Murder in the Park

Photo - Police removing the body of Terry Sweet.

Photo from the Evening Herald Newspaper, November 7,1995.

The LGBT community has always been subjected to hate crime. In1990 the direct action group OutRage’ was set up by Peter Tatchell after the actor, Michael Boothe was murdered in West London.

Terry Sweet - Murdered in a homophobic attack 7th November 1995 Central Park. Plymouth

Terry Sweet pictured in the
Evening Herald Newspaper,
November 9, 1995.

In Plymouth just after midnight on Tuesday 7 November 1995 the bodies of two men were found lying 200 yards apart in Central Park. One of the men Terry Sweet, aged 64, died shortly after the police arrived. Sweet lived alone and was well known within Plymouth’s gay community. His attackers had slashed his genitalia and face and hit him around the head. The other man, Bernard Hawken, survived the attack, but had similar injuries which affected him for the rest of his life.
This homophobic murder proved to be the spark that led to the birth of a Pride movement in Plymouth, including the formation of the Plymouth Pride Forum. Agencies across the city also began to work more sensitively with members of the community.

“The sexuality of the victims was totally irrelevant. This was a serious crime. Somebody’s father, somebody’s brother, somebody’s son had been brutally killed, brutally attacked and there are people out there responsible for that who maycommit a crime again elsewhere, soon. So they had to be caught.”
(Senior Police Investigator)

Cover of the funeral mass for Terry Sweet

Click to view the Allfellas newsletter

Tribute to Terry Sweet Allfellas Newsletter Autumn 1995

“So I would like to think that, you know,
as dreadful and as horrible as this was
(Terry Sweet Murder), I would like to think
in some small way that this was a catalyst
for change. And that from then on then,
I hope, that you know, there has been a
groundswell of change. And today, you
know, all this time in the future, things are
radically different.”

“We were inundated with press enquiries
and did interviews with national papers,
national TV, Skye TV I think at the time.
And certainly I hadn’t seen anything like
it in my career in terms of press coverage.
I think the fact that they were gay men
and that they had been very severely
beaten as well, or attacked and beaten,
sort of as far as the popular press was
concerned was newsworthy.”
(Senior Police Investigator)

“So, you know, I remember that first 24 hours and you know, first it was an interview with the BBC and the BBC studios and then being whisked over by a taxi to ITV studios. And then, you know, sort of local media, national newspapers and it all got a bit crazy really and….For me there was a central message through all of this and it was about helping the general public recognise that even though this murder enquiry was about two men in Central Park who had been attacked, I wanted to give the general public a sense of what is normality in terms of a lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans-gender relationship…. And the stereo types they may be wanting to hold onto, for example that all gay men go cottaging, I was determined at that stage to challenge many of those stereo-types. But not only with the general public, I have to say, but also with the media, and I just kind of felt that it was a good opportunity to educate – I mean it gave me a platform.”

“I was invited to the police station and I was asked if I could set up a helpline
which would bridge the gap between the local police and also the local gay
community…… And I have to say at that time there was a strong groundswell of
support from, you know, local pubs, local clubs and there were volunteers
who put themselves forward to man, to start, this kind of helpline. So we probably
had about eight or ten volunteers from across the community who were taking
calls from people.”

Comments

  1. Was any one ever charged for this dreadful crime?

  2. Terry Sweet did not live alone, he was with his partner Albert for several years, and Albert, who is a dear friend of mine is still living in Plymouth at the age of 82

    • Hi George, we were hoping to speak to Albert in the process of putting the exhibition together and would still very much like to if he’d be interested in adding his recollections to the archive. In the absence, of such an interview however we used the reports from the newspapers at time. Perhaps Albert or yourself would be interested in a chat now to make sure we reflect the correct circumstances? If so, please get in touch at plymlgbtarchive@yahoo.co.uk and we’ll set up a interview. Many thanks for getting in touch.

    • Hi George, we were hoping to speak to Albert before the exhibition but unfortunately we weren’t able to. As a result, we used information that was reported in the local press at the time but would very much like to put that right if incorrect. Perhaps Albert or yourself would consider being interviewed now as we’d like to have the actual circumstances included in the archive. If so, please drop a line to plymlgbtarchive@yahoo.co.uk and we’ll arrange something. Thanks for getting in touch.

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