If the hon. Gentleman will let me make some more progress, I will then take interventions.
Julie is survived by her parents and her aunt Deborah, who is one of the most determined, fearless and inspiring women I have ever met. In her own words,
“My family will continue to fight for justice for Julie. We’d hate for any other family to go through what we have. The FCO promised in 2014 there would be processes in place for suspicious deaths abroad yet our family had to fight every step of the way for help and advice, even after requesting freedom of information. Instead of the promised 20 day response, I had to pursue every 21 days and eventually received it after 5 months. I ask the Foreign Office when will they listen to what families need? Why did it take so long for basic information to be relayed to me? Why are families still being let down with lack of help and support?”
Just over a year later, I find myself dealing with another tragic case, that of Kirsty Maxwell. Kirsty was 27 years old, newly married to husband Adam, and was on holiday in Benidorm, Spain, with friends. On 29 April 2017, Kirsty fell to her death from a balcony on the 10th floor of a block of apartments where she had been staying. The family are still struggling to get full details, largely because the Spanish police failed to interview key witnesses and initiate major crime scene protocols and procedures.
We know that the room she fell from was not her own. However, due to the apparent flawed investigation, the reason she was in that room is not known. The room she entered was occupied by a group of English men who were high on drugs and alcohol, and the circumstances that ensued may have been fuelled by the men’s use of drugs and a case of mistaken identity by the men in the room. The Spanish police report, Spanish media reporting and some crime scene examinations indicated that Kirsty tried to escape, possibly in fear of her life.
Adam sent me a poem that he read out at Kirsty’s funeral. I will not read it here, but it gives the view of a warm, funny, loving young woman who had just been promoted at work and loved her family, her husband and her pug dog with all her heart. I have spent quite a significant amount of time with Kirsty’s husband Adam and her parents, Brian and Denise. They too are some of the bravest folk I have had the privilege of meeting, and they have worked tirelessly to get answers, along with the independent reviewer, David Swindle. It is impossible to put into words the depths of their devastation and sorrow, but they provided me with the following words:
“Mentally, emotionally and physically this has been extremely tough and still with no real end in sight. When Kirsty was brutally taken from us they also took a part of us all, something we will never regain. Kirsty was visiting an EU country as a British citizen, she lived by the ‘rules’ set out in today’s society. She worked every day, paid her taxes and never called on the system for any assistance. Now we plead for that assistance, plead for justice to be sought, plead for her country not to desert her and her family in their hour of need. She needs this help more than ever, needs much more than lip service to be done, needs more support for Scottish and UK families who lose a loved one abroad in suspicious circumstances. Those past 10 months as a family we have felt lost, confused and abandoned. Lost at the lack of direction and compassion we were shown from authorities. Confused at the revolving door of dysfunctional protocol and procedures which are not in place, displaced and misunderstood. Abandoned by legal systems not understood, not relevant and not fit for the purpose of protecting victims of suspicious deaths and murders abroad. This and trying to grieve while fighting a case through the Spanish courts with no assistance financially, legally or morally from either the UK or Spain. We hope this cross party of MPs”—
a group that I hope to set up in the very near future—
“can get together to produce a procedure that can offer their constituents assistance, support and a means of gaining justice for any suspicious death of a loved one abroad.”