Commemorating 30 years since the horrific accident that saw Alfie Lawrence,Ken Bookle and Winston Wright so tragically killed; and Peter Hamilton and Tony Hurtault critically injured. Written by Richard Seuke.
PART ONE - THE DAY AFTER THE NIGHT BEFORE
It was 5am in the morning and the home phone range. Few people had mobile phones on the 1st March 1989. I thought, ‘no one calls at this early hour’, so I was expecting some bad news. The night before I had been at a company function just off of Lampton Road in Hounslow, and I remembered seeing flashing lights and sirens racing as I left the restaurant. They were all heading towards the Airport. but my journey home was in an opposite direction, so I thought no more of it.
As I came downstairs when the phone rang only to see my Father (Willi Seuke, former Feltham Chairman) in total shock. I took the phone from him. John Pauling, General Secretary of Feltham Football Club at the time, was on the line. John explained to me that a stolen vehicle being chased by Police at high speed had crashed into a car full of Feltham players returning home after a midweek friendly at Feltham Arena versus Newbury Town. Furthermore, he informed me that Alfred Lawrence, Kenneth Bookle and Winston Wright had been killed instantly whilst Peter Hamilton and Tony Hurtault were in Hospital in a critical condition. John asked me if I would handle the press during the day as it would be a long challenging one for everyone. Naturally I agreed to do so and after sitting down and having a cup of tea it was time to work.
My initial thoughts were that it was such a tragic loss of young men, and talent. Peter ‘Nuts’ Hamilton had played a few games in the 1st team. Alfie Lawrence had just broken into the 1st team. Ken, Tony, and Winston were all knocking on the door of the 1st XI. The lads all came from Shepherds Bush and had been brought to the Club by 1st Team Manager, Terry Palfrey. Most of them played for the 2nd Team in the Suburban League under Phill Heggie.
I established the tragic event happened less than a mile away from the ground. The 5 had been heading home and had crossed the A30 junction by the Airport with other traffic on a green light. Meanwhile the Police were chasing a stolen vehicle at around 100mph which jumped the red light and crashed side onto the car carrying the Feltham players.
At 8am I contacted the Vauxhall Opel League (Isthmian League) Chairman, Alan Turvey and General Secretary Nick Robinson to inform them of the news. Immediately the League stated any game schedule for the weekend would be postponed and they gave the club its full support. This was followed by a call to the Suburban League Secretary Mike Bidmead and again at a time of sadness the Leagues support was gratefully appreciated along with Middlesex County FA.
At 8.30am I took a call from Metropolitan Police Football Club offering their condolences and support. Feltham had battled against Met Police FC for many years and there was a good relationship between the two sides. I contacted the radio channels to tell them the tragic news, and they announced it accordingly. Following their broadcasts, best wishes came flooding in from all corners including Newbury Town, and Hampton FC’s Brian Laing who had left Feltham FC a few months earlier to join our local rivals. After the Radio interviews the written press got hold of the story. They requested pictures of the players and a lot of additional information which the club naturally refused to give. The evening papers were full of the story about the crash.
It was a very sad occasion for everyone as words cannot express your feelings with such a tragic loss of young lives. All the players were in their early 20’s. 30 years on they would be Fathers by now with tales of their football careers to share with their children.
Evening arrived on a chilly March night and after visiting the Football Club for a few hours and talking to various people it was time to go home. It was 9pm when I arrived home and I remembered the one call I was going to make that morning: I picked up the phone and called my Sister who lived in Germany to wish her a Happy Birthday.
PART TWO - THE AFTERMATH
The support and good wishes the Club received in the coming days were outstanding. Clubs in both the Vauxhall Opel and Suburban leagues held a minutes silence before the start of their games on Saturday. Collections were made by Clubs and donations forwarded onto the fund set up for the two survivors. Peter Hamilton had major head injuries whist Tony Hurtault had badly broken legs amongst other issues. The Club attended 3 funerals at Mortlake Crematorium in as many days, and the procession from Shepherds Bush each day was hosted by a Police escort as the Streets were lined with well-wishers. Leagues, County FA’s, Clubs and of course Players, Officials and Supporters of Feltham FC attended each and every one.
The Club returned to League action and fund raising increased. Our Match Secretary, John Cronk visited Carshalton Athletic FC to collect a kind donation from a tournament whilst I visited Sandy Lane the home of Tooting & Mitcham for a cheque whilst being hosted by the Club during an evening match. Further events were established as the fundraising increased including an event at the Club where Becks Beer had provided T-shirts and glasses to sell.
But then disaster struck in Sheffield on the 15th April 1989 when 96 Liverpool FC supporters sadly lost their lives as they were crushed to death at Hillsborough Stadium in the Semi Final of the FA Cup against Nottingham Forest. The attention moved quite rightly to support the families of Liverpool FC and their lost ones and our campaign fizzed out and became yesterday’s news. Furthermore, it was then established that the Insurance company which advertised in the League handbook only insured players for away games and not home games. They therefore refused to pay out.
A plaque was placed on the wall inside the Clubhouse at Feltham Arena as the season closed and I do feel everyone at the Club was glad the season was over.
To this day their memories are always honoured. Annually the Middlesex Chronicle would make reference to the event and the Club would always pay their respects to those who died on or around the date.
The last I heard was that Peter Hamilton was moved to the Atkinson Morley Hospital for brain disorder and Tony Hurtault moved back to his parents’ home so he could be looked after. It is sad to say the Club then lost contact with the 2 who survived but I can ensure you that the memories of that night of what happened to Alf, Ken, Winston, Peter and Tony will always be in our hearts and minds forever. Rest in Peace lads.
I would like to quote a gravestone in Sutcombe Churchyard in Devon:
The lovely bud, so young, so fair
Called off by earthly doom,
Just came to show how sweet a flower
In paradise could bloom