For the people of Northampton it seems that 2016 has had an eerily familiar and tragic beginning. Still reeling from the brutal and unsolved murder of pensioner David Brickwood in September of 2015 came the news that a man’s body had been found at the end of January off Billing Brook Road. Amazingly it appeared that the body may have lain undetected for up to two years, hidden yards from the busy junction with the A43. Whilst that information was still being processed it was revealed that missing 20 year old India Chipchase had been found murdered in a house in St.James.
The outpouring of grief, anger and confusion over these deaths is undeniably heartbreaking. Like most of you I have elderly relatives. I have friends I have not seen nor heard of in a while and I have a young daughter. Whether any of these crimes personally touched our lives we all feel some sort of loss at the news. But how do we react to such horror? Is it a sign of Northampton’s descent into lawlessness? Are we not safe to walk our own streets? Who is to blame? Why did they happen, who is there to stop it or are they just gruesome coincidences?
We are a very large and busy town and sometimes it seems that we are all just charging in different directions trying to get to wherever we need to be as fast as possible. Just drive into the St.Peter’s Way roundabout at evening rush hour and you’ll see car brake lights rushing off like Catherine Wheel sparks in every controlled direction. Brackmills chugs along like a cheap Roman Candle and releases in short sharp bursts onto the A45, which is to be avoided at all costs, though sadly cannot be avoided at any cost. The Bedford Road roundabout into Cliftonville seems to be a Wacky Races-style competition to ease into the correct lane before the car in front or behind of you tries to steal a couple of yards. If an alien were to land during Northampton’s rush hour they would be alarmed at the speed and pace of Earth life before invariably being ran off the road by a carpet salesman in a gold Mondeo indicating in the wrong direction.
Once we return from our rush-hour battles most of us will jump onto social media. Facebook and Twitter can also seem a lawless and dangerous place and its navigation equally perilous. What I have noticed since the tragic death of India Chipchase is the overwhelming sense of community displayed by Facebookers and the Twitterati. We are not the snarling, space-grabbing, horn-tooting, fist-waving cussers that accompanied our journey home. I don’t know if this is a temporary phenomenon but it does show that Northampton is still a community. It laughs, loves and grieves together. It sadly won’t bring these three people back but what a tribute to their memories if we could carry forward just some of this sense into our real lives outside of cyberspace.