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MILD-MANNERED dad Denis Foxley is terrified that he's killed someone. His wife Wendy has told him he hasn't, the police have investigated and told him the same.

But Denis isn't convinced. The obsession has haunted him for more than three years and it's taken over his life.

"Denis was full of fun when we met at a nightclub in 1990," says Wendy. "But things began to go wrong when we moved into our first home two years later. The car was broken into twice, the house was burgled and Denis had two car accidents."

At first he seemed to take it all in his stride but then, in 1994, he started having panic attacks. His GP told him it was anxiety and gave him anti-depressants. But eventually he became so ill that he gave up the insurance job he loved and instead spent most of the next three months in bed sobbing.

Early the following year Wendy discovered she was pregnant and Denis, now 27, was delighted. Then one night he woke her up at 4am. He dreamed he'd killed someone and the police had dug up the body. Wendy put the bizarre claim down to the fact that earlier that evening Denis had watched a body being dug up from under a patio in Channel 4's Brookside.

"She told me it was just the TV programme playing on my mind," says Denis. "But I was shaking. By the following morning I was convinced I'd killed someone. I was terrified and thought the police were going to arrest me."

In his mind's eye Denis could see himself burying the body, in a field at the college where he had studied for his A-levels.

"I told him he was being silly and he wouldn't hurt a fly," says 31-year- old Wendy. "But that weekend he asked me to go with him to the field. It's 50 miles away and he hadn't been there for over four years. As we sat on the grass, shivering with cold, I told him that someone would have seen him burying the body."

Denis wasn't sure. "I was nervous, totally hysterical," he says. "I cried as I walked around the field. I was convinced someone was buried there but I didn't know where and I didn't know who it was."

Within weeks he thought he knew which student he had killed. But when he persuaded Wendy to phone the man's mother, he found out he was alive and well.

Denis relaxed for a couple of days but then he felt the victim had to be someone else.

During the next few months the picture in his head became more detailed. He could "see" the man advancing on him so he stabbed him in the stomach out of self-defence, then dragged the body out of the front door of the house, put it in the boot of his Peugeot 205 and drove to the field. He couldn't see the man's face but Denis saw the same scene 500 times a day.

Wendy gave him all the reasons why it couldn't be true. "There would have been blood everywhere," she told him. They talked about it for hours. But it was an addiction.

"I couldn't stop thinking about it," says Denis. "It was my last thought at night and my first in the morning. I felt so guilty and thought perhaps Wendy would be better off without me."

Denis went to the field three times a week and sometimes Wendy went with him. He walked around it in the pouring rain, trying to remember where he had dug the hole. He sat for an hour, staring at the ground, looking for disturbances in the soil.

Finally, in February 1995, he was admitted to a psychiatric unit where doctors told him he was suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. But when he came out seven weeks later he wasn't any better. "I've done it, I've murdered someone," he told Wendy dozens of times every day. Each time she told him he was innocent.

Denis had a long list of students he went to college with and together he and Wendy tried to trace them, visiting cemeteries hundreds of times. He was convinced he'd killed one of them. "Wendy and I went to the house where I thought I had committed the crime," says Denis. "An ex-girlfriend of mine used to live there when I was at college. The landlord said there were no bloodstains on the carpet and none of the lodgers had ever gone missing. I was shaking. But it didn't make any difference."

Denis went with Wendy to ante-natal classes and sometimes he cried. "I felt I didn't deserve to be a dad if I had taken away someone else's son or daughter," he says.

Then one evening in July 1995 Denis collected Wendy from the bank where he worked and told her he was going to hand himself in to the police. "Before the baby came I had to know if I'd killed someone," he said. "Walking through the doors of the police station I was terrified but there was no way I was turning back. I had to tell them what I'd done."

As they sat in the interview room Wendy held his trembling hand and wondered how the obsession had become so serious. She told the police that Denis had been ill and they spoke to his psychiatrist.

"That evening we were taken to the field. It seemed like a dream as we walked along surrounded by nine police officers," says Wendy. "Denis was telling them where he thought the body was."

The police sent up a heat-seeking helicopter which showed there were no bodies buried in the field. But still Denis wasn't convinced. He spent hours digging the garden of his home in Wigan, Greater Manchester, to see if he could dig a hole deep enough for a body.

Jessica was born in August 1995. And when Denis held her for the first time the sparkle came back into his eyes. Instead of talking about his obsession all day he talked about the baby too.

But his obsession didn't go away.

"Jessica was fast asleep when I put her into her cot one night," he says. "I cried my eyes out and told her that if I had killed someone I was sorry. I was worried that the police were going to arrest me and that I had put her to bed for the last time."

A fortnight after Jessica was born Denis asked his wife for a bizarre favour. "I wanted to pick her up and put her in the boot of my car to see if I could have done that with a dead body," he said.

In the month that followed he lifted her into the boot of their car about 60 times.

Wendy says: "He became so anxious if I didn't talk about it or play the victim that it was easier to give in. I love him and I knew he would do the same for me."

Denis has rung the police over 140 times looking for reassurance and persuaded Wendy to ring them too. He even wrote to the Home Secretary asking him to make sure the police had done everything they could.

But gradually, thanks to psychiatric help he's learning to get his obsession under control. He doesn't put his wife in the boot any more, he doesn't dig the garden and it's over a month since he went to the field and six months since he rang the police. "I feel like ringing them," he says. "But all I want to do is ask the same questions that have already been answered a couple of hundred times. I try not to ask for reassurance any more. Even though I can't cure myself completely I want to be able to talk about other things."

Sometimes he doesn't talk about his obsession for days but he still thinks about it most of the time.

"When I'm watching television the pictures of what I did are going through my head over and over again but anyone looking at me wouldn't know," he says.

"When I ask Wendy, `Did I do it?' she never says, `Stop worrying about it' because she knows that's beyond me. She says No, she comforts me and tells me that one day everything will be OK. People always say I'm far too nice to have done it."

Denis is still not working. The highlight of his day is playing with his daughter. "She loves me to pieces and she's always on my knee. That helps because it gives me something to look forward to," he says.

He also sees a psychiatrist regularly . "I can relax more now," he says. "I still think I killed someone but at least there is a bit of doubt. If I haven't, I want to get on with life."
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Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Sheridan, Geraldine
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Mar 15, 1998
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