Murdered girl's mum helps others

JUNE Gillbanks has been forced to live with a pain that mercifully few will ever have to endure. Since her daughter Donna Marie was raped and strangled 31 years ago, she has rarely been out of the news.

Her campaign to keep her daughter's killer behind bars has been high-profile and included a visit to Downing Street.

But, as she says, there are many victims of sickening crime who are left to face their heartache alone.

Despite the grief of losing her only child, June has found strength to reach out to

become a confidante to others.

The 55-year-old said: "I'm feeling strong now and I want people to know I'm there for them.

"There needs to be a group in Blackpool run by victims, for victims."

Her passion comes from those who helped her.

June's brother, Peter Chester, has served 31 years in prison for the rape and murder of seven-year-old Donna Marie in her Mereside home in 1977.

The heartbroken mum, who now lives in Marton, has often found comfort from

national group Support After Murder and Manslaughter (SAMM).

But with the nearest meeting taking place in Liverpool, she is hoping to set up a support group on the Fylde coast.

"I'm disabled now and it's too far to go to Liverpool," she added, "so it's important for there to be a support group in Blackpool.

"But not just for me, for the many other people who have to deal with similar things.

"What we need now is a room to hold the meetings and help getting office administration together. Then we can start helping people."

June has already begun a campaign to make sure murderous offenders like her brother, whose parole application will be considered this summer, are incarcerated for life.

She has started a petition to "make sure life means life" which she intends to take to the House of Commons.

June added: "Life should mean life. Small prison sentences are no deterrent. The only way they can be sure that they won't

re-offend is by not letting them out.

"I'll take the petition down to London, I'll protest at Trafalgar Square."

In 1999, June, who suffers from arthritis and ME, travelled to London to join a rally supporting MAMA – Mothers Against

Murder and Aggression.

The march on Downing Street was backed by Ralph Bulger, father of murdered toddler James Bulger, and Terry and Danny Kilbride, brothers of Moors Murder victim John Kilbride.

June, who has suffered from stress since her daughter was murdered, added: "I was ill for a long time after it happened.

"Donna was my world. But now I've got my strength back. I'm fed up of all these

innocent children getting murdered,

strangled and raped.

"There have been so many since my

precious Donna was taken from me and sadly there will be more in the future. It must stop now. "

Chester was married and lived on Lytham Road, South Shore, when he raped and murdered Donna Marie in her own bed at the family flat in Mickleden Road in

October 1977.

He then placed his niece back under the bed covers as though she were asleep and put her favourite cuddly toy alongside her.

Chester, who is also known as Peter Chester Speakman, pleaded not guilty to the murder at his trial in March 1978, but a jury unanimously found him guilty. He was given a life sentence – with a recommended minimum of 20 years.

The 53-year-old has now served 11 years over his recommended life sentence for the killing of his niece and earlier this year

applied to be considered for parole.

June added: "This is why I want to get this petition going and reach out to anybody who wants to sign it – mothers, fathers, hoteliers and businesses.

"I will fight till my dying breath to keep him behind bars and make sure all the others serve the proper sentences.

"I want to set this support group up and get a petition going in memory of Donna. But it's not just for my precious daughter, it's for all the other children and their families too.

"Things like this spilt families up and break up marriages. I want to help people and listen to them."

June's bid to set up a support group is already winning support.

Rose Dixon, of SAMM, said: "We would be delighted to speak with Miss Gillbanks about setting up a group in Blackpool.

"We would arrange a training day and then an introduction meeting where members could meet the local contact as well as representatives from the Parole Board and Victim Support."

l If you would like to offer any help in setting up a Fyldel-based support group, or to sign Miss Gillbanks' petition, call reporter Julia Bennett on (01253) 361728.