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This programme contains some scenes which some viewers may find upsetting.
You know, I always used to call her my dark fairy,
because that's what she symbolised to me.
It were always my thing,
that that would be our symbol, would be the black rose.
That's what I saw her as.
I don't think people realise just what effect it has on you,
how it changes your whole life, actually.
You know, I look at things now and it's "before" and "after."
It was a horrible thing.
Not only do they take your daughter,
they take your life with them as well.
I was slow to get born
Wanted nothing more than to laze
In the sling of my mother's womb
To loaf and lounge
Where it was slow
Where it was warm.
So I sat tight
In a curled ball
Cocooned in love
Hazy colours and watery sounds
Came drifting through
At odds from the start
I was sideways on
Lying in wait
Till my mother's birthday came about
Then I roused and turned
And shouldered out
Into the day
Out of the dark.
She was a good baby, really.
Although very mischievous.
She would, you know, climb out of her cot,
she'd open the reins on her pram, climb out of her pram,
but even at that age, she had quite a strong personality.
I remember once watching her with Adam, her brother,
who is 18 months older than her, and his friend,
and they were trying to get a wooden telephone off her.
They were a lot bigger than her, obviously,
but she didn't give it to them, you know?
She were proper tugging at it
and, um, yeah, she were a good baby, really.
The twilight month
Month of the short afternoons
The low sun
And the vampire moon
Were those Gothic days
Where I got it all from?
I kept mum
I bit my tongue
Why use ten words instead of one
When you can use none?
Why speak at all
When everyone else is babbling
Gabbling, rabbiting on?
Sophie did sit back and watch the world
and she continued with that,
you know, all through...all through her life, really,
and you would watch her
and she'd be watching people in a group and then...
I used to think she was watching to see
if she could be comfortable with people.
That's how I always interpreted it.
Whether it's about being comfortable,
whether it's about being frightened of new experiences,
um, I'm not sure.
To be sometimes remote
To be sometimes withdrawn
Was it such a crime
To be growing up at my own pace
In my own way
In my own sweet time?
They were saying then I had
What they called an enquiring mind
Learning quickly to empathise
Standing there by mother's side
Hearing the language of human rights
Hearing the rants
Of her leftie friends
Bolsheviks and Trotskyites.
I left school at 15 and I'd no qualifications
and working in, you know, local factories, really.
And I woke up one day and I thought, "I can't stand it any longer."
And after I'd done my A levels, I went to Manchester Uni,
so she was always surrounded,
at that early age,
by feminist, leftie, shall we say, people.
I applied for a volunteer post for the Youth Service,
so I used to work in a local youth club
and Sophie would come with me very often.
So, she was always brought up with an understanding, I think,
of the issues surrounding difference
and the different types of people and experiences.
So I ditched the comfort
Of pillows and sheets
And slept one night
In a cardboard box
In sympathy with the down-and-out
And bedded down in a linen drawer
Because sometimes you need
A place to hide
Somewhere to crawl.
Sophie, um, was a vegetarian from an early age.
We used to go to Bury Market every Saturday and, um,
I don't know whether you know Bury Market
but there's actually a meat market,
and our Sophie would make songs up
and sing them at the top of her voice, every week,
about how she hated this meat market and how it stank
and how it was wrong that they did this to the animals.
And she just didn't care.
And, actually, when I think about it,
you know she had a different diet
from the rest of us in our house, actually.
She would eat a lot of salad and...
Well, as you can tell from my weight, I like chips and cake.
Because that's one thing about our Soph,
my God, was she strong-willed?
You couldn't get her to do anything that she didn't want to do.
VERY strong views, VERY strong personality.
I didn't do sport
I didn't do meat
Don't ask me to wear that dress
Why ask me to toe the line?
I was slight or small
But nobody's fool
No Barbie doll
No girlie girl
I was lean and sharp
Not an ounce of fat
On my thoughts or my limbs.
And she'd got beautiful, beautiful waist-length hair.
And she was always very proud of her hair.
And, you know, she had such...
She had really bad eyesight, bless,
so she always had really thick glasses on
and I think that had, um, an effect on her.
And I always wanted, if I've got to be honest,
a girlie girl, and our Sophie certainly were never that.
I'm just trying to...
to think about when Sophie started to become quite Gothy.
She'd probably be about 11 or 12.
She went to stay with her best mate, Suzanne,
and they stayed friends right up until, um, Sophie died.
And she'd been up to Suzanne's,
and I remember her, vividly, walking in
and she'd got a dog collar on.
One on her wrist.
I remember looking at her and smiling and thinking,
"Oh, here we go."
