MURDER victim Joe McCafferty should have been 18 today.
But he never had the chance after an arsonist took his life 10 years ago.
His mum, Tracey, and the family’s quest for justice remains undiminished – and once again they have appealed directly to Huddersfield people to help them.
They feel Joe will only rest in peace once the killer has been caught.
Today has been the first time Joe’s cousin, Chantelle Cunningham, has been able to talk publicly about the anguish she has suffered since that fateful night back May 1997.
She was in the house when the killer struck and was lucky to escape with her life.
Joe died after an arsonist set fire to the terraced house on Haywood Avenue in Marsh where he was staying with his aunt on May 3, 1997 – just two days after Labour swept to victory in the General Election.
Joe and his brother, Nicky, now 19, were staying with Tracey’s sister, Debra Pierre. Tracey was away visiting her mother in Norfolk and was due back later that day. Also in the house were Debra’s daughter, Chantelle – who was 12 – and Chantelle’s step-sister, Shereen.
Chantelle, now 22, was the first to be woken by the sound of the blaze at around 5am.
She roused Debra and Shereen and all three escaped through an upstairs window as the flames roared through the house.
Nicky suffered serious burns to his body and arms in the inferno, but Joe had died from his injuries by the time he arrived at the nearby Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.
Debra suffered cuts to her wrist when she smashed a window to get the children out. She was also burned on her back.
Chantelle suffered burns to her back and foot along with cuts while Shereen, now 22, was cut as she escaped through the smashed window.
The family could not face returning to live at the house and moved elsewhere.
Chantelle said: “I’d put Joe to bed that night and was the last to speak to him. I’d spent so much time with him during the two weeks before he died. I felt so close to him.
“We had a glass door at the front and I heard it explode in the heat. That’s what woke me up. At first I thought we were being burgled, but I could smell smoke and could hardly see anything.
“I was screaming the house was on fire, but my mum saved us. She smashed the window with her arms and dropped us out of it to safety.’’
The flames and smoke were so intense it was impossible to reach Joe or Nicky and they were brought out by firefighters.
Police chiefs revealed earlier this year that all the evidence gathered is undergoing new forensic tests.
The murderer poured fuel through the letterbox and set it alight and a petrol container was found at the scene.
The main clue to the killer was the burned remains of a green plastic Unipart container used for motor oil which was found outside the house.
It was dark green, used for 20/50 motor oil and was last made in 1994, three years before the arson attack. Most were sold at Esso filling stations.
It was used to carry the petrol that was poured through the letterbox and then set alight.
Police have also revealed that someone contacted a radio station last year – and what they said leads officers to believe that person could also provide them with a breakthrough.
Det Supt Paul Kennedy, of West Yorkshire Police’s Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, is leading the new investigation.
He said: “We never close cases such as this. In light of new technology that wasn’t available to us 10 years ago a full forensic review of this case is being carried out. This may bring important new information to light.
“We would ask people who were in the area at the time and who we spoke to at the time to think back on what they told us.
“As time goes on we would ask if they have anything else they want to tell us.
“People may have made assumptions at the time that police had all the information available, which is not necessarily the case.
“If you are unsure that something may have been passed on to the police get in touch so we can double-check.
“We would particularly appeal to the person who called a local radio station anonymously last year, to call back. You could have information that could help us catch the killer.
“Joe lost his life that night and inquiries are still very active to bring the person who did this to justice for Joe’s family.”
Late last year Tracey said: “I now know there are people out there who know who is responsible.
“It is vital they come forward and talk to the police in confidence.”
She went to see a medium on July 11, 2006 – the same date as Joe's funeral nine years previously – and the medium advised her to return to the Marsh area and talk to people there.
She did that and put up hundreds of posters from the town centre to Marsh and across to Birchencliffe appealing for people to come forward with information.
Tracey added: “I feel it is only a matter of time before we find out who has done it. The pressure may now be really building on that person and they may feel time is running out for them and the net is closing in.”
A new memorial site has just been set up for Joe by his mum, Tracey, at the memorial website www.gonetoosoon.co.uk.
l Anyone with information can contact police on 0845 6060606 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.