IN terms of case law, the story of murder victim Jonathan Barton will be quoted as legal history.
To lawyers and police alike, Jonathan’s case will always be a prime example of how a killer can be brought to justice more than a decade after causing a fatal injury.
But, away from the dusty annuls of the law, Jonathan’s story is even more important – to every woman who is a mother.
It is a tale of courage, devotion, tenacity and finally heartbreak. More than anything it is proof that the bond between a mother and a son can be powerful enough to survive the most extreme circumstances of all.
Jonathan was, at 19, a hard-working and popular Tesco employee and the second of four brothers in a large and close-knit Bletchley family.
He had gone for a drink after work when he was attacked outside the pub, without reason, by a then 20-year-old called Leigh Clift.
Clift rammed his weapon, a screwdriver, so ferociously into Jonathan’s head that it went right through his skull, causing a brain injury that could only be described as catastrophic.
But despite medical predictions Jonathan survived, remaining in a state recorded by doctors as “semi vegetative” for the next 11 years.
While Clift spent five years in jail for wounding with intent, Jonathan’s mum Kim spent every day locked in battle for the sake of her son. First there was the battle to keep him alive, then she battled to bring him home and master his gruelling 24-hour-a-day care, and finally there was the fight to make every minute of his life, despite his profound disability, as happy as it could possibly be.
“He couldn’t walk, he couldn’t feed himself or swallow and he couldn’t speak. But he communicated through his eyes – and how those eyes spoke to me...” said Kim.
“I would lie next to him for hour after hour, talking to him and telling him how much I loved him. Sometimes there would be a connection and I knew he could understand everything I was saying.
“When I said ‘do you love me Jonathan?’ he’d blink once, very strongly. That meant yes. It was all I needed to know.”
In 2008 Kim had an extension built on to the family’s Manor Road home. Promptly christening it ‘Jonathan’s Pad’, she invited his friends over on Friday evening for pizza so her son, even if he showed no response, could still be ‘one of the lads’.
In July 2009 Jonathan went into hospital for a routine check on his feeding tube. He suffered a cardio-respiratory arrest and died peacefully in his sleep. While Kim struggled to cope in her shattered world, police officers immediately set to work to achieve their aim: to prosecute Clift retrospectively for murder.
“The police were wonderful. They went all the way to the Attorney General before they were allowed to proceed,” said Kim.
Last week Clift, now 31, was jailed for life by judge Mr Justice Saunders, who praised the dignity of Kim, now a grandmother of six.
“It’s a life for a life and at least I have closure,” she said. “But never a minute goes by when I don’t think of my Jonathan. He will always be a huge part of our lives.”