Two sons who were abroad when their controlling, abusive father killed their mother and sister before turning a gun on himself, opened up on Saturday, describing their traumatizing childhood, built on terror and fear.
BBC reports that on July 19, 2016, 57-year-old Lance Hart wrote a 12-page suicide note before he killed his wife, Claire (pictured right), 50, and their daughter, Charlotte (pictured left), 19. Four days prior to the killings, Claire left her husband and moved out of their Moulton, England, home.
Luke, 28, and his brother Ryan, 27, helped their mother and sister get away from the grips of their abusive father. The the brothers, both engineers, were away on business when the tragedy occurred, and now they’re saying that the warning signs of a potential murder are easily overlooked, despite numerous red flags.
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“I don’t think anything could ever, no matter how bad it was, lead you to expect what happened,” Luke said in an interview with the Guardian. “The second we stepped out of line, he was willing to kill all of us and I don’t think anyone appreciated that.”
“A lot of education needs to be done in terms of abusive behaviour and also the way people will respond to abusive behaviour. I didn’t understand them myself, none of us did.”
According to Lance Hart’s suicide note, he blamed his family of conspiring against him and destroying his life when they left him, when in reality, Claire reportedly left because she was tired of the endless abuse cycle doled out by her “selfish husband.”
“You completely destroyed my life without giving me a chance so I will destroy yours,” Lance Hart wrote. “Karma is coming, Karma is a b***h, now you all lose.”
When Lance Hart learned his wife and daughter planned to go swimming in Spalding, Lincolnshire, he hid out in a car parking lot and waited for them to arrive. When he spotted the pair, Lance Hart blasted then with a double barrel shotgun before turning the gun on himself. Although Claire died at the scene, Charlotte held on long enough to tell authorities that it was her own father who shot her.
“We were one of those families where you’d have to turn the lights off, or wear more clothes because you can’t put the heating on,” Luke said, recalling his tumultuous childhood. “Charlotte once forgot to fill up the kettle, and for three hours he was marching around the house, yelling at us about it. Even when we filled it, he’d keep going, slamming the doors, screaming at us.”
“He was always jealous if you were happy,” Luke continued. “And if you were upset, he was jealous of your suffering. It was about inflicting his own emotional state upon us – say, he’d come back from work and he was happy, he would angrily force us to laugh and join in. He wouldn’t even let us live an emotional life free from him.”
Luke recalled noticing a “creepy” change in his father’s behavior when Lance Hart learned his wife planned to leave him, according to the Guardian.
“It was creepy, seeing him smile and act like he was nice. You could tell it was acting.”
“Part of me knew, and at the same time part of me didn’t believe anything,” Luke said, recalling when heard the tragic news on a BBC breaking news alert. “I saw it, but then I felt like my life was a video game, like I had changed planets in that moment and suddenly nothing was real.”
“Our father didn’t need to hit us. He generated enough fear in ways that were subtler,” Luke also recalled.
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Yet, it was the lack of physical abuse that convinced the family that they weren’t in physical danger. In fact, Luke indicated that since their father wasn’t hitting them, the family didn’t think he was dangerous, despite his never-ending emotional abuse.
“We thought, ‘Well, he’s not drunk and beating us every weekend, we’re not failing at school, we don’t have behavioural problems.’ Those were the signs I was looking for. And because it hadn’t happened, we didn’t recognize our suffering, or that he was dangerous. From the outside, we were three healthy, intelligent children. No one seemed concerned that much was wrong, because we were doing so well.”
“For the last five to 10 years, I was trying to learn from him what not to do,” Ryan added in. “I based my decisions on watching what he’d do, then I’d do the opposite. But I hadn’t realised he was any worse than other fathers. I thought all men were like him.”
The brothers now are hoping to spread awareness that it’s OK to not have an abusive man in the lives of families. They feel by speaking out on the issues they suffered, they may be able to help other families before it’s too late.
“Sometimes, women worry, ‘Oh, if our child doesn’t have a father figure, who knows what will happen to him?’” Luke asked. “Well, he’ll probably just turn out to be really nice, actually.”
“Vulnerable women and children are not treated as heroes, for standing up to their oppressors even when they are murdered, or given a national day of mourning. But they should be.”
[Feature Photo: Charlotte and Claire Hart/Handout]