03 March 2006

Devlin family billed for murdered son's mobile

Belfast Telegraph

Anger at 'callous approach'

By Jonathan McCambridge
03 March 2006

The parents of murdered teenager Thomas Devlin have told how their grief was compounded after a phone company refused to end their son's mobile contract months after he was stabbed to death.

Jim Devlin and Penny Holloway were left stunned after the Carphone Warehouse failed to stop billing them for the phone which police investigating their son's murder have seized as evidence.

Fifteen-year-old Thomas Devlin was stabbed five times in the back as he was walking home from buying sweets near his home on the Somerton Road last August.

On the night he was murdered he was carrying the mobile phone for which his father Jim had taken out a 12-month contract with Carphone Warehouse.

The grieving couple later contacted the company to ask for the contract to be ended due to the exceptional circumstances but they were left shocked by the response.

Thomas' mother Penny Holloway spoke to a team leader in London.

Penny said: "I have never spoken to anyone in relation to dealing with issues about Thomas who was so cold and unemotional. She did not even offer condolences. Eventually I asked her if there were many people who tried to end their phone contracts by reporting the murder of their son.

"We could not send the phone back to them because the police have it. We were shocked by the totally inappropriate way they dealt with it.

"This was nothing to do with compensation or money, it was just that their approach was so callous."

The team leader asked for a death certificate which the couple did not possess. She then asked for a temporary death certificate. She then said she would look into the matter and call Penny back but failed to do so. Eventually the company offered to cancel the contract and their Customer Liaison Executive Andrew Collins wrote a letter of apology to the family.

It stated: "It is clear that your case was handled less sensitively than we would have wished for a customer in your circumstances."

A spokeswoman for the Carphone Warehouse told the Belfast Telegraph: "We have the greatest sympathy for the parents of Thomas and are very sorry that they experienced added stress while trying to cancel his phone contract during their grieving.

"The fact that the death certificate was unavailable and the phone contract was in the father's name made this a highly unusual case, but we have now waived the cancellation fee and all outstanding calls."

Thomas' family have recently set up a trust in his memory. A website has been set up to provide information about the progress of the fund and can be accessed at www.thomasdevlin.com. Donations can be made at the Northern Bank, 971 Upper Newtownards Road, Dundonald, Belfast.

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