‘Crime school’ helped shape Blakeley’s violent character

Thornbury House

Thornbury House

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

A CARE home once branded a “crime school” for boys is where Ben Blakeley spent part of his early teenage years.

For years before it was knocked down in 2011, Thornbury House off The Moors in Kidlington was troubled by reports from neighbours of boys sneaking out at night and terrorising neighbours.

It came under intense scrutiny and an inspection in 2004 by the Department of Health’s Social Services Inspectorate revealed that staff who were not cleared by the Criminal Records Bureau had been allowed to work unsupervised with children.

Oxford Mail: Ben Blakeley

Ben Blakeley 

Inspectors also discovered that the boys were being locked in their rooms each evening during what was known as “homework time”, contravening “guidance and recognised good practice”.

A former youth worker at Thornbury, which was run by Oxfordshire County Council and opened in 1963, told the jury that Blakeley was 13 when she overheard him say if he ever had to get rid of a body he would put it in a family member’s grave.

The DNA of two bodies would get mixed up, he said, and besides, “no one would bother looking” there.

Nine years later, he buried Jayden Parkinson’s body in the grave of his uncle Alan Kennedy, who died in 2006.

Blakeley grew up with his three brothers and younger sister in Craven Way, Didcot, until he was kicked out by his mother Velvet.

Oxford Mail:

The street where Ben Blakeley grew up

The street is five minutes’ walk from the fields where he later took Jayden’s life and about 10 minutes’ walk from his grandmother’s house in Great Western Drive, where he got a suitcase to put Jayden’s body in.

Too afraid of being named for their own safety, some residents in the area have said Ben’s violence was apparent from an early age.

One woman said he had “tormented” her son for being gay. She said when her daughter pushed Blakeley off his bike in defence of her brother, he threatened her with a knife.

He was about 12.

She said: “She was scared to walk down the alleyway after that.

“Ben used to hang out in the alley with all his mates. My husband had a go at him so many times, he got close to losing it.

“He was the king of Craven Way, everybody was friends with him.”

She said for the six years the family lived on the road they were terrified. She said: “Ben is a nutter, that’s just the way he is.”

Oxford Mail:

Blakeley's grandmother's house in Didcot

Blakeley told the court that after a certain point his mother refused to have him in the house and he was moved to sheltered accommodation nearby.

After leaving there, Blakeley lived in a house in Ridgeway Road, Didcot, for about two years, before he went to stay with his cousin Faith Kennedy in Reading at the end of last year.

He also revealed that he had a troubled upbringing and was violently abused by his father as a child.

But Blakeley told the jury: “I didn’t really grow up with my family, I grew up on my own.”

Nonetheless, he said he spoke to his mother at least once a week. She was one of the first people he spoke to after he killed Jayden.

The same resident said: “He’s not a nice individual really. I never heard a nice word about him.”

Neighbours said the Blakeley family lived in Craven Way for about 20 years. The family and Blakeley’s grandmother moved out of Didcot following his charge for murder.

One mother-of-two on the street said: “His mum was really nice. I couldn’t believe it when I heard.”

She said: “Ben is the type who will lash out, but to kill someone...I don’t know.

“I say it was an accident. I think he just went too far, but you have to think of Jayden’s family.

“He deserves all he gets.”

Neighbours of Blakeley’s grandmother in Great Western Drive described Blakeley as a “monster”, who deserved life in prison.

One mother-of-three, who did not want to be named, said she was leaving Didcot to live in Abingdon for fear of her children’s safety, after living near the Blakeley family for a year.

The woman, whose daughter had been friends with Jayden, said: “We want him to get a life sentence for the safety of other girls in Didcot.”

Another mum-of-two on the street said the family was “reclusive”, keeping themselves to themselves.

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