Next week, Irwin and Corinne Van Colle will mark 12 years since their 25-year-old son, Giles, was murdered, shot by a former employee.
The couple had hoped that, by now, the European Court of Human Rights would have confirmed what the High Court agreed in 2006 and the Appeal Court upheld the following year — that Hertfordshire Police had failed in its duty to protect their son.
Instead, their hopes have been dashed, as judges in Strasbourg agreed unanimously that the police had not violated their son’s rights to life and to respect for private and family life.
The couple said they were disappointed with the ruling and the fact that, as a result, witnesses would remain without a legally enshrined protocol for their protection.
Giles Van Colle, an optician with a practice in Mill Hill and promising communal leader at Wembley United Synagogue, had been due to testify against Daniel Brougham, the killer, just days later in a theft case.
Brougham was jailed for life in 2002. But for the Van Colles, the fight for justice was not over. Before his death, their son had warned Det Con David Ridley, the officer in charge of the theft case, that Brougham had twice threatened his life. He had also alerted DC Ridley to the fact that his car, and the car and workshop of Brougham’s previous employer, had been set ablaze. But the officer did not contact Brougham, who was free on unconditional bail pending the trial.
In 2003, a police disciplinary panel found DC Ridley guilty of failing to perform his duties diligently, but fined him just three days’ pay.
The Van Colles have been fighting in a series of courts and the European Court of Human Rights was effectively their last chance.
Speaking just minutes after learning the European Court’s decision — which they were not sent directly and had to read online — the bereaved parents said they did not regret the fight.
“We were told at the start it would be a long process. We gave it our best shot,” said Mr Van Colle.
“We didn’t do it for the money. If we had won today we would have got a piece of paper, but that piece of paper would have been priceless.”