I awoke this morning to have several friends post me the news that 'Barkers' of Bradford had been closed by the police for 21 days, while court proceedings are to take place. The Bradford local paper quoted me from the campaign I headed back in 2011, calling on the shop to be closed down. I even ended the day being interviewed by my old friends at BCB, the wonderful community radio station.
All good news - Barkers had always felt like unfinished business from my previous incarnation as city centre priest in that beautiful West Yorkshire City.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Barkers had always pretended to be a newsagent, but actually made its money from selling replica weaponry, real weapons such as crossbows and assorted knives, knuckledusters, plus a whole load of other dodgy and violent stuff. All semi-legal, 'collectors' were allowed to have them in their homes. I had always hated the shop, on a prominent site opposite where I used to get my bus - the window full of horror and stuff to kill people.
But when the so called 'Crossbow cannibal' was on trial for killing three women barely 200m from the shop - the owner decided to put on a special 'crossbow sale'. With the families of victims walking around and the shock the case had caused the city, I went into the shop and asked them to remove the crossbow sale. Initially, the owner said he would - but days later the offending killing machines were still on sale - so I went back in with a reporter from the Telegraph and Argus local paper.
The owner swore at us and told us to get out, and leave him to conduct his business in peace. And so the battle commenced. The papers and radio station joined in, so did a local MP. Privately the police told us they wanted to see the back of it because it was linked to local criminality, but the shop always managed to stay just within the law.
We put peace stickers on the windows in front of the weapons, we held vigils on Good Friday in front of the shop, and held a successful petition from neighbouring shops and those in the street calling on the shop to stop selling crossbows. When I left Bradford in 2012, the campaign was still in its infancy, and I felt frustrated that we had failed to see the place close.
So the news of 'Barkers' demise has come as a great relief. It doesn't end the ridiculous law that allows people to buy lethal crossbows, but it does show that that these shops lead to criminality, the reason for the police action. Hopefully this time the owners will not be able to find a legal loophole and manage to stay open. But at least for now, I've finally got some closure.