Reading this morning the awful story of the slaughtered family of five in Nantes, I couldn't help but think back to when my next-door neighbours in Manchester in the 1980's were all murdered in cold blood. The husband and father stabbed his wife and three-year-old daughter to death before slitting his own throat, an act witnessed by the first police officer to enter the house, following a 999 call made from where I was living. The mother's 18-year-old son from a previous marriage came home a couple of hours later to find his life stood on its head, before being taken away for questioning. He was, after all, the only one who could have provided any insight into his stepfather's motives.
The man was a bit strange. He was a schoolteacher, widely suspected - and correctly so - of having affairs with some of his female teenage students. Whether or not being found out led to his loss of control we'll never know, but to merely call him eccentric would have been underestimating his personality; there was something bizarre there that none of us could quite fathom. All this happened well over twenty years ago, but I remember it as if it were yesterday.