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A tribute to the women we have lost

Photo credit: Jaime Lee / Cosmopolitan UK
Photo credit: Jaime Lee / Cosmopolitan UK

The soft rustling of the wrapping was the only noise. Each bouquet – hundreds of them, all stacked up – was encased in delicate paper that caught the passing breeze. Everything else was still. I was surrounded by people: I should have been able to feel movements; that natural shift that occurs within a crowd. But I couldn’t. It was almost dusk and the light cast a golden sheen over us; it felt like the sky was telling us to listen, to feel.

I have often found that, at funerals or memorials, nature has a way of bringing a mysterious hush – no matter the weather. I guess it’s trying to give us the space to remember, to reflect. A very small respite from a brutal world. That day at Clapham Bandstand, this peace lasted only a few seconds. But it was needed. Because what brought us all there with our shop-bought bunches of flowers – to be placed down amid handwritten signs displaying anger, sadness and fear – was an act of extreme violence.

You’ll know the story by now; you’ll have read the court transcripts, the victim impact statements. I won’t repeat it. I won’t repeat his name, only hers: Sarah Everard. A woman who her mother Susan said was a ‘beautiful dancer who... was always there to listen, advise or simply to share with the minutiae of the day’. She was funny, sweet and clever; a woman who went to festivals, did karaoke and had big career plans...

A year on, it’s important we remember this, who she was. What those who knew and loved her think of when they hear her name. As in the media circus that followed, fierce and much-needed debates came to light regarding male violence and women’s safety. It was easy for her to get lost in the noise. Then, in the months that followed, more names began to crowd public consciousness. Sabina Nessa. Nicole Smallman. Bibaa Henry. Ashling Murphy. These are the names you know, but there are so many others that you don’t. Since Sarah’s death in early March 2021, there have been 124 deaths in circumstances where a man is held as suspect, awaiting trial or would be if he was alive. There’s no national database that captures the official number of women killed by men, but Karen Ingala Smith’s Counting Dead Women project is the most comprehensive, used by charities across the UK. By the time you read this, there will probably be more.

That you might not have heard about many of these cases is, most likely, down to them being considered ‘unremarkable’. They’re ‘common’ cases that the emergency services and police have to deal with every day. Two women per week are killed by a current or former partner. These cases don’t tend to make national headlines because they happen so frequently. But why should their deaths be spoken about any less? Why are their names not brought into each and every public debate? The fact this happens so often should be the very reason we shout their names, so work can keep being done to prevent more deaths. But beyond that, we need to remember these women; they were so much more than a statistic.

When I returned from the vigil, I stood on my darkened doorstep and lit a candle, whispering the name Sarah Everard into the wind. Across the street, I saw other lights flickering. I want to light a candle for every woman lost, and this is how. From victim impact statements, to interviews with family and friends in the local press, to our own reporting, Cosmopolitan has tried to paint a true picture of who these women were. So that we can celebrate their lives and understand the meaning of their deaths.

GEETIKA GOYAL, LEICESTER

‘Geetu was a kind, gentle, humble and honest person. She would not do anything to harm anyone else and always spoke politely of people... She was innocent and did nothing to deserve her death. We can never imagine the pain that Geetu went through that night. She was at work that day and was having a wonderful day with us. A few hours later she was dead.’ Geetika was 29 years old when she was killed on 3 March 2021.

A man has been sentenced to life imprisonment for her death. Words taken from the family statement issued by Leicestershire Police.

SMITA MISTRY, LEICESTER

‘So many people knew her. She had been a customer for a number of years, but she would also drop into the office for a chat. She knew the drivers and all the girls in the office. She was such a vibrant and energetic girl. She was funny and always had a big smile on her face.’

Smita, also known as Samita Saunders, was 32 years old when she was killed. Her body was found on 23 March 2021. A man has since been charged with her murder. Words from Uzayr Raja, manager of Aylestone Taxis, who –with the permission of Smita’s mother – launched an appeal to cover the costs of her funeral.

BETH ASPEY, READING

‘She had many friends, and the love and energy she gave touched them all. Beth was an outgoing, vibrant and creative spirit with a love of music, dance and art. [She was] loved by so many... Our fond memories of her will never leave us.’

