The defendant's background might have softened the judge's heart, but whatever the mitigation that might lie in the past, if Fashanu had lived to return to the United States, he would almost certainly have gone to jail. Maryland shares the obsolete "sodomy" laws of many Southern states, under which even oral sex between husband and wife is technically a felony offence. And Case was preparing to upgrade the charges to first degree sexual assault.
But Fashanu evaded the scrutiny of a trial, and such was the tragic aspect of his death that his reputation has been subtly enhanced. On Friday May 8, a British newspaper was leaked an excerpt from his suicide note and ran a story sympathetically, headlined: "Boy lover blackmailed me." A month later, a Channel 5 documentary lauded his soccer career. And on Tuesday June 23 - three months after that fateful night in the Ashton Woods apartment - gay activists held a "memorial tribute" in London, dubbing him "a victim of racism and homophobia".
His brother was approached to cast light on his bereavement, but stood mute in the face of questions. Rejecting an interview request, John Fashanu's agent Ian Wilson said: "One, he doesn't particularly want to do anything at the moment. Two, if he does, he will do it in his own way, and his own feelings would be his own property, and he would either have those within a book, or within a major newspaper thing which he was in control of. Why give - this is my view - somebody else all that material? Why?"
Yet despite his death, Justin Fashanu will get a hearing, although not on any criminal charge. In the next few weeks - the date is yet to be fixed - Poplar Coroner's Court, a redbrick Tudor-style corner house in east London, will be the scene of a short trial of his fate. The coroner will probe the circumstances of his death and of the events which led to the garage. The only thing so far known about the hours beforehand was that he was seen at a gay sauna called Chariot's, near Liverpool Street, almost opposite where his body was found.
DJ and his mother will not go to the hearing, but they anxiously await the results. They suspect the kid was incapacitated in the apartment with one of a number of "date rape" drugs which are increasingly involved in sexual assaults. One candidate is Rohypnol, another GHB, and there are also sedatives, such as Valium, under suspicion. Tests on the boy were delayed at the hospital, so his system would have cleared any trace. But such were the circumstances of Fashanu's hanging that they wonder if he had a supply in London and perhaps consumed some to steel himself for death.
The kid's parents also hope that the coroner's hearing will help DJ reach a sense of closure. For DJ himself, too much is unresolved. He still wants to know the reason why. The family have since moved from Howard County, although he still visits with Laura and Josh. He says that he's okay, but others don't think so. They say that something, somewhere, is wrong.
The most obvious evidence is that since last spring he has been stalked by night-time terrors.
In a Maryland bedroom, untidy with toppled CDs, crumpled jeans and thrown-down sports gear, a circuit closes, he sits up in his sleep and he lashes out into the dark with his fists.
From visitor correspondence, posted 24 November 2010
Received 8 November 2007
Name and email address withheld by briandeer.com:
for some reason Justin Fashanu's name popped into my head this morning as i was discussing soccer with my co-workers.
i decided to google his name and came across your article. i had met him in Atlanta Georgia in the mid-nineties and would occasionally go out for drinks with him.
i always wondered why he hated my girlfriend so much and never wanted her around. after a night of drinking, he and one of our mutual friends crashed at my house. i awoke to him trying to take off my clothes. im glad i caught him before i ended up like the poor boy in your article.
almost all the lies he had told those kids he had told to me as well.
its a shame that he had to resort to taking his own life, but it explains a lot.
Received 30 September 2010
Name and email address withheld by briandeer.com:
For some reason I decided to look up Justin Fashanu again and I found your article.
I met Justin through a friend in Wellington, New Zealand in the summer of 96/97. I was 20 years old.
He seemed really nice. One night he invited me out for drinks. He bought me quite a few drinks that night. He was very nice, he said he'd buy me stuff for my flat (I'd just moved to Wellington)
At some point in the evening he asked me if I was gay. I told him no.
Later in the evening I started to feel very woozy. I told Justin I was going home. He said he'd come with me. This is when the night got really weird, as I just said 'sure', and we both got in a cab and went to my place.
As I always do, I stripped down to my boxer shorts and got into bed. Justin got into bed with me and I went to sleep. This is something I would never do, 13 years on it still seems REALLY strange.
Some time later I woke to find Justin was sucking my cock. I pushed him off me. Later in the night I was aware of him kneeling over me masturbating.
Still later, I was aware of him slowly sticking his cock up my ass. I was too wasted to do anything about it.
At 5:30am my alarm went off as I had to go to work. Justin got up and turned it off.
I then got up. Still very woozy. I am sure I had been drugged. I told Justin to never do that again. He asked 'what?' and I said 'you know what I mean'. He nodded.
He wanted to know that we would still be friends. I said sure, but this was a lie.
I saw him once more out on the street, maybe a couple of months later. He called out to me. I quickly said hi, then avoided him.
I heard on the news that he had committed suicide. I felt slightly relieved, bud didn't know about the rape accusation until now. I have never told anybody about that night.