Ann Oakes-Odger MBE Story


Colchester mother Ann Oakes-Odger’s son Westley Odger was murdered in an unprovoked knife attack at a cash machine on the afternoon of 12 September, 2005, he’d just turned 27.


“He’d arranged to go to the pictures that day with his older brother…he needed some cash and told his brother he wouldn’t be long and would tap on the window on his return.  Shockingly he never returned.” said Ann.

“The first machine wasn’t working so he went to the one at Hunwicke shops in Greenstead. As the woman in front finished her transaction a man pushed in front, and Westley pointed out there was a queue!"

“Unbeknown to Westley the man went away angrily and called his brother.  CCTV footage later showed the brother arrive in a car at speed, jump out and without warning fatally stab Westley in the neck!”

Since that terrible day Ann channelled all her energies into campaigning to bring knife crime in line with gun crime, raise awareness of the consequences of carrying knives and for a Victims’ Law to give bereaved victims’ families access to legal rights.

At the time of Westley’s murder, the Law did not recognise a specific tariff for knife murder only for gun murder of 30 years.

Following the trial of the perpetrators of Westley’s death she started a petition calling for knife and gun crime to be treated the same in law.

Sir Bob Russell, MP for Colchester at the time, collaborated with her and in November 2009 her campaign was successful in achieving a specific tariff with a starting point of 25 years for murder using a knife or bladed weapon under the Criminal Justice Act 2003. In recognition of her work Ann was made an MBE in Queen Elizabeth’s 2011 Birthday Honours list, presented by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

Ann has created a charity ‘Westley Odger Foundation’ known as in Westley’s memory and given talks in schools and youth groups, alongside Essex Police.  She’s also stoically attended parole hearings in the prison where Westley’s murderer was incarnated. 

Ann said: “I wanted to look his murderer square in the eyes so he could see my son looking back at him.  I wanted him to hear my voice reading my impact statement of what he’d done to this family by taking Westley’s life.

“My sense of injustice gave me strength to campaign and work towards a Victims’ Law because when a person dies in these circumstances, their human rights die along with them and as a bereaved parent we have no legal status. The victim, in the eyes of the law, becomes ‘a body of evidence.’


“It took three months before we could hold Westley’s funeral and a year for the perpetrators to come to trial. The trauma a family experiences particularly during that time is indescribable.

“Although the system for victims’ families has improved over the years, we still don’t have a Victims’ Law and the parole system needs more simplification to enable better victim participation.  After all any valid input from the victim’s family that illustrates the perpetrator is not suitable for release back into society is also about public safety.

A knife bearing an inscription to Westley – crafted by his mother with the help of artist Alfie Bradley -  sits near the bottom of the Knife Angel - the National Monument Against Violence and Aggression – which is coming to Colchester in October. 

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