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Justice for Johnny

Seventeen years ago, Johnny Delaney’s mother said goodbye to him for what was to be the last time.

There was a buzz that morning in Oil Street as Cuzzie left for town, intending to get her son a new shirt for his Aunt Margaret’s 50th birthday party that night.

But it was a party he would never attend.

Hours later, Johnny, a 15-year-old Irish Traveller, was beaten to death in a playing field in Ellesmere Port.

“I just knew something had happened to him that day, I had this terrible feeling,” said Cuzzie, who has since passed away.

“I kept phoning him and his phone kept ringing with no answer. I was washing my hair when I got a phone call saying he had gone to the Countess of Chester Hospital.”

Although Johnny’s attackers were found guilty of manslaughter and cleared of murder, his family — and Chesire Police — recognise the attack as being racially motivated.

His father Patrick campaigned for the verdict to be overturned, but to this day his family have yet to see justice — and Patrick never will, having died in 2006.

The Delaneys say he died from a broken heart.

“There is no justice here. As far as we are concerned it was a racist attack. I have lost my son for life. He didn’t deserve this,” Patrick once said.

Johnny had visited Ellesmere Port to invite his friends to his Aunt Margaret’s birthday party.

On his way home, he went into a shop to buy some crisps and lemonade. It was here Johnny and his friends were ambushed by a gang of teenagers, who shouted racist comments and eventually gave chase.

“When you are thinking about all the people who have suffered from other people’s hatred and prejudice… please remember our Johnny.”

When his friend was caught, Johnny went back to help him — a final act of bravery.

Moments later the gang stamped on Johnny and kicked him to death.

“He deserved it, he was only a fucking gypsy,” spewed one of his attackers, when quizzed on his actions by a witness.

Two 16-year-old boys, Ricky Kearney and Lewis McVeigh, were found guilty of manslaughter and according to The Guardian, three other youth were released without charge.

Kearney attempted to appeal against his sentence in 2004, on the grounds that it was “excessive”, however, his case was rejected.

Johnny’s sister Nellie has previously spoken of the pain his killing brought the Delaney family.

“It really hurt all our family to lose Johnny this way,” she said. “My mother and father were very upset and would cry all the time.

“When you are thinking about all the people who have suffered from other people’s hatred and prejudice… please remember our Johnny.”

Riverside MP Kim Johnson paid tribute to Johnny on Twitter.

“Today I remember Johnny Delaney, the young Traveller, killed because of anti-Gypsy hate, a fact recognized by the police but denied by the judge,” she tweeted.

“I pay tribute to Johnny’s dad and mum, who died recently, for their ongoing battle for justice for Johnny and I stand with the Traveller community in my constituency and beyond who still have to fight against discrimination.”