Monday, 31 October 2022

Something Far More Cruel

Freda Walker opened her back door to let her cat out one night last January, she let Hell into her home. It came in the form of Vasile Culea. He seems to have sneaked in while she was not looking.

Not long afterwards, he subjected Mrs Walker, 86, and her husband Ken, 88, to a night of merciless torture. He was a retired electrician and former district councillor. She was a retired seamstress. They had come through all those decades, and might have thought they were entitled to a peaceful final few years together. They did not live in some inner-city gang-infested zone, but in the kind of street and the kind of house that millions inhabit.

She was 5ft 2in tall and yet Culea, a fit young man, killed her. She had 25 distinct injuries. Bizarrely, Ken Walker’s later death in hospital was listed as being from ‘natural causes’, despite the fact that he suffered a brain injury during the invasion of their home, and had been beaten bloody, before, or possibly after being tied up and gagged. He never went home from hospital, though he lingered there for seven months. I have my own theory of what he died of, and I would not call it ‘natural causes’, but what can I say?

Culea appears to have been trying to get the couple to tell him where they had hidden some money. He never found it. News accounts of this event stress that Culea was an indebted gambler, supposedly ‘addicted’ to this stupid amusement. ‘Addiction’ is a word used far too often to excuse wilful self-destruction by people perfectly capable of controlling themselves, if they thought it worthwhile. I doubt whether Culea’s ‘addiction’ will trouble him much in the prison which will now be his inadequate punishment. 

The couple, living in an ordinary suburban home in a Derbyshire village, were just respectable, straightforward British people from a generation who grew up when burglary was a rare and major crime, drugs unknown and gambling a minor thing on the edge of society, bookie’s runners, football pools and bingo.

They perhaps had not realised that there has been a revolution since then. They made the mistake of thinking they could leave the back door open for a minute or two while they put the cat out. Derbyshire Police, to their credit more forthcoming than most forces I approach about this, tell me that drug abuse by the killer ‘was a line of enquiry within the investigation and no evidence came to light that Vasile Culea was a drug user’. Well, OK, if they say so.

All I can say about that is that the grotesque fury and savagery of his behaviour is horribly like that of many criminals whose merciless actions are listed on the website ‘Attacker Smoked Cannabis’. This is compiled from hundreds of local media reports by Ross Grainger. Yes, our society has always had murderers and thieves in it, but something far more cruel is now in our midst. Who will put this right?

On Hitchens’s opposition to British Summer Time, I would not be in favour of making it year-round, but his obvious incredulity that anyone would be is because he is 71 and he spent many years abroad. In my 1980s childhood, people of working age were often in bed at nine o’clock and not uncommonly even at eight, especially but not exclusively in the winter. But no one under 50, as an absolute minimum, has lived as an adult in that culture. That is why memories of the experiment from 1968 to 1971 are irrelevant.


  1. One day everyone will agree with us about cannabis but Hitchens needs to pick his fights on things like BST and imperial measures. Buildings everywhere else don't fall down because a metre can't be divided by three.