Grandmother who found bodies of her stabbed daughter, 31, and strangled grandchildren, eight and seven, after triple-murder at hands of her ‘evil’ son-in-law calls for him to remain in jail as his parole is reviewed after 20 years
- Phillip Austin killed wife Claire, 31, and children Kieren, eight, and Jade, seven
- Carol Quinn begged Austin to face her in prison after he was jailed for 20 years
- But Austin refused to see or speak to her and has said committed triple murder
- Now he is due for parole 21 years after one of Britain’s most shocking murders
A grandmother who discovered the bodies of her stabbed daughter and strangled grandchildren has insisted their ‘evil’ killer should not be freed from prison this year.
Carol Quinn begged Phillip Austin to face her in prison after he was jailed for 20 years for killing his wife Claire, 31, and their children Kieren, eight, and Jade, seven.
But Austin, 51, refused to see or speak to Ms Quinn and has never given any reasons why he committed the triple murder in July 2000 in Standens Barn, Northampton.
Now he is due for parole after stabbing his wife repeatedly before picking up their children and strangling them in their beds in one of Britain’s most shocking murders.
Phillip Austin killed his children Kieren, eight, and Jade, seven, in Northampton in July 2000
Phillip Austin with his wife Claire on their wedding day in 1993. He killed her seven years later
Ms Quinn, 72, said: ‘In our minds it hasn’t been 20 years – this happened yesterday. This is how fresh it still is. I go through that day of discovering the bodies virtually every hour and I still get nightmares.
‘At the start they were so bad that I used to jump out of bed still asleep, hit myself against walls, hit my husband Harry and he’d have to wake me up.
How hidden anger drove father to kill
No one knows what it was which finally triggered the volcanic and murderous bout of temper which led Phillip Austin to batter, stab and strangle his wife to death in a frenzied attack, then end his children’s lives as they slept.
Austin was known to have had trouble with his temper – he had attended sessions with the NSPCC children’s charity in an effort to learn proper control of his temper, particularly in relation to his son Kieren, eight.
His wife Claire and he had also attended counselling sessions at Relate – formerly the Marriage Guidance Council – in an effort to ease their relationship.
But despite ominous signs that perhaps as was not as well as it might seem, no one expected the final explosion which led to Austin slaughtering his wife and their son and their daughter, seven-year-old Jade.
In June 2000 the family had spent a fortnight on holiday in Fuerteventura with Claire Austin’s cousin and her partner.
The cousin, who did not want to be named, said there was a definite atmosphere between the couple during the break.
One rainy afternoon in July 2000, neighbours saw Kieren and Jade in the garden of the family’s home in Stockmead Road, Northampton – the children told them they did not want to go inside the house because their father was in a bad mood.
Austin had also booked tickets for a family outing to the Virgin Cinema at Sixfields for that same day, but when Claire’s mother, Carol Quinn phoned that evening to see how they had enjoyed the film, Austin said they had not gone.
Mrs Quinn said she had assumed from his manner that the couple had had some form of argument, but did not speak to her daughter.
The following day, July 10, Claire phoned her cousin, saying she was upset because Austin had cancelled the outing at the last minute.
She had been unable to use the tickets herself, and Austin had banged around the house before packing a bag and leaving. Austin, Claire said, was ‘not right” and was ‘taking it out on her and the children’.
Nevertheless, to the outside world, the family seemed as normal as any other. It was not until Claire’s mother Carol and stepfather Harry Quinn let themselves into the family home on the afternoon of July 17, 2000 – a week after the killings – that the awful truth about Austin’s explosive temper and its appalling aftermath emerged.
‘They were just dreadful and I still get them to this day. Austin will never know how much he has tortured me. Ever since he killed my family, my husband and I became different people and that will never be fair.’
Forklift driver Austin murdered his family just one month after enjoying a family holiday abroad.
He married Claire, an auxiliary nurse in 1993, but seven years later, on the morning of July 10, 2000, he hit her over the head with a mallet and used a bra to strangle her before stabbing her repeatedly and leaving the body in the kitchen.
He even used the mallet to batter the family dogs, Dandy and Sooty, to death.
He then picked up the children from school, bought them fish and chips, sedated them and strangled them in their beds before going on the run to Blackpool.
Austin, who was 31 at the time, was found in a car in the Lake District a week later before being jailed for 20 years in March 2001 after he changed his plea to guilty.
Ever since Austin was convicted, Ms Quinn said she has been fearing the day he will be let out.
She and husband Harry, 74, rushed over to the house a week later on July 17 when their grandchildren’s school secretary phoned to ask whether she knew why they had not been attending classes.
Mr Quinn found Claire dead on the kitchen floor. He warned Ms Quinn not to enter but she pushed her way inside, and after seeing her daughter, rushed upstairs and found the lifeless bodies of her grandchildren.
‘It was the worst moment of my life – beyond anyone’s worst nightmares,’ she said. ‘I have an imprint of finding their bodies on my mind all day, every day.
‘Sometimes I think about it and I weep in the shower. There are times when I can’t close my eyes without thinking of their tiny bodies left there like bags of rubbish. What he did was evil.’
And despite his cruel silence ever since then, the ‘monster’ could soon be back on the streets because he is due for a parole hearing.
‘Why should he be freed when he’s never had the guts to explain his actions?’ Ms Quinn said. ‘He’s a coward.
