Charlton Higgins, left, believes John Massey, inset bottom, should have said sorry earlier for the murder of Charlie Higgins, inset above
Published: 13 July, 2012
by DAN CARRIER
LIFER John Massey has passed a message from his cell to the Tribune explaining his remorse for murdering a pub doorman in 1975.
The prisoner, who last month went on the run for two days after escaping from Pentonville Prison by climbing a wall, asked the newspaper to send a message to the family of Charles Higgins, whom he shot nearly 40 years ago.
In Braintree, Essex, on Wednesday, we spoke to Mr Higgins’ son Charlton and told him of the apology passed out of the segregation unit at Belmarsh Prison through Mr Massey’s sister Jane.
Mr Massey, 64, is one of Britain’s longest-serving inmates after spending around 35 years in prison since his conviction. He was arrested in Faversham, Kent, after breaking out of Pentonville using a makeshift rope before fleeing to see his seriously-ill mother, May. The 86-year-old is in hospital after suffering a stroke.
Mr Massey, from Kentish Town, asked the Tribune to tell his victim’s relatives that “not a day has gone by without me deeply regretting my behaviour, without wishing I could tell his family how sorry I am”.
He added: “I can only begin to imagine what I have put his family through, and it goes without saying if I could turn back the clock, I would.
“It was the actions of a young man, a terrible, tragic mistake by a stupid, stupid young man, who understands now how his behaviour has affected others.
“I know the damage I have caused and all I can say is how sorry I am. I know I deserved to serve a life sentence.”
At his trial, the judge said Mr Massey should not be freed for at least 20 years. But his time inside was extended after escaping in the 1990s during a home visit to see his father. He spent three years on the run in Spain.
More recently, he broke parole conditions in 2007 when he missed a curfew at a halfway house in south London to see his father Jack on his death bed at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead.
He later absconded from Ford Open Prison in Sussex, this time to see his sister Carol before she died.
His surviving sister Jane added that Mr Massey had expressed deep remorse for the murder on the four occasions he has appeared in front of a parole board, although those hearings are behind closed doors and the Higgins family had never heard his apology.
Charlton Higgins, who owns Braintree pub The Independent, said he understood that what had happened four decades ago was the action of a man who had since changed, but asked why it had taken so long for Mr Massey to make the effort to contact him and offer an apology.
He said the killing had devastated his family.
Mr Higgins said of the apology: “It should have been done much sooner, not only for my family’s sake, who have had to endure the effects of this crime every day of our lives, but surely for John Massey’s sake, too – wouldn’t he want to be able to sleep at night?
“Apologising now, after all these years, is a very late act. My family have suffered. They [Mr Massey’s family] have at least been able to visit him in prison. I lost my father for ever.”
Mr Higgins said he felt Mr Massey had come forward with the apology after reading that his family felt he had shown no remorse. He said: “He has not contacted us before, and he has had opportunities too.
“The Prison Service could have helped him do so. It is an important part of a healing process for all of us.”
Mr Higgins added: “I expect he will come out again, but the latest escape attempt will no doubt mean the authorities will not offer him parole again.”