You know, I was really happy for that
because she needed that channel for her individuality to come out
and to show people who she was.
In my difficult teens
I WAS strange
I WAS odd
Aren't we all?
There was something different
Down at the core
Boybands, Pop-Tarts left me cold
Let's say that I marched
To the beat of a different drum
Sang another tune
Wandered at will
Through the market stalls
Humming protest songs
I wore studded dog leads on me wrists
And was pleased as punch
In the pit at the gig
To be singled out
By a shooting star of saliva
From Marilyn Manson's lips.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE ECHOES
But for all that stuff
In many ways
An old-fashioned soul
Quite at home in my own front room
On my own settee
I read, I wrote
I painted, I drew
Where it came from no-one knew
But it flowed
She was like an old soul.
And, you know, you talk to people
after...after she'd died,
and all the rest of it,
and people would talk to me about her kindness.
She was always very kind, very caring towards people.
But the wisdom about issues...
She was always into green issues, she was quite political.
Sophie did have a lot of empathy for other people.
I was always, I've got to be honest,
when Sophie was...
Well, when we were getting ready for her to go to secondary school,
I was always really concerned for her,
because of Sophie's eccentricities, shall we say?
And, you know, I remember writing this letter saying,
you know, "She walks to her own beat
"and we want that to be looked after
"and brought out of her and nurtured..."
That's the word - we wanted her to be nurtured.
She settled in.
She was fine, to be honest,
because the one thing about our Sophie,
which was always a bit odd,
she actually liked the structure of things
and she liked being at school because she liked the learning.
She found, thankfully,
the more alternative young people within the school
and that seemed to settle her
and she was quite happy then to be who she was.
And it was nice to see her belonging to a group,
rather than being that outsider.
I met a boy
He was one of me
I was one of him
We were one and the same
I went towards him
And kissed his face
He was skin and bone
He was six foot tall
He was ghostly pale
He was poetry, art
He was quirky, cool
He was backcombed and pierced
He WAS perfectly weird
We walked through Manchester
Hand in hand
We were both in league
With the colour black
Not knowing exactly who we were
But both agreed on what we were not
We were joined at the hip
We were all black T-shirts
And snow-white flesh
We were silhouette
I slashed my jeans
And unpicked my seams
And smeared my lips
And ripped my fishnets
In honour of him
Sat at the mirror for hours on end
With banshee make-up
And hurricane hair
Till I looked like
I'd fallen out of a tree
Till I looked like
I'd clambered out of the grave
It was love
It was life.
I remember my first sight of Rob.
He had black hair, obviously,
and backcombed, so it were really wild,
and he had a brown mac on and some yellow plastic shoes
and, you know, his facial piercings,
and our Sophie was quite distinctive, too, in her dress.
She obviously wore a lot of black,
but she would very often sort of cut her clothes up
so they were always quite raggedy, really, and, you know,
I would never say anything to her,
ever, about her appearance because...
Well, actually, I was always quite proud of her
and I thought she looked lovely.
She was quite distinctive.
You would notice her if you saw her in the street.
But it was more than that with her,
it was more than the clothes,
it was more than the music.
I think what happened was, as she was growing up, you know,
she was a vegetarian,
she was a pacifist.
A child who was quite internal.
The clothes aspect of it and the make-up and the hair
just showed what she was as a person.
What people don't understand is that that is actually the truth.
It's not just, oh, somebody chooses to dress differently,
and for somebody like Sophie,
and for a lot of people, actually,
it's not even a life choice, really.
It just reflects who they are.
It was one small step
Across the street
But one giant leap into bedsit land
And very grown up to be moving in
To be given the keys
To lift the latch
To be playing house
To be lady and lord
Of our very own place
In our very own space
We WERE dreamers
We were jobless, skint
Always juggling and having to stint
Not a penny to our name
Always struggling to make ends meet
To eke things out
Till the end of the week
To the passer-by
It was hardly the Ritz
Nowhere to shout or show off about
Just some old, cold first-floor flat
Below the moor
Above a shop
But to us
It was home
Palace and penthouse
Fortress and funhouse
Studio, library all rolled into one.
We could bolt the door And keep the world out or
Watch the world as it wandered past In all its glory, beautifully mad
All the nightshift workers And daylight shirkers
The mods and rockers And emos and moshers
And joggers and bikers And slackers and slickers
All the swimmers and sinkers And grafters and thinkers.
The fly-posters and bill-stickers The goths and the straights
And the groovers and ravers.
The movers and shakers
The butchers and bakers And candlestick makers.
All the pissheads and potheads And veggies and vegans
And coppers and preachers And posties and traders.
