A CHOIRBOY, aged 11, who was attacked by two young brothers in Edlington, South Yorkshire, before they went on to torture two children almost to death, was due to be confirmed on Wednesday night by the Bishop of Beverley, the Rt Revd Martyn Jarrett. The two brothers pleaded guilty in Sheffield Crown Court on Thursday of last week to attacking the two other children.
The choirboy at St John the Baptist’s was attacked during Lent, but his attackers ran off when they saw someone coming, the Vicar, the Revd Jeff Stokoe, said on Tuesday.
“He was in church the next day with what looked like a black eye. But that is not unexpected with boys. Many people just saw it like that in the beginning: around here it would be seen almost as a badge of honour. It was only later that we realised the significance of what had happened.
“People have asked, ‘Did the police take the incident seriously enough?’ I understand that the two brothers were due to be interviewed about it by the police with their carers on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, but they did not turn up. It seems likely that was when they attacked the other two boys.”
Mr Stokoe, who has been in the parish ten years, said that the brothers had been sent to the area because social services believed that they could sort out their problems there. It was not, contrary to press comment, the sort of place where such a “vicious attack” could be expected.
“Who of us could understand this or expect it?” he asked. “It does not normally happen anywhere. It is so beyond the experience of any of us.”
The attack on the two children took place the day before Palm Sunday. “The whole situation was held in prayer in that first week, and we have continued to pray for aspects of it ever since. On Good Friday, our ecumenical walk of witness goes very close to where the attack happened, and when we got to the closest point, we stopped for a minute’s silence.”
The press has reported that seven children have died in three years while in the care of Doncaster Social Services. “Various inquiries are taking place”, the Vicar said; so it was not the right time to make any comment. In April last year, he had buried a girl of 12 to 13 months old who was killed by her father two Christmases ago.
“I am more convinced than ever that the Church has got to keep people on the ground everywhere, and keep the churches open wherever they can. I know that people must be slipping in to church to say a prayer, because I will go in the middle of the day or in the evening, and there will be a candle burning,” he said.