‘At first I really wanted to look him in the eye and ask him why he did it. I will always hate him for what he did to my daughter and those poor children sleeping in their beds. I sent six letters to prison governors looking for answers.
‘Why would he want to kill Claire and his children? They had so much going for them as a family. He gained absolutely nothing from it and I will never understand why.
‘I have asked myself that question every single day but I don’t have the answers.
‘They are buried in the local churchyard by where we live and I walk my dog every morning and I cut through the yard, stand by their graves and say a few words. I tell them I miss them and it sometimes makes me angry to think how he took them away from me.
‘Now I have an awful dread that I will see the monster who killed my beautiful daughter and my innocent grandchildren on my daily walk to the churchyard and I will see him standing by the graves. That frightens me.’
Carol Austin, 72, with her daughter Claire, 31, who was murdered more than two decades ago
Carol Austin with her husband Harry, who found the bodies of the murder victims in 2000
Austin will celebrate his 52nd birthday on Valentine’s Day and could have a parole hearing soon after – although the Parole Board said it would not be before March.
But Ms Quinn fears that if he was released this year, he would go on to kill again.
She added: ‘Every time the postman comes I also dread it’s going to be a date for his hearing. If he is released he’d be young enough to meet another woman and maybe get married and I’m terrified he will do this all over again.
‘Him getting released and doing this to another family horrifies me. The way he killed my loved ones and left them as if they were bags of rubbish is appalling.
‘Who would want him living next door to them? Who would want him meeting up with their mother and having their children around him?
‘Nobody would but the reality is it could happen. And believe you me, it will be easier for him to kill again the second time around.’
She said she is also worried about her son, Matthew, 48, who has been on anti-depressants even since his younger sister was murdered.
Ms Quinn said: ‘I don’t know how he will react if Austin gets out. By god it broke him at the time. Austin’s parole has been a sickening countdown we have endured for years.
Keiren (left) and Jade were strangled in their beds in one of Britain’s most shocking murders
Claire Austin is seen with her children Keiren and Jade, who were eight and seven when killed
‘Matthew’s wife is petrified that Austin will come for her family too. They have even spoken about moving abroad which would be horrible. I don’t want to lose them too.
‘It’s not right that my son has spent so much on medication when prisoners get it for free. They also get suicide watch but who looks out for us? I wasn’t even offered counselling after finding my family dead.’
Ms Quinn said she still thinks about her loved ones every single day and speaks to them at their graves on her daily walk of the dog.
She remembered: ‘Claire and I would go shopping every Thursday and we went round to the cafes to see who did the best Cappuccino.
‘Kieren was my first ever grandchild and he never stopped talking, he was always asking questions and he loved his mum.
‘Jade was my husband’s little princess, she could do nothing wrong in his eyes and if Claire ever phoned to say Jade has been a right mare today, Harry would joke and say he didn’t believe it possible.’
Since Austin took them from her, Ms Quinn said he has been a constant encroachment on their lives.
She explained: ‘My husband and I met on Valentine’s Day – the day he (Austin) celebrates his birthday. Every Valentine’s Day my first thought before anything is ‘I hope you have a rotten day in jail’.
The graves of Claire, Keiren and Jade are together in a churchyard in Northamptonshire
Keiren and Jade were killed by their father in Northampton in the triple murder in July 2000
‘When we heard he was sentenced it was the day my son got engaged and the taxi driver who arrived at the party was Austin’s uncle. So even with the most joyous moments of our life, Austin finds a way to ruin them.
‘I now cry in the shower when nobody is here and Christmases, anniversaries and birthdays are absolutely dreadful.
‘My niece is a month older than Claire and she has four grandchildren – Claire could have those now and we could be great great grandparents.’
Ms Quinn said she will accept the decision if Austin is granted parole but said she has ‘absolutely no idea’ how she will cope.
She added: ‘There will be no support for us once again if he gets released whereas he has been supported all along. Maybe it’s just too expensive for them to keep dangerous people in prison so they let them go.
‘When someone dies it’s not just grief you contend with it’s the anger and the hatred. I don’t think I will ever get answers as to why this happened to my family.
‘We are not the same people anymore and I have pictures of finding the bodies on my mind all the time. You push it to one side and get on with life but it will always be there. Why should Austin be released after all he has done?’
A Parole Board spokesman said: ‘We can confirm the parole review of Phillip Austin has been referred to the Parole Board and is following standard processes.
Carol Austin, 72, said she has been fearing the day Austin will be let out of prison
Jade (above) was murdered by her father Phillip Austin, who could be let out of prison this year
‘Parole Board decisions are solely focused on what risk a prisoner could represent to the public if released and whether that risk is manageable in the community.
‘The panel will carefully examine a whole range of evidence, including details of the original crime, and any evidence of behaviour change, as well as understand the harm done and impact the crime has had on the victims.
‘Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority.’
Ms Quinn also revealed that Marie McCourt – whose daughter Helen was murdered by pub landlord Ian Simms in 1988 – persuaded her to never again ask to see the man who killed her loved ones.
But she is now petrified that she will have no choice and will find him standing at the graves of her loved ones if he gets released.
‘I have a lot of admiration for Marie McCourt and my perspective on meeting my daughter’s killer changed after speaking to her,’ Ms Quinn said.
‘She told me the only reason he’d ever agree to see me would be for his benefit and not mine. Not only that, she said you could never believe what he told me and she was right’
‘I think it’s dreadful that she did all that work on Helen’s Law but it was too late for her daughter’s killer to be kept inside.’
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