For Arbery’s family and friends, the trial has been a time of anguish and activism

Now the trial draws to a close, My Maury and Andy Arbery, whose father and brother were murdered, will live to see justice

For Arbery’s family and friends, the trial has been a time of anguish and activism

“It was a great journey. The way it ended brings great satisfaction,” said Ann McKenzie, the sister of Martin Arbery, who was murdered in 1984 in the early hours of the morning as he was trying to break up a fight.

McKenzie and her daughter, Eoin, as well as Arbery’s brother, Annette, have been attending the trial of Frank Hewett, who was freed by a jury last year on appeal, and will be angry to see him back on remand.

“He was acquitted by an opinion that there was insufficient evidence, which is a terrible thing to say,” McKenzie said. “The concern we’ve had all along is that he could be acquitted by a preponderance of the evidence and be found innocent again.”

The family had to wait 13 years for justice for Martin, a Labour councillor, despite issuing two appeals. Not only did he receive no compensation, but despite an inquest and separate police inquiry, as well as a coroner’s inquest when he died, justice for Martin and his family was left to extend to the current trial, taking place in the basement of the Old Bailey in London.

A computer archive held at the National Archives in Kew, south-west London, contains tapes of evidence that have not yet been played to the jury, which involves a description of Arbery being beaten at the Head of Passes pub in Southgate, north London, in November 1984, with life-saving treatment that could have saved his life withheld because of fears for community relations.

Martin Arbery, shown here in 1984 in Southgate, north London, when he was campaigning against the closure of the Handick Road Tube line. Photograph: Nipp/Alamy

At the press conference on Thursday following the end of the trial, Ann said Arbery’s children did not want to hear Hewett’s statement, adding that, if convicted, Hewett would not be able to give evidence in the future.

Arbery’s mother, Eileen, a long-time activist in the Labour party, organised her son’s funeral and remained active in his memory for decades.

“For our family, the trial has been very difficult, very emotional. A lot of things have happened, there’s a very sad way to go through things. But for me it is complete vindication.

“How did he get released last year? It should never have happened. We are very pleased that the Arbery family can now have this over and move on with their lives, because we were always in the media.”

McKenzie conceded that there would always be the possibility of reliving Arbery’s murder.

“It’s possible, it’s hard. He was a very brave person to be a councillor and to fight the fight for us all these years. And although we might get closure, we will never be over it,” she said.

As she spoke, the Arbery family received a letter from a Labour councillor in Southgate, who had been campaigning for Martin’s murder since the age of five.

The mother of Murdered Children’s Trust patron, Fiona Mactaggart, said that her family had been “to the front line” of activism on behalf of Martin and Arbery and had every confidence that the trial was fair.

“I am extremely pleased, I’m feeling relieved, not only for Martin’s family but for the Arbery family,” she said. “This proves that the system works and there is a degree of justice.”

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