I guess few people remember Gwenda and Peter Dixon but I do, and for with good reason: they were brutally killed whilst walking on the Pembrokeshire coastal path in the summer of 1989, not long after they had worshipped with me.
People had their theories of course. A record number of viewers contacted the BBC's Crimewatch, while detectives took almost 4,000 statements. It became a real-life murder mystery as officers investigated reports of strange divers in the bay and even considered an IRA connection after an arms dump was discovered close to where the bodies were found. I even had one Christian tell me that the Lord had shown her who was responsible! It seemed as if their killer or killers would never be caught though, until finally, thanks to the advances made in DNA techniques, a cold case review led to the conviction of John William Cooper in May 2011.
I still recall encouraging my church to pray for the killer (or killers) to be caught. I was concerned that others might die too - in fact Cooper was convicted of two indictments of sexual assault and rape carried out some six years after the Dixon’s murder. I was convinced too, that we should pray for justice to prevail, and it did, albeit some twenty years later.
I was reminded of the Cooper case when listening to the Bishop of Liverpool and others talking about the shocking cover up that followed the Hillsborough tragedy when 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death in Sheffield Wednesday's stadium during the 1989 FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest.
Not surprisingly the people of Liverpool are now asking for justice, by which I assume they mean that those responsible for rewriting history will be brought to book, and where necessary to trial.
I can identify with that cry because I am convinced that God is passionately concerned about justice too. As the prophet Micah says “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”.
It's because of this that I can echo the prayer Bishop James Jones composed for the disclosure of the report that reads,
In Jesus you taught us to keep on praying
and urged us never to give up
in our search for justice.
The Cooper case, like the sorry Hillsborough saga encourage me to believe that we should never give up hoping for and praying for justice.
But we must also recognise that justice does not always have the last word, at least on this side of the grave. Guilty people often get away with their crimes; power, influence and clever lawyers can often thwart our God given desire for justice. And the establishment always seems to protect its own (Archhbishop Tutu is very unlikely to see Tony Blair charged with war crimes).
Jesus understood this but he still told his disciples that they should pray "for as long as it takes" (see Luke 18).
It took two decades but God finally answered our prayers. The people of Liverpool have had a long wait already, and they may have to wait a lot longer too, but I can assure them of one thing: justice will prevail. They have God’s word on that even if it is delayed until the day of judgment. Having said that I pray it will come much, much sooner than that.
Justice must prevail after Hillsborough
It may take a long time, but when wrong has been done, justice will eventually be done
Published 17 September 2012 | Rob James