To try and conceal his evil deeds, 28-year-old Darren Vickers befriended and moved in with the grieving family, knowing pretty well he was the reason behind their pain. What a psycho.
NB- This post includes affiliate links. If you purchase anything through these affiliated links, the author may earn a commission)
Like most typical eight-year-olds, Jamie Lavis was a fun, cheeky, and mischievous boy who innocently thought everyone that smiled at him loved him. Unfortunately, as heartbreaking as it is, the world is full of wolves in sheep’s clothing.
According to his mother, Karen, Jamie looked tiny for his age and wore clothes fit for five and six-year-olds but never allowed the situation to stand in his way of living his best life. He frequently went out to play with friends and siblings but always made sure he was home before sunset since he was afraid of the dark.
However, all of this changed on the 5th of May 1997. As usual, young Jamie went out in the morning to supposedly play with friends, and no one thought there would never see him again.
At around 5 pm, the family sat down for dinner and were shocked that Jamie wasn’t back yet, but none of them panicked or thought of the worst. However, a few hours after dinner, the family became concerned and, at around 8 o’clock, went out to look for him.
When asked why they had waited that long the Lavis told the police that at first, they thought Jamie had lost track of time or was at a friend’s place, but after hours of inquiring and searching, everybody claimed they had not seen him at all that evening. It was then they decided to call the police.
What had happened to Jamie?
As soon as the police came out, everybody knew of the devastating news, including those that lived a bit far from the Lavis home.
Hundreds of people joined the search for days but to no avail. Since time was of the essence, together with the police, the Lavis family appealed to the public on national television for any information that could be useful. Surprisingly within a few minutes, the station was overwhelmed by the number of incoming phone calls that shared the same story.
They had seen Jamie loitering around the bus stop for a few minutes before getting on the 219 bus at around 10.30 am. One of the family members said maybe he had gone to buy his mother a birthday present since it was soon approaching and Jamie had been excited and expectant about it. Sadly he never came back home, and neither had the chance to celebrate it.
The snake in the grass
Since the Lavis family had appeared on television, almost everyone now knew of them, especially those around the neighbourhood who were previously not their friends or knew who they were at all. One of them was 28-year-old bus driver Darren Vickers.
A few days after the public appeal, he approached Jamie’s elder sister and made a striking comment. In his own words;
He wouldn’t happen to be wearing a dark blue rebook tracksuit, would he?. the sister nodded yes.
However, surveillance cameras had not been looked at yet, and though the public knew his jumper was blue, no one had mentioned the reebok brand yet. So how had he known such precise information since he did not leave with them? Only time would tell.
Darren Vickers was the driver of the 219 bus and lived three streets away from the Lavis. According to him, on the 5th of May 1997, young Jammie had bought a bus saver and spent the whole day on the bus looking through the window before he dropped him off at the same station where he had picked him earlier.
Nonetheless, since kids of his age were not allowed to purchase daily savers by the British transportation law, the public and police knew the man was bluffing, and everyone’s eyes were set on him.
While everyone could see through his lies, the Lavis family was blinded by his false determination and desire to bring their son back home alive and allowed Darren to move in with them. He spent every second around the family visiting any possible sightings the public was hinting out to them and the police.
His strange behaviour became a concern, and one of the officers commented that it got to the point where the family trusted him more than the police, which made their job difficult.
During his trial, his family told the jury that they were also shocked at Darren's involvement in the case and with the Lavis. They said his behaviour had drastically changed, and he didn't care about losing his job as he had stopped going to work once he moved in with them.
On top of that, he had utterly neglected and cut ties with them, blocking and not answering any of their phone calls no matter how hard they attempted to contact him. But they never expected him to turn up as a suspect and neither a convicted murderer.
The more Darren began conducting one press conference after the other, speaking on behalf of the family and making numerous contradictory statements, the fewer people believed him to be genuine and innocent. Witnesses from the 219 bus told the police that Daren was lying about Jamie's behaviour and his relationship with him on that day.
According to them, Jamie had turned the bus into a playground, and they thought he was related to the driver since he was sitting close to him, handing out bus tickets and occasionally playing and changing gears.
The police were convinced Darren had done something that made Jamie trust him and feel comfortable around him. They looked at the CCTV footage and realized Darren had made a fool out of everyone from the beginning. He was seen getting off the bus, approaching Jamie, and creating some conversation while playing with his hair before the two walked back together and left.
However, the evening footage never showed any sign of the driver or Jamie Lavis, as Vickers had claimed.
Police quickly looked into his profile and once again realized Darren was never a saint from the beginning. Besides lying to the bus company about his previous employment references, Darren was also a paedophile ex-convict. Without hesitation, police brought him in for questioning, but the Lavis family were very livid.
They waited outside for days, demanding him to be released and that he was now part of their family. The boy's mother even told the media that the police had dismally failed at doing their job and arrested Darren so they could be seen as being productive. Though police were convinced he was guilty, they lacked enough evidence to incriminate and convict him and didn't have a choice but to release him.
Screams of joy could be heard outside the station, and later on, a welcome back home party was thrown on his behalf. To keep up the act, Darren pretended to be deeply hurt by the actions of the police. He told the family that he didn't know how to clear his name anymore from all the false accusations staged against him, and he was worried his good reputation had been damaged beyond repair.