Beth was 34 years old when she was killed on 30 April 2021. A man has been sentenced to life imprisonment for her murder. Words taken from her family’s victim impact statement.

CHENISE GREGORY, LONDON

‘Chenise was a loving and caring person, whose smile would light up a room. [She] worked as a childcare specialist. Throughout her life she touched the hearts of those she worked with as well as her family and close friends.’

Chenise was 29 years old when she was killed by a man in a hotel room in Yorkshire on 4 May 2021. The police are treating the case as a ‘murder- suicide’. Words taken from a tweet written by her cousin Dévante Gravesande-Smith.

PENINAH KABEBA, LONDON

‘She just wanted to help people... Penny was a kind, giving, loving, respected and wonderful individual... To the world, Penny is another tragedy, but to many of us she was a daughter, mum, an aunt, sister, friend and colleague.’

Peninah was 42 years old when she was killed on 27 May 2021. She was found at home suffering from multiple stab wounds. A man has been charged with her murder. Words taken from her friend Tricia Nyamata, speaking to the Evening Standard.

SOPHIE CARTLIDGE, NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE

‘This beautiful woman had such an impact on my son’s life. Sophie was always his favourite at nursery and they had such a special bond... Whenever I saw her, she always asked how he was and [said she] couldn’t wait to see him again... She was adored by absolutely everyone.’

Sophie was 39 years old when she was killed on 18 June 2021. A man has been charged with her murder. Words from a mum whose son used to attend the nursery where Sophie worked, given to Grimsby Live.

TAMARA PADI, STALYBRIDGE

‘It just didn’t feel the same knowing you weren’t here, knowing that the most important woman in my life is no longer with me. I not only lost my mum but also my best friend all at once. You always were such a happy and outgoing soul, you always knew how to put a smile on my face by just being your crazy happy self.’

Tamara was 43 years old when she died on 7 July 2021. A man has been jailed for life for her murder. Words from Tia Padi, Tamara’s daughter.

JADE WARD, SHOTTON

‘Jade always saw the good in everyone, she would put everyone before herself and loved animals – if ever she saw someone even killing a fly she would be angry at them. She was a strong character [with] her own distinctive dress sense, she loved her clothes and particularly her red lipstick... She was always dancing.’

Jade Ward was 27 years old when she was found dead at her home on 26 August 2021. A man has been charged with her murder. Tribute from Jade’s family, shared by North Wales Police.

MADDIE DURDANT-HOLLAMBY, KETTERING

‘A lot has been made in the press about her beauty and how pretty she was, but she was a beautiful person within. She was caring, loving, compassionate; she loved her family and she loved her friends. That’s what we will always remember of her.’

Maddie was 22 years old when she was killed by a man on 27 August 2021. The police are treating the case as a ‘murder-suicide’. Words taken from Maddie’s mum Rachel, who spoke to the media after her death.

FAWZIYAH JAVED, EDINBURGH

‘From being a young toddler at nursery who played lovingly with other children, sharing your toys, to school, where you would spend your time and money buying candles and selling them to give the profit to charity. You would look after the younger children on the school bus. At university, as a law student, you took time out of your busy schedule to be a “buddy” for the new students. And you went on to do so much for others: volunteering as a mentor for vulnerable school children; feeding the homeless. You would never walk past a homeless person without buying them a drink and food. You would pack up food from the evening meal and go to find homeless people to give it to. You made such a difference to many people’s lives.’

Fawziyah was 31 years old and pregnant when she fell to her death from Arthur’s Seat on 2 September 2021. A man has been charged with her murder. Words by her mother, Yasmin, speaking to Cosmopolitan. A fundraiser has been set up in Fawziyah's name.

SABINA NESSA, LONDON

‘When our school chefs started growing a few herbs and vegetables, Sabina was the first teacher to take her class to have a look. Sabina was always so involved. Without fail, [she] ate with her class every day and she didn’t sit there quietly, she would be involved, taking [her class] to the serving hatch, always encouraging them to talk to the chefs.’

Sabina was 28 years old when she was found dead on 18 September 2021, a day after leaving her home to meet up with a friend. A man has pleaded guilty to her murder. Tribute from Lisa Williams, the headteacher at Sabina’s school, shared with MyLondon. Teachers and pupils are fundraising to create a garden in her memory.

