Keith "Froggy" Frogson was one of the old school. A 62-year-old retired coal-miner from the Nottinghamshire village of Annesley Woodhouse in the UK's midlands coalfields, he still remembered the miners' strike of 20 years ago, which split the country and caused bitter divisions between workmates which never really healed.
Froggy Frogson was a trade's union man through and through, prepared to fight to the death. He had stood shoulder to shoulder with firebrand miners' leader Arthur Scargill in the long and bitter strike against the wholesale closure of Britain's coalmines.
Years later he still wore his National Union of Mineworkers' "Coal Not Dole" badge and was prepared to argue with anyone who tried to break the strike by continuing to work underground. "Many people thought the strike was ancient history but not dad," said his daughter Mandy Frogson. "To him it was as though it happened yesterday."
And as a regular in his local pub, the Forest Tavern, Froggy was always delighted to have a spirited argument about the bitter struggles on the picket-lines, but nowadays done with good humour. Except when he was talking to Robert Boyer.
The 43-year-old ex-miner had been on opposite sides of the strike, continuing to work when all his mates risked jail by defying their bosses and the police in protests that often erupted into violence. They called Robert Boyer a blackleg and decades later the name had stuck. Many of the men who had taken part in the epic confrontation between unions and the government — and lost — were now dead but the bitterness Robert Boyer felt for the surviving strike leaders had turned into a mindless hatred for one man...Froggy Frogson.
Over the years Boyer built up an unshakable belief that Froggy Frogson was out to ruin his life, was persecuting him and would stop at nothing to eventually kill him. Boyer told a fellow-drinker in the Forest Tavern: "Frogson hates me because I didn't go on strike. My life is in danger because of him. I've got to be on my guard day and night..."
Froggy Frogson didn't like Boyer and still regarded him as 'a traitor to his mates' but he had no idea that the man who lived only yards away in a neighbouring terrace regarded him as a hated enemy. Froggy Frogson, a widower, lived alone in a small neat house in Bentinck Street and his daughter Mandy, 36, lived at the other end of the street with her partner Paul Brown. Mandy remembered: "Living so close to dad meant that I saw him most days. Often he would be strolling down the road with his three beloved dogs. "Dad had a routine you could set your watch by. No one could have had a better father. He was kind and loving and I never saw him without a smile on his face. 'Life's too short to be miserable,' he'd say.
"We were always together. We would chat about my day at work or about my brother and sister, Wayne and Rachel. I remember the afternoon in 2001 when he dropped into my house for a chat.
"He stayed for about an hour and as he walked off down the street I felt really lucky to having him living so near. Everyone in the village liked and respected Dad." Mandy Frogson never saw her father alive again. "That evening I got home from having a drink with friends to find that the street was cordoned off. There were police everywhere and ambulances with flashing blue lights.
"Then I noticed that all the activity was around one house...my dad's. Had there been an accident? Perhaps he'd been burgled. Then when I reached the house I saw my father lying outside his front door covered in blood. Instinctively I knew that he was dead. "By now my brother Wayne had arrived from his home nearby. We stood there on the street shivering with cold and shock and a detective told us what had happened to dad."He said that he had been attacked while walking home from the pub — shot in the head with a crossbow and then slashed with a ninja sword. It was like something from a horror movie. Who would do that to my dad? "We just wanted answers. Dad would never harm anyone. Why would someone want to murder him?"
When police scientists had examined the house, Mandy's sister Richard and her husband moved in to keep the place secure. "Outside you could barely move for flowers left by friends and neighbours," Mandy remembers. "There were a thousand people at his funeral." It just showed that everyone loved dad." Not everyone did. Two weeks after the murder, Mandy was woken at 3am by the sound of hammering on her front door. It was a neighbour who shouted: "Your dad's house is on fire!"
When Mandy arrived at the house, she found the place in ruins. But her sister and husband were safe. They had been woken by thick smoke and had found that a fire had been started in the living room and the front door had been nailed up from the outside to stop them escaping.
Luckily they were able to find away out through the kitchen, crawling through the choking smoke on their hands and knees. But now it seemed almost certain that someone had a lethal grudge against the Frogson family. As Mandy said: "Someone wants us all dead. He isn't going to stop until he has destroyed us all."
And when detectives asked her who she thought could be responsible for the murderous vendetta, Mandy Frogson remembered that years ago, Robert Boyer had been suspected of starting a fire in the street, but there hadn't been enough evidence to convict him. When she mentioned this, detectives hurried to Boyer's nearby house - but no one was there.
It was the start of Nottinghamshire's biggest manhunt. Over 600 officers combed fields and woods around Annesley Woodhouse, and particularly around the edges of Sherwood Forest, legendary home of Robin Hood. Meanwhile, police were taking no chances. A 24-hour guard was put on the homes of Froggy Frogson's relatives. "We want you to nail down your letterboxes," police told them."There's always a chance he will try to burn down your houses, too."
After a week, police were tipped off that a man dressed in army combat clothes had been seen "sculking about" on a private golf-course on the edge of Sherwood Forest. When armed police closed in on the area they found a foxhole had been dug under a tree and stocked with tinned food. It also contained a sleeping bag and a variety of weapons. It was empty. Police hid in undergrowth and waited. After two hours, a man returned and climbed into the foxhole. He was promptly surrounded and arrested. The man was Robert Boyer.
A year later Boyer appeared before Mr Justice Pitchers and a jury at Nottingham Crown accused of murder and heard prosecutor Andrew Easteal claim that Boyer was obsessed with the idea that Mr Frogson was persecuting him. "He particularly had this idea that Keith Frogson was trying to dismantle his house, brick by brick," Andrew Easteal claimed.
According to the prosecution, Boyer's hatred of Froggy Frogson stemmed from the days when the two men were on opposite sides of the miners' strike.
Boyer had apparently planned the brutal attack for months and had watched violent movies like Kill Bill and Blade to get tips on how to do it. He had then placed a mail-order for the crossbow and two ninja swords. Boyer had discovered that Froggy Frogson was a man of habit and had followed him back from his nightly visit to the Forest Tavern, cornered him outside his house and butchered him to death. Mandy, Rachel and Wayne were in court to watch as Boyer sat expressionless in court and gave no explanation for the killing.He was found guilty of manslaughter - in view of his mental condition a charge of murder was not sustainable — and sentenced to be detained indefinitely in a high security prison.
"Of course no punishment will be enough as far as I'm concerned," Mandy Frogson said after the verdict."
Every time I remember dad's not there it breaks my heart. But the worst thing is knowing that he died for no reason. I'll never get over that for as long as I live."