It isn’t always easy to do the right thing. It isn’t always required to do the right thing. When we see a homeless person on the street, no one blames you for looking the other way. No one judges you for not giving any change. No one thinks you’re an evil person because you aren’t helping the homeless.
But when someone does go that extra mile, it matters. When someone, out of the kindness of their heart, reaches out and helps a desperate person, we thank them and celebrate them. They do what most of us won’t.
Tracey Wilkinson was one of those people. When she saw 23-year-old Aaron Barley sleeping rough outside her local supermarket in Stourbridge, West Midlands, she decided to help. Wilkinson gave Barley food, clothes, shelter, and friendship with no request for anything in return.
She invited Barley into her family’s home where he met her husband Peter and their children Lydia and Pierce. Over time, the Wilkinsons helped Barley find accommodations and made sure he had a hot meal in his belly every night. Eventually Barley was given a job at one of Peter’s companies as a laborer.
Barley was treated as a member of the family, even spending Christmas Day with them last year. In a note to Tracey, Barley wrote, “to the mother that I never had.” This is the kind of happy story we live for. Kindness reaps its own rewards.
Except things started to take a turn and Barley’s behavior was raising red flags. He abruptly left his job as a laborer after he falsely claimed that his mother had died and disappeared for a time.
In March of this year, Barley returned to the Wilkinson household. But this time, it wasn’t to get a hot meal.
Barley, dressed in black, waited in back while Peter took the dog out for a walk. Once he left, Barley snuck inside, made his way up to Tracey’s bedroom, and stabbed her 17 times. He then made his way into 13-year-old Pierce’s room and stabbed him eight times. They both died.
When Peter arrived back in the house, Barley attacked him and stabbed him six times before fleeing in his Land Rover. After a brief chase with police, Barley crashed the car, ran on foot, and was apprehended. Peter survived, and Lydia was away at school during the attack.
Barley’s motive is still unknown. He has refused to offer any explanation to police, nor has he agreed to any toxicology tests to find out if he had been using drugs at the time of the slaying. He was charged and found guilty of murder.
At the sentencing, the judge said, “You abused your knowledge of the family home, which you had only gained through the Wilkinsons’ extraordinary kindness and generosity towards you. Mrs. Wilkinson and Pierce, only 13, were in bed at home, where they were entitled to feel, and should have been, safe.”
“You have shown no remorse — indeed you only regret that Mr. Wilkinson survived his injuries – and at times [you have shown] satisfaction in what you did achieve. You knew that you were destroying the family. It is what you intended.”
“Your conduct involved a very significant degree of planning and premeditation, at least so far as the attack on Mr. Wilkinson was concerned. You broke into the grounds of the house in the very early hours. You emerged from the garden in black disguise, even covering your colored trainers with black socks.”
“The Wilkinson family, and in particular Mrs. Wilkinson, had done nothing but their best to help you. Mr. and Mrs. Wilkinson were both financially and emotionally generous to you. You betrayed their trust in every way, exploiting the knowledge of their household.”
“It is difficult to imagine what went through Mrs. Wilkinson and Pierce’s minds when you attacked them but they must have been bewildered and terrified. One of them, at least, must have been aware of the stabbing of the other.”
Barley was sentenced to life in prison.