TERRI HARRIS, KILLAMARSH

‘Our Terri... from the day she was born she was our princess and remained so until she was cruelly taken from us. [She] was born and raised in the east end of London until she was 17, when she moved to Sheffield with her mum, travelling to Essex when she could to be with her dad. She made many friends throughout her short life and remained loyal to all of them. She was an amazing mum; her babies were her world. Terri and the children were well respected in the local community and known to many of the local shopkeepers.’

Terri was 35 years old when she was killed alongside her children John Paul, 13, and Lacey Bennett, 11, as well as Lacey’s friend Connie Gent, 11, on 19 September 2021. A man has appeared in court, charged with four counts of murder. Words by her parents, issued by Derbyshire Constabulary.

NICOLE HURLEY, LONDON

‘Jason, Nicole, Violet and Amira Bell tragically lost their mother in the most terrible of circumstances. These children have been the heart of our community. They help carry groceries for you when they see you carrying bags. They offer to water your plants when you are away. They come and offer to help to paint and repair whenever someone is busy tinkering. These children are not average. [They are] extraordinary, and this is a testament to their incredible mother. They are bright, ambitious, curious and generous... In one evening [they] lost everything.’

Nicole was 37 years old when she was killed on 10 October 2021. A man has appeared in court charged with her murder. Words taken from friend Brigitte Clements who set up a fundraiser for her funeral expenses.

TAMBY DOWLING, OLDHAM

‘[She] will leave a huge hole... She touched the lives of countless people... Her door was always open, her home was filled with visitors and her kettle was always just boiled. She leaves behind six devastated children who she adored.’

Tamby was 36 years old when she was killed in her home on 8 November 2021. A man has been charged with her murder. Words from Tamby’s parents, speaking to the local press.

BORI BENKO, BRADFORD

‘She was a personal friend to many, many people... She was very joyful, she exuded faith and was a very hope-filled person. And in the school where she taught, she was highly regarded and respected by all her colleagues who adopted the phrase “be more Bori” because of the way in which she was... Her intention was to go back to Hungary [her home country] to found a school because they don’t have schools like over here set up to support children with additional needs.’

Bori was 24 years old when she was killed on 21 November 2021. A man has appeared in court charged with her murder. Words from Bradford Cathedral’s acting dean Canon Paul Maybury, who set up a crowdfunding page in her memory.

AMBER GIBSON, HAMILTON, LANARKSHIRE

‘You were our little ball of ginger light from the beginning and your smile lit up the room. Your singing was questionable, lol, but it was always your favourite thing to do. We love you, Amber, always.’

Amber was 16 years old when she was killed. She was last seen on 26 November 2021; her body was found days later. Two men have appeared in court over her death. Words taken from her sister’s Facebook tribute.

CAOIMHE MORGAN, BELFAST

‘I have a lot of funny memories as we spent a lot of time together growing up and I was always in her house. We always played and did everything together – we were very close and now she’s gone. [She] was always smiling, happy and outgoing and tried her hardest – she never ever complained... She always looked well and everything about her was perfect.’

Caoimhe was 30 years old when her body was found on 18 December 2021. A man has appeared in court charged with her murder. Tribute by her cousin Mary Therese Lavery, speaking to Belfast Live.

KIRSTY LOUISE ASHLEY, GRIMSBY

‘We played together every weekend in the park near where mum lived and played in the street. Kirsty gave me a nephew and a niece, and I always remember us having a laugh when we were younger.’

Kirsty was 29 years old when she was found dead in London on Boxing Day 2021. A man has been charged with her death. Tribute by her sister Kyomi Martin, speaking to Grimsby Live.

ASHLING MURPHY, TULLAMORE

‘[She] was our shining light. She loved her mum Kathleen, her father Ray, big sister Amy and big brother Cathal and all of her family and friends so much. She was always willing to help anyone, anywhere, at any time and always put herself last. She had so many hobbies and talents, which all combined to make her an incredible, loving, beautiful person we were all so lucky to know and loved to spend as much time with as possible... [She] was so much more to me than a girlfriend. She was my soulmate, she is my soulmate, she will always be my soulmate. She is the greatest love of my life.’

Ashling Murphy was 23 years old when she was killed in Tullamore on 12 January 2022. A man has been charged with her murder. Words by her boyfriend Ryan Casey at her funeral.

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