Excerpts from Victim Personal Statements by the parents, sisters and partner of Matthew Bradley, issued with their kind permission
Margaret Bradley – Mother of Matthew
I am Margaret Bradley, the mother of Matthew Bradley, born on 26 September 1993.
Matthew grew up in a household with three sisters – a sunny, smiley, toddler with a gorgeous blonde head of curls, who became a happy child always surrounded by friends, and eventually a young man we were immensely proud of.
He was a total gentleman, kind, sweet-natured and big-hearted, nothing was ever too much trouble for Matthew.
Early last November, we were all making plans to be together for Christmas. He was living in Guildford but we were as close as ever, and I couldn’t wait to have him at home with me.
The last time we spoke was that day, his usual phone call to me just a short one as he got ready to head off into work.
Hours later, police were at our door, waking us from our beds to tell us he was dead.
Donal Bradley – Father of Matthew
I am Donal Bradley, Matthew’s father.
I will never forget the moment when my mobile rang in the middle of the night. It was the police asking me to come down and let them in. They told me Matthew had been killed. I was in disbelief that this could have happened or involved Matthew.
Eight weeks prior to this knock on the door, we had the anniversary of losing our son David, who 23 years prior had also been killed at the age of five, being knocked over outside our home. I was filled with dread and fear of the whole process again.
The next morning we had to take a flight from Belfast to Liverpool in order to identify Matthew. I was in disbelief that this could happen a second time, how could I lose another son.
We flew over, I don’t recall this flight at all. We had a brief conversation with the officers before travelling to Liverpool and the hospital. I had been asked to identify Matthew officially.
Rhiannon Williams – Partner of Matthew
Matthew and I met on Friday 13th May 2016. We were both working on site at the Chelsea Flower Show. I was stepping onto a wall and he offered me his hand and just like that we clicked. I would give anything to go back to that day.
During that first week we spent so much time together, getting to know each other.
We walked along the Thames and stayed up for hours just talking. It was all so easy, exactly how you think it should be.
Over the next few months we would visit each other every other weekend, taking it in turn to travel the 400 miles. He was so proud to be showing me off to all his family and friends. He had such faith in us I didn’t have to worry about any of it.
In Christmas 2016, he was offered a job by my boss and moved to England to live with me and my parents in Guildford. Everything finally felt like it was falling into place. We had a plan: we were going to be working together and living together.
On the day in happened, the Friday, Matthew and I drove up to Wrexham to my aunt and uncle’s house. We also talked a lot about our future, when we would move back to Belfast, talking about where we wanted to live, when we would get engaged. He had it all planned out, he knew when we would get married, where it would be and who would be there. He wanted to build a house next to his parents’ house and he knew exactly what it would look like.
Once we had arrived and dropped my stuff off, my Uncle drove Matt and I to Liverpool. We arrived at the hotel he was staying at about 9pm and we said our goodbyes. I gave him a big hug; I didn’t want to let him go as it was the first night we were apart since he had moved in together. We then met my Aunt and went for dinner, and on the way back to the car park we walked along the Strand, passing where it would happen.
Throughout the evening Matt and I texted each other, just checking in. I went back to my Aunt and Uncle’s house and he stopped texting.
I thought he’d lost his phone or broken it but I had a bad feeling.
I find myself replaying that night over and over in my head. To know that my beautiful son has been killed is horrendous. But to also known who did this just drove away is truly unbearable. Their first thoughts weren’t to stop, to see if there was still a pulse, to phone for an ambulance to help, or to show the tiniest touch of human compassion to just kneel beside him so he wasn’t entirely alone when he took his final breath.
Instead they just sped away, and abandoned the car in the hope that they would get away with what they had done.
It brings me so much pain to watch the suffering of my three girls trying to come to terms with losing their beloved brother.
Claire Kemp – Sister of Matthew
My name is Claire Kemp. I am Matthew’s sister, one of three. I miss him every day. He is my first and last thought.
We had been such a close knit group growing up. When Matthew was just 11 months old, we lost my brother David, also to a road traffic collision. We focussed a lot of our attention on Matthew as a baby, who brought love and joy into a sad household devastated by the loss of David.
I was 10 weeks pregnant when Matthew was killed. I was waiting for my 12 week scan to share the good news. Matthew now has a nephew he will never meet.
My sister Megan is two years younger than Matthew, and growing up they had been inseparable. I have watched them share everything and support each other their whole lives. Megan and Matthew’s birthday dates were just 16 days apart and, although Megan joked each birthday that she was catching up, this year will now be the year which Megan catches Matthew and it breaks my heart.
My sister Roisin has been pregnant following Matthew’s death, he will never see her as a mother, which he would have been so excited about. It’s another niece or nephew he will not have the joy to meet and they won’t have the privilege to meet and learn from him.
Matthew started coming to work with me when he was about 10 years old to help me with my landscaping business. He was a very quick learner and I was very proud when he chose to go to college to study horticulture and landscaping.
When he finished his studies he chose to come and work with me. He was a huge asset to the business – he had a flair for design and was very popular with our customers.
I miss him most for his companionship – we travelled in the van together, ate from the same lunchbox, drank tea from the same flask.
Matthew discovered his true passion – designing and creating beautiful gardens – a passion that saw him transform from a teenager full of self-doubt to a confident, hardworking, and successful young man. He was just at the start of his career, but had already won award after award for his work, and showed so much promise.
The week before, Matthew was on the phone to share the good news about his promotion in work and sent me a picture of his new company van.
It had been our intention when Matthew returned at Christmas that we would discuss the future of our business and the house, this would have been a legacy for him to take over in the future.
I have had to return to work to ensure it doesn’t fail for the young boys I employ and have been committed to training. I wouldn’t want to fail them despite the great sadness I still have.
Matthew was my only surviving son and I loved him dearly. I have been left in an enormous amount of grief again and see no end in sight having lost my second baby boy.
Almost a year on, I find myself consumed by thoughts of Matthew almost every minute of every day. I try to focus on the many, many happy memories we shared but as times I find myself filled with anger and sadness that there will be no more, that I will never watch him get married, or start a family of his own, or grow into the man he should have been.
The loss of Matthew is a void in my heart that can never be filled.
Siblings are our ties to family bonds. They have known us the longest. They understand our history and are the people with whom we have the longest running jokes. They are our bridesmaids and our groomsmen. They are our children’s aunts and uncles. They are the most judgemental people we know. They are the most accepting and loving people we know. Siblings can never be replaced and when they are gone we miss them terribly.
When your parents are gone you lose the past, when your siblings are gone you lose the past and the future.
Every morning I wake up, I remember what has happened and my heart breaks and the world crashes around me. Not only have I lost the love of my life, I have lost my future.
Matthew was my everything and my heart is beyond broken.