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Steve Mallen thinks the signs first started to show when his son stopped playing the piano. Edward, then 18, was a gifted musician and had long since passed his Grade 8 exams. Playing had been a passion for most of his life. But as adulthood beckoned, the boy had never been busier. He had won a place to read geography at the University of Cambridge and was revising hard for his A levels. At his school, Edward was head boy and popular among pupils and teachers. His younger brother and sister idolised him.

“We didn’t attach any particular significance to it,” says Mallen of what he saw as merely a musical pause. “I think we just thought, ‘Well, the poor lad’s been at the piano for years and years. He’s so busy…’ But these are the small things – the ripples in the fabric of normal life – that you don’t necessarily notice but which, as I know now, can be very significant.”

Three months after Edward stopped playing, and just two weeks after he handed in an English essay his teacher would later describe as among the best he had read, police knocked at the door of the family home in Meldreth, a village ten miles south of Cambridge. Steve Mallen was at home, alone. “You become painfully aware that something appalling has happened,” he recalls. “You go through the description, they offer commiserations and a booklet, and then they leave. And that’s it. Suddenly you are staring into the most appalling abyss you can ever imagine.”

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Image: © Anthony Gerace

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