Believing his lies and desperate to protect him, the family allowed Darren to invite one local media crew into their home, record him and take the message back to the public.
“I’ve got nothing to do with the abduction of Jamie Lavis, and I’ve got the backing of the Lavis family, relations and everybody.”
His diminutive arrogance during the speech angered many people. Some hoped they could go head-on with him before giving their final judgment, and Darren gave them just that, not knowing he couldn't fool everyone.
He called a radio station and narrated the story again before pleading with people to get off his back and stop accusing him left, right and centre. As soon as the radio lines opened, Darren was overwhelmed by the number of questions stacked against him, and after answering a few, he smartly retreated. Based on previous experiences and after analyzing the interview, police concluded that Jamie was no more and Darren was behind it.
However, due to the family's previous reaction to the arrest of Darren, police found it impossible to share their thoughts with them and knew a strategy was needed to separate the two. Luckily Darren had previous driving offences he had not answered for, and the police used them and brought him back to the cells.
Finally, their plan worked, and after some few hours of talking, the Lavis family realized that not only had they been fooled, but they had also allowed the devil to dance to their pain by inviting him into their home.
The look on Karen's face said it all as she looked down and excused herself.
The discovery of Jamie's remains and more
Soon after his arrest, many teenagers flocked to the police station to report their devastating encounters with the driver. They told the police that though they were unfamiliar with the driver, he had previously befriended them and then tried to lure them to the woods using alcohol and cigarettes one night.
The police headed to the Lavis family for an update, not expecting to hear a similar case from Jamie's older brother John. Narrating his ordeal, the 11-year-old said a few days after Darren moved into the family home, he took him out to the woods, gave him a cigarette, and told him that is where his brother was. But if he said a word to anyone, he would find himself in the same place, and no one would ever see him just like Jamie.
Scared, tormented, and hurt by the confession, the young man shivered, swore he would never say a word, and kept his promise. The eldest sister also revealed that there was a time she felt a bit off about Darren's actions towards John. He had become so attached, buying him different things, including expensive shoes and a bicycle. Still, like the rest of the family, she quickly turned a blind eye and saw him as the fallen angel everyone needed during that difficult time.
After days of searching the mentioned woods, clothes that matched little Jamie were found wrapped with tarpaulin and hidden near a golf course. Sadly while unwrapping them for forensic testing, a tiny human jaw dropped, and everyone looked down with sullen faces.
A few days later, more parts were located but not all of them, and they all belonged to little Jamie. A young man's life had been brutally taken away, but one member of the society whose job role required him to protect and not kill passengers. Little Jamie was later laid to rest.
Trial and sentencing
Since Darren's lies knew no bounds, the jury was shocked to hear some of them during his testimony. He told them he was innocent of all charges and that John Lavis, Jamie's father, had killed his son even though he could not give a valid reason for it.
To add pain to injury, Darren told the court that Karen, Jamie's mother, was unfaithful, and the two had been having an affair way before he moved in with them. To solidify his lies, Daren claimed the baby Karen was expecting was his, and unfortunately, people with big mouths had something to say without any evidence. The rumour flooded the city like a tornado leaving the grieving mother with no choice but to conduct a DNA test and silence those secretly calling her names.
The rest of the family could not believe that the 28-year-old never loved or cared for them the same way they had done. He had only moved in to try and conceal what he had done with a preplanned strategy if things backfired.
According to the police, Darren intentionally approached and picked up Jamie from the station, knowing his evil plans toward the harmless boy. He had also purposely allowed him to do as he pleased all day long so he would not resist getting into his private car later on. Sadly he never was driven home but to the woods, where he was later sexually abused, killed, and dismembered.
After seven weeks of deliberation, Darren Vickers was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 25years. Soon after his sentencing, he secretly confessed to the leading investigations officer that he had done everything they had suspected of him from the beginning.
However, as soon as the confession reached the public, Darren contacted one of the media stations and accused the officer of lying against him.
It wasn't long until journalists revealed that Darren had bragged and confessed to his inmates about everything once behind bars without showing any remorse. On the other hand, his mother remained steadfast, fighting for him to be released.
It’s been so hard while Darren’s been in jail. I feel like I’m in prison too.”I’m doing everything in my power to fight his conviction. I’ve worked tirelessly with Ann Price, who has really campaigned for us.” said Wendy, Darren’s mom.
As it stands, Darren Vickers is now able to apply for parole, but police officers believed the jury had made a mistake in overturning their decision. Detective Roy Rainford, who was the senior investigating officer at the time, expressed his anger and dissatisfaction on the matter.
“Darren Vickers should never be released. He will be a danger to children.” and l completely agree with him.
That is the sad story of young Jamie, and it's been one of those most difficult and emotional stories to write about. I hope he is resting in peace and the family finds closure. Please let's tell our children to be careful around strangers no matter how nice they appear to be. Take care, and God bless
You can see the full documentary on Faking It: Tears Of A Crime on Amazon Prime. It ranks number 5 on the list. You can check out this other story that has been trending lately on https://uk.bookshop.org/a/11045/9781642502503. Thank you.
Please note this article was originally written and posted by me on Medium