A police officer whose mother was stabbed to death by his brutal stepfather is dedicating his life to helping victims of domestic violence.
PC Mike Taggart, 36, spoke movingly about how the traumatic experience when he and his sister. Becci, were teenagers had inspired him to join North Wales Police where he now works as the Strategic Domestic Abuse Officer.
He was among the guests at an event at the North Wales Women’s Centre in Rhyl to promote the White Ribbon campaign which is a global movement of men and boys working to end male violence against women and girls.
It is a cause that Mike believes in passionately and he is also an official ambassador of the campaign.
His mum Donna Marie Crist was murdered at her flat in Rhyl in 1997 by estranged husband Derek Evans after years of vicious alcohol-fuelled abuse.
It was vitally important, he said, that victims did not suffer in silence.
He urged them to contact the police or another agency like the North Wales Women’s Centre or the North Wales Victim Help Centre.
According to Mike, his mother worked 70 hours a week with people with learning disabilities but her husband disliked her new-found independence and once after she had been for a drink with friends he attacked her in the street.
She left him but later returned and the cycle of abuse continued until one day he chased her round the room and pinned her to a chair before being dragged off by the 15-year-old Mike.
She left and took a flat but there was no escape.
Mike said: “He went round to her flat and stabbed her 11 times, once for every year they were married.
“There were no defence wounds. She must have died instantly.
“He told the court he couldn’t remember anything but he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum tariff of 11 years.”
Back in 2009, Mike came face to face with Evans at a parole hearing.
He recalled: “I wrote out a Victim’s Personal Statement which was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do and at the parole hearing I came face to face with the man who killed my mother.
“He just stared at me. He was trying to intimidate me. I felt like I was 15 again. I was a mixed bag of emotions.
“But it was good to tell this man I had hated for so long just what I felt. He has shown no flicker of remorse for my mother’s death.
“Evans has since been released because it was 22 years ago,
“The trauma that my family went through is one of the things that pushed me to the job to help people who are victims of domestic abuse.
“It’s something that’s really poignant to my family and me, something that is very important, and something that I really push to promote for anybody supporting victims of domestic abuse.”
Also at the event was North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones who has made tackling domestic violence one of the main priorities in his Police and Crime Plan.
Mr Jones, a former police inspector, said: “We have a responsibility to train and to teach others to treat women with respect.
“Mike deserves a great deal of credit for turning something that was a devastating tragedy into something that’s channelling his experience into something positive.
“He’s doing excellent work and is driving a lot of change in policy and improvement in our response to domestic abuse across North Wales Police.
“Although we’re doing very well there is no room for complacency and we need to continue it, and Mike is absolutely committed to doing everything he can to improve the situation and to make sure that what happened to him doesn’t happen to others.
“More victims are coming forward now because they have the confidence to do so but there are still many more who don’t report the abuse to the police or any other agency so they can receive help and support.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Gemma Fox, the managing director of the North Wales Women’s Centre.
She said: “It’s hugely important because it’s about cultural change, it’s about men against violence against women.
“The scale of the problem is huge with 10 to 20 cases coming to light every day in Conwy and Denbighshire alone.
“They call it a hidden crime because so many people do not report it, and on average victims at high risk of serious harm or murder live with domestic abuse for two to three years before getting help.
“That’s terrible because obviously tragedy can happen and people die. On average two women per week are killed at the hands of their current or former partners in the UK.
“The important this is for people to seek help in the first place, whether it’s from the police, or from us, or from anybody.”
The service at the North Wales Victim Help Centre is available from 8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 9am-5pm on Saturdays. It can be contacted by Freephone on 0300 30 30 159, by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the websites www.victimhelpcentrenorthwales.org.uk or www.canolfangymorthiddioddefwyrgogleddcymru.org.uk