Adopted as a baby, Natasha Owen-Jones, 31, from London, spent twenty years searching for the brother from whom she was separated. When she did find him, it was a US federal prison, serving a life sentence for murder. Her controversial story, My Brother The Murderer, appears on More 4 tonight at 10pm. Here, Natasha reflects on their bittersweet reunion. By Kathryn Knight
‘Shaking with nerves, I watched as the brother I had been waiting to meet for nearly twenty years ambled across the room. He looked so like me and I felt my stomach lurch as he opened his arms to hug me. ‘You’re tiny’ he grinned. ‘You’re huge’ I smiled back. As we held each other tight I didn’t want to let go.
I had been waiting for this moment for so long, yet there was so much I wished I could change. For the brother I had found after decades of searching was a convicted killer serving a life sentence in a US Federal prison, our reunion unfolding against the grim backdrop of a visiting room...
For the first ten years of my life I never knew I had a brother. Eleven months older than me, Morgan was already in temporary foster care when I came along, and with our dad in prison and our birth mum unable to cope, it was felt adoption was the best thing for us. I was adopted by a family in the Midlands, while Morgan was adopted by a family who then moved to the United States.
My new family were the best you could hope for, but like many adopted children I grew up feeling there was something missing. My parents never hid the circumstances of my birth, but they didn’t ever mention Morgan so I assumed I was an only child... until my adopted mum handed me a letter from my birth father. In it, he told me I had a brother.My first feeling was bewilderment. Why weren’t we together?
I spent years searching for him until my efforts paid off in 2010. Yet it wasn’t what I’d imagined… Morgan was in prison, having served eight years of a 99 year sentence for strangling a drug dealer in a row over money. Heart in my mouth, I wrote to him… and within weeks had a reply. ‘I can’t express how long I’ve waited to write this letter,’ Morgan wrote. Unlike me, he’d known he had a baby sister all his life, but had no idea how to find me. When he ended up in prison, he wrote, he thought I wouldn’t want to hear from him anyway.
I completely broke down, overwhelmed with happiness that my brother felt the same way. After that we wrote every week. Of course there was a part of me that couldn’t compute the sweet thoughtful man I was getting to know with the man who was serving life for murder. But I also knew that he would talk about it in his own time.
The next step was obvious - I had to meet him... When I did, the man who came into the visiting room looked like a lost little kid - I could relate to that as that’s how I’ve felt my whole life too. At first we made small talk mainly, grinning goofily at each other, and blinking back tears. Neither of us could really believe the other was there. I made a conscious decision that I wasn’t going to be talk about his case, that he should be the one to bring it up.
He did that on my third visit, telling me he wanted to explain what had happened. It was a terrible accident, he said, but he accepts responsibility. And I believe him. To me my brother is an honourable man, which is why he’s not fighting his sentence, although we are both working to see if we can bring him back to England to serve the rest of his term here. I have appointed an attorney to fight his case and I’ve told Morgan that whatever it takes I want to bring him home.
My Brother The Murderer, tonight at 10pm on More (available for catch up on 4oD online).