down on 18 June, hiding in a friend’s house in the rural village of Nalepkovo.
Bea wrote that she “experienced no emotion whatsoever” when he she was told the news of Harcar’s arrest, and refers to him as “the vehicle of evil”.
She saw the killer for the first time at a pre-trial hearing, and observed that when he was taken from the dock “he cast his eyes around the room and quite deliberately smirked at us as he swaggered out”.
Despite the weight of evidence against him, the 6ft 3in kickboxing enthusiast maintained his innocence – forcing the family to face the fresh agony of a trial.
In the build-up, details of Moira’s horrific injuries were shared with Bea and Hu for the first time.
They already knew that she had been abducted less than 60 yards from her flat at 23:30 on 28 May.
But a post-mortem examination revealed it was unlikely that Moira had died before 02:00 the following day.
Bea wrote: Moira had had to endure at least two-and-a-half hours of terror and pain as she fought for her dignity and her life.
How did she suffer it, my girl? Why did she have to?
‘I was burying my beautiful girl’
On 9 August 2008 Moira was finally laid to rest near the family home in Weston.
The rain was torrential, as it was on the night she died, and a lone piper led the procession from the church to the graveyard.
Filming the documentary, Bea broke down on camera as she read out the passage she had written.
Moira was carried down the long path and across the churchyard by her dad and brother, by Paul and by her uncles.
I was there in body but although I had been so worried about breaking down, about jumping or falling into the grave with her, that didn’t happen.
I lost it – my head took me away so that when I was lowering the cord it was not because I was burying my beautiful girl, and Moira was not in the coffin.
I just had to try to stop shaking and make sure everyone was getting the box in the hole.
In the following months everyday tasks brought Bea’s trauma to the surface.
She wrote about shopping for a birthday card for one of Moira’s closest friends.
From yards away one card appeared to jump at me and I read: ‘Life begins at 40…’
It hadn’t for Moira. It had ended. I thought I was going to fall down.
‘What my girl went through is unimaginable’
On 12 March 2009 Harcar went on trial for Moira’s murder at the High Court in Glasgow.
Bea wrote that the family kept a tight rein on their emotions but were “like wooden puppets with jelly inside”.
The early evidence focused on the crime scene and included a video which showed Moira’s last walk.
From the moment Moira was assaulted and abducted outside the park, as she was forced across the road, her every thought must have been on escape, on survival, and, as the moments ticked by, as she underwent further assault and pain, things must have become more terrifying, more desperate, more hopeless.
Who can really understand the extent of Moira’s mental anguish that night?
I have experienced some terrifying nightmares since Moira’s murder, my mental anguish remains profound, but what my girl went through is unimaginable.
The following day the jury saw CCTV footage from a passing bus which captured Moira – who was 5ft 4in – being led along the perimeter of the park by a man who was towering over her.
Bea said the image gave out “terrible vibes of evil then, and it continues to do that as I think of it now”.
The court also heard some haunting testimony from witnesses.
One woman who lived in a flat overlooking the park heard a loud scream which was cut off. Two other couples heard Moira in distress as they walked past the park.
We did not know in advance that there had been any screams at all that night.
It was so hard to learn this, to know that Moira was screaming for help and in pain, but it was even more hellish to know that her screams were heard, understood and ignored.
I hurt so much now thinking of her utter despair, her terror.
A post-mortem examination revealed that Moira had suffered 65 separate blunt force trauma injuries, inflicted by punches, kicks and stamps.
On 8 April, the final day of the trial, the family learned Harcar had 13 previous convictions before he arrived in the UK – at least four of which involved violence.
Bea describes him as “an inhuman, frenzied brute”.
The jury took less than two hours to deliver a unanimous verdict.
The court was packed and the atmosphere was tense. The jury came in and it was over.
The verdict was guilty. Guilty of everything.
As the first guilty was announced I watched one of the warders lean over and handcuff Moira’s murderer.
The judge, Lord Bracadale, set the punishment part of Harcar’s life sentence at 25 years.
He said the crime had “shocked the nation” and told the killer: “Your conduct that night reflects a level of wickedness very rarely encountered.”
‘A perfect legacy’
After the verdict, Bea announced the family was setting up a charity to help those bereaved by murder.
Since then The Moira Fund has helped more than 1,000 families across the UK by providing grants to cover everything from funeral costs to clothes for attending court.
Every year Bea and Hu return to the scene of the crime for the 5k Moira Run.
And last year her relentless campaigning resulted in the launch of a new service to help relatives who have lost loved ones to murder or culpable homicide.
Grant says his mother has been a “tower of strength” and Hu is proud of the difference the Moira Fund has made to so many lives, describing it as “a perfect legacy”.
But more than 12 years on, Bea’s grief remains raw for the daughter she loved and lost.
I want to scream “Moira” so loudly that it reverberates around the world and penetrates to every part of the universe so that somehow, somewhere, she can hear me and know how much I miss her and love her with every fibre of my being…
So that I can tell her how much we appreciated the truly wonderful person she was, everything she did for us, everything she did for so many people, and maybe she can send some sort of sign that she knows, that she does not hurt any more, that she is at peace, that we’ll be together again one day.
The Dark Shadow of Murder will be broadcast on the BBC Scotland channel at 22:00 on 1 September.