‘He used to donate to the foodbank at the church’ - villagers react to Peter Wrighton’s brutal murder
PUBLISHED: 11:08 10 August 2017 | UPDATED: 13:48 10 August 2017
They are sleepy places where people have traditionally felt safe enough to walk alone in the dark or even leave their doors and windows unlocked.
But since the brutal murder of Peter Wrighton of Banham, who was stabbed in the head while out walking his dogs in East Harling, life in those two tiny Norfolk villages feels very different.
Residents have described the shock they felt when they heard what happened - and “sinking feeling” when they discovered the “very kind, very gentle” 83-year-old old was the victim.
MORE: Police explain delay in naming Peter Wrighton as victim of East Harling murder
MORE: Inquest opens into East Harling murder victim Peter Wrighton
Phil Moore - who is parish secretary of St Mary the Virgin Church, Banham - said people would “rally round” to help the family through their grief.
But while dealing with the sadness of the death of someone he described as a “lovely man” in such terrible circumstances, residents have had to deal with unusual circumstances - notably their villages being the centre of the national media spotlight.
People in the area have said it has given them a “terrific sense of insecurity” about walking alone in villages or in woodland.
There are also fears the dreadful crime might damage tourism, with Mr Moore saying: “It would be a shame if this sort of thing deterred people from visiting.
Mr Moore, of Church Lane, Banham, knew the victim for about 15 years.
He said: “I knew him because he used to walk his dogs. He’d always wave and we’d stand and chat and that’s how I got to know him.
“He was a very quiet man and a gentle man. He was a lovely man - very kind and very generous. He used to donate to the foodbank at the church. He was a very good man.”
Mr Moore described the last time he spoke to Mr Wrighton a few weeks ago, when the victim told him that he had recently started taking his dogs to the woods at East Harling because it was easier to let them off the lead.
He described the incident as “terrible”, saying: “I don’t think he would’ve expected it. I don’t think he had the sort of mind where he would be expecting a horrible thing to happen.
“He wouldn’t have had a grievance with anyone or anything, that’s for certain. He was totally inoffensive. He wasn’t an argumentative sort of man.
“I was absolutely horrified before they even released his name. They then said about a red Skoda and at first it didn’t click, but then the penny dropped. I just had a sinking feeling and said: ‘I think I know who it was.’
“It’s quite horrific what’s happened to him. What sort of person would do that?
“I hope they can find who did it. It would be sad to think of it going unsolved. For his family’s sake, they want peace of mind.”
MORE: Family hopeful of answers after brutal murder of 83-year-old Peter Wrighton in woodland near East Harling
MORE: Police investigating murder of Peter Wrighton from Banham in woodland near East Harling have received more than 100 calls from public
Mr Moore walks his dogs in the same area of woodland that Mr Wrighton was murdered.
He said he would now avoid going to that area, at least for the time being while the killer is still at large.
Wendy Pontin, editor of The Six Villages community newsletter, which is delivered to homes in Banham, said: “It’s difficult to understand why it’s happened.
“I think it gives you a terrific sense of insecurity.
“I’ve got friends in the village and haven’t had any worries about walking home in the dark. I’ve never had any feelings that this is a dangerous place to live. It makes you think twice about going out in the dark.
“These sort of crimes happen in the ghettos in the city. This shows it can happen anywhere.”
Of the media circus in the area at the moment, she said: “We welcome anything that’s going to help resolve it and find the perpetrator.
“If the interest and presence is there to try and find out more and trigger people’s memories, it can’t be a bad thing. It must be for the good.”