Today- Wednesday, 11th August, about to pass off into history and be gone- is the third anniversary of the murder of Sophie Lancaster.
I never knew Sophie in life; the accounts I've read describe a bright, intelligent and compassionate young woman. What is also sticks in my memory is that she died trying to protect the man she loved.
For those who missed the story (some non-UK readers may have) Sophie Lancaster and her partner, Robert Maltby, were Goths. That was their crime, if you can call being different a crime. Unfortunately, there are no shortage of people who seem to.
The couple entered a park in Bacup, Lancashire, where they were followed by a group of teenagers, who subsequently attacked Robert. He was knocked to the ground. They turned their attention to Sophie when she tried to protect him by cradling him in her arms. The attackers kicked her in the head, jumped and and down on her head. When the police arrived, they were initially unable to tell which of the victims was male and which female due to the extent of the beating.
Both victims were in coma from the attack. Robert Maltby recovered over the fortnight following the attack; Sophie Lancaster never did. On 24th August 2007, her life support was switched off.
She was 20 years old.
Two attackers- Brendan Harris and Ryan Herbert- were convicted of the murder, and three others- Joseph and Danny Hulme, and Daniel Mallett- of grievous bodily harm. What brave boys they were, kicking and stamping a defenceless girl to death.
Harris and Herbert were sentenced to life imprisonment. Herbert won a reduction in his sentence; why, exactly, no-one is sure.
Understand me; I do not believe in capital punishment. Or at least I do my best not to. Intellectually I know it solves nothing and does not belong in an enlightened or humane society.
But I have a deep hatred of bullies; I have no nuanced or understanding reaction to it. It won't come as a surprise to any readers if I tell you I suffered years of bullying when younger. I don't say that for sympathy but by way of explanation. Malice, the deliberate intention to cause suffering, pain, humiliation- to me, it's unforgivable and whether the setting is a playground or international politics the reaction is the same- I want the people responsible dead. Slowly and painfully if possible.
And no, I'm not proud of that. But that's the way it is. I wish I could reach beyond that and feel something better than hatred. But I can't. What I can do is try to act in a better way than that. Our better emotions, our compassion, temper our rationality, but it's our reason, sometimes, that has to overrule our cruellest and ugliest impulses. Because if you know the world you want to live in, if there are standards and values you want to uphold- then you have to live by them, even when it's difficult. That's what I hope separates me from people- and dear god, how I hate to use that term to describe them- like Ryan Herbert and Brendan Harris.
Sophie's mum, Sylvia Lancaster, set up the Sophie Lancaster Foundation. Also known just as S.O.P.H.I.E.- Stamp Out Prejudice, Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere. If you would like to make a donation, or to help in any other way, please click the above link.
Rest in peace, Sophie. You aren't forgotten.