Life for the most part for me is pretty normal. I work a normal job and try to keep a low profile. I have had my moments through the years though, made a few silly decisions, and met a few characters (good and bad) along the way. I'm sure most of us can relate to that in some way at some point in our lives.
We probably all have a disturbing or frightening tale to tell about the things that have happened to us, I should know I have had more than a few occurrences in my lifetime. I think this is all part and parcel of our journey in life, shit happens (so to speak).
One that really sticks in my mind and gives me the creeps whenever I think about it dates back over eleven years now. That is the time I met Darren Appleyard. Darren and I worked for the same company in the telecoms industry. At the time he was a trainee manager and sometimes managed my team. I never saw anything bad in him, he seemed like a normal run-of-the-mill kinda guy.
It was around this time that Darren asked me a favour. He knew that I had my own place and asked if he could rent the spare room in my house. According to him he had been asked to leave the house he was staying in by his landlady. He was renting a room off her, but she apparently just asked him to leave, completely out of the blue. He seemed bamboozled by it all and stressed out because he had nowhere else to go. After thinking about it for a minute I agree on the basis that he would speak to the owners of the house first.
At the time the house I was renting belonged to my mother, the house I grew up in, in my home town of Warrington, Cheshire. My mother had moved out out years earier after remarrying but I stayed behind and rented it off her. It was ideal for me really, I liked the area and it was close to work too.
After speaking to my folks they agreed to come down to meet Darren, to check him out and discuss rent. So the day after they drove up to the house to meet him. As my mother and stepfather entered the house, Darren offered both of them a hand-sake and a smile. I always remember the first thing he said to them, he remarked on how tall they both were. Darren was an ex marine, while he was physically fit and strong, he wasn't blessed with height. He was probably around 5 feet 7. It's funny how people can make comments during conversations and you don't think much about it at the time. Later after certain events take place, after you get to know them more, you look back at that moment and it becomes apparent that maybe that comment had some meaning in it, you get a look into their mindset. When I look back at that now it reminds me of a man who had a damaged ego.
Darren moved in that week, and to be fair he was no trouble. It was nice having someone else in the house for a change. We had a few crazy nights drinking and he told me about his time in the Marines and the training he was put through to become one. We also went into town on a couple of occasions for a drink. I recall him meeting a girl one night who was quite a bit younger than he was, and him going off with her. On another occasion at the weekend we went into town during the day, we started playing pool in one of the bars in Warrington town centre. While playing pool we ended up playing a few other guys for money. I was on form that day and wasn't missing anything. I remember taking quite a bit of money of them that day. I recall them starting to get quite irritated about our winning streak and each time we played the money kept going up, their desperate attempt to win back the money we had taken off them already. We were going to have one more game but after going to the toilet, Darren told me he had heard one of them say they were going to jump us outside with their friends. Needless to say we decided to sneak out and leave with our winnings.
I didn't really see anything that concerned me about Darren, not to any great extent anyway. The only two things that I could say about him during the five weeks or so that he lived with me, was the young girl he had a short term relationship with. To me she was way too young for him, he was in his mid 30's and she if i can remember correctly was in her late teens or early 20's. The other thing I noticed was when pushed he had a temper.
While walking through town one evening we crossed paths with a group of youths, the oldest one looked like he was about 18 or 19. This kid was cocky and barged past me, so I stopped and asked him what his problem was. I decided that he wasn't worth the hassle and just laughed and carried on walking. The group were shouting abuse at us as we walked on. Darren then swung round, and in a fit of rage screamed over at them to come back and we will sort this out now. They didn't take him up on the offer and carried on walking. That's the only time I ever saw real anger from him.
I also recall him making a few comments about his ex girlfriend Lisa. I didn't know Lisa but she worked for the same company as Darren and I. He didn't speak about her in great detail but did say that she had treated him badly.
After staying at my home for about five weeks, he just stopped coming back. I asked him at work what he was doing. He informed me that he had got back together with his girlfriend Lisa and had moved back in with her. I must of asked him about seven or eight times for the keys back I had cut for him for my front door, but he kept putting me off. I got bored of asking for them in the end and assumed he must have lost them or thrown them away. He didn't even come back to the house to collect his belongings he'd left behind.
That was more or less the end of my brief friendship with Darren Appleyard. He didn't bother speaking to me in work again and kept his distance. So I just left him to it.
About six months later my friend at work Paul rang me and told me on the phone that he thought Darren had murdered someone. My initial reaction was to laugh as I seriously thought he was making some sick joke. I remember saying in disbelief, "no you must have that wrong he wouldn't do that." I honestly thought that it was someone else.
As the day progress and I heard more it turned out that what was in the news was indeed about Darren. He had murdered his pregnant girlfriend Lisa in front of her five year old daughter with his
When Darren went to trial for Lisa's murder it came to light that he had a long history of being violent and abusive towards women. His ex wife Natalie Appleyard had said he had beaten her, strangled her and stopped her from leaving the house. He had also made threats to kill her on numerous occasions. Another ex girlfriend Zoe Evans said Appleyard had assaulted her on numerous occasions, and he had on one occasion covered her mouth and pinched her nose so she couldn't breath. He told her if she did not shut up he would kill her. As he removed his hand she shouted out, Appleyard placed his had back over her mouth and nose again cutting off her air supply until she conformed. This is something he liked to do to exert his control and authority over them during arguments.
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Darren Appleyard also faced charges of rape, indecent assault, two assaults and threats to kill, but they were ordered to lie on file.
In July 2007 at his trial, Darren changed his plea to guilty of murder at the last minute, he had denied murder at first only admitting to manslaughter. In addition he also pleaded guilty to assaulting his ex wife Natalie and ex girlfriend Zoe. The Judge Gerald Clifton told Appleyard, "you are a highly dangerous bully when it comes to your women folk." Darren Appleyard was sentence to life in prison and has to serve at least 17 years before he is eligible for parole.
If there is one thing I took away from my brief encounter with Darren, it was to remind myself that you can never truly know who the people are that come and go out of your life.
I always think back to that moment when he met my parents, when he looked up at them and remarked on how tall they were, and think of him as an angry little man with a massive chip on his shoulders! Abusers and bully's like Appleyard never change, they feel the need to bully, hurt, control and manipulate those around them to make up for the inadequacies they feel.
My final thoughts looking back on all this, is I sincerely hope that the children involved, Lisa's daughter and Darren's children have been able to move on from this horrible incident and live a positive and fulfilling life.
In my opinion Darren Appleyard is lucky the laws in the UK are so lenient. He doesn't deserve freedom! He will be eligible for parole in 2024.