This annual event, kindly sponsored, assisted and largely organised by ‘Always A Chance’, for the sixth time, commenced as people arrived, during the Friday evening. Twelve old and new members re-acquainted themselves, or socialised for the first time, in the bar and hospitality areas of the new Sunley Hotel, and Waterside bar and restaurant, at the new University of Northampton £330 million campus. A further six people arrived on the Saturday morning. The 20 attendees represented tragedies occurring in 11 different countries.
A busy weekend had been planned, with formal presentations on the Saturday, followed by a more relaxing, wellbeing day on the Sunday.
After welcomes, and housekeeping matters, Saturday started with a round-table five-minute introduction by each of the members present, where each victim family had a chance to summarise and update the progress on each of their tragic cases. This part was ably chaired by Murdered Abroad Trustee, Bren McLaughlin. Members find that the ability to talk openly and honestly about their circumstances with similar, understanding families is extremely therapeutic, but it is very difficult to condense this into just five minutes each.
The first presentation of the day was by Tony Rafter, Head of the Victims and Witness unit at the Ministry of Justice. He explained about the new National Homicide Service from 1st April 2019 with £6.4m funding arrangements (over 2 years) being provided through Victim Support, who are now able to offer all forms of support for both pre-, and post-2010 victim families.
After an excellent lunch, the afternoon session was a fascinating talk and slide show by Liam Brolan, lecturer and researcher in criminology at Birmingham City University. He explained that crime was not a "thing" but was defined differently in different times, different locations, and by those who had the power to enforce. This was a good interactive session with lots of questions in both directions.
This talk was followed by an update on Murdered Abroad’s charitable activities. Co-founder and Trustee, Eve Henderson, led the way with a summary of meetings attended throughout the year, with politicians, FCO and police. Bren talked about the Helpline activities, and Brian gave a summary of the charity's fundraising, spending, and funding.
The evening was spent at local pub, the Old White Hart Inn, a short walk from the University, with sandwiches served, again courtesy of ‘Always A Chance’.
Sunday morning formally commenced with a talk by Kizzy Boden on "Practical steps towards Coping and Recovery". This was followed by a very moving presentation by Alison Eagleton, one of Murdered Abroad’s members. Thoughts and aspirations were written by each member on a card and placed in a sealed envelope, ready for next year’s meeting to review. Then attendees wrote personal messages on their own yellow ribbons, and then moved out onto the fourth floor balcony overlooking the Nene canal basin to attach them to the model tree.
At the conclusion of the day, all participants were asked to complete a questionnaire covering all aspects of the conference, the venue, and their thoughts on what they had enjoyed (or not enjoyed). Murdered Abroad Trustees analyse and use this feedback to help, plan, and improve future year's events.
All agreed that both the university venue and the facilities at the Sunley Hotel were first class.