The night-hawks and The dawn-treaders
The speed-freaks And the metal-merchants
All the scrimpers and savers The beggars and trailblazers.
All the chancers and mystics And givers and takers
And skinheads and suedeheads And non-believers.
All the tattooed crusties All the crested Mohicans
All the folkies and rappers And ragamuffins and Rastas
And clubbers and dubbers And mixers and suited commuters
And duckers and divers
And salesmen and truckers And lollipop ladies
And beatniks and peaceniks And streetkids and skaters
And hitchers and drivers And runners and riders.
All the rat-racers All the money servants
All the dancers and DJs.
All the trippies and heavies And slackers and hippies
And hawkers and vendors And takers and lenders
And the dog-walkers And the dawdlers
All the late starters And early risers
All the human race In its crazy parade
I said: "let them all be."
I said: "live and let live."
I said: "breathe and let breathe."
SHE INHALES DEEPLY
Sophie and Rob, you know, they were really an old-fashioned couple.
They were proper old-fashioned.
They liked to do things as they saw as being proper.
And I know from when they were at my house,
Rob would sit on the couch and our Soph would sit with her legs over him,
and that's what they did.
And they did go out for a drink, they'd go to their mates' houses,
but they were never big party animals.
They liked being together.
And he would paint and our Soph would sit there and read.
You know, Sophie had...
Had issues when she were about 14, 15.
She didn't feel that she belonged and you could see that.
And she struggled at times.
You know, probably the 12 months before she died
she'd just about hit where she should be, who she was.
She was just coming through all that.
Once she met Rob she saw that...
..what she was and who she was
was actually really quite meaningful.
The people's month
Easy, effortless, endless days
Think of a park in its perfect form
The Victorian dream
The tick and tock of a tennis ball
Friday-night lovers Out for a stroll
Had we only known
That this was a place Where shadows waited
Where wolves ran wild
Where alcohol poisoned The watering hole.
They called in at the local garage because they'd no cigarettes.
And whilst they were at the garage they met up with somebody
who had met them previously in a pub.
And whilst they were stood talking
to these two young men, boys, whatever...
They were asking Sophie about her retainer in her ear,
and these two young boys said to
Sophie and Rob, you know, they were having a laugh,
and one of these young boys said, "Come and meet my friends."
So... Although I have to say, one of these boys didn't want to be
seen with Sophie and Rob because of their appearance, you know.
They were moshers and, "I don't want anything to do with you."
So, Sophie and Rob went to meet this group of young people,
and they were fascinated with their appearance.
You know, Sophie had on that night a massive big pair of shoes.
And bearing in mind she were only 5'1", 5'2".
And she did have her dreadlocks, retainers and she did have...
Funnily enough, I found them the other day...
But she wasn't dressed outlandishly.
Whatever possessed us
Led us on
Figures materialised Out of the black
Till a group was a gang Was a mob was a pack
The hours were small The minutes lost
It was there and then But it's here and now
Real, actual Won't go away
Keeps happening over and over again
In no time at all
An alarm bell chimes The barometer swings
The mercury climbs The hour-glass flips
The galaxy tilts
The needle swerves violently Into the red
In an atmosphere of menace and threat
In an aftershave of dope and booze
And testosterone and pent-up hate
Have we said the wrong word?
Have we made the wrong turn?
Have we strayed from our path?
Have we stepped on their patch?
Do they find offence At the studs in my lips
Or the rings in my ear?
Are they morally outraged By what we wear?
We are kindly creatures Peaceful souls
But something of our lives Aggravates theirs
Something in their lives Despises ours
The difference between us Is what they can't stand
And so the blows rain in
With that level of fury That needs to hurt
That depth of anger
That goes for the face That desires to maim
And when they've finished Knocking the stuffing out of my man
Kicking his skull For all they're worth
And I nurse his broken head On my knee
One turns on me
He comes back and he turns on me
A plague of fists or a swarm of feet
The boot coming in again and again.
How he hates my demeanour Hates my braids
How he hates my manner Hates my ways
Doesn't know me from Adam Not even my name
But detests every atom Of what I am
Nothing I scream for Will make it end
He will kick
And will kick
And will kick
And will kick
Till the living daylight Flies away.
And from what I can gather, five boys walked into the park.
Were only there a couple of minutes, and said, "Let's bang the moshers."
Five of them attacked Rob.
Got him on the floor and were kicking his head.
This is were it gets a bit murky, I've got to be honest,
because where is Sophie?
Nobody seems to see where she is. What's gone on there?
-We know because of...
I don't know.
Conversations with the police, with the five attackers,
this is what he said,
that Sophie were on her hands and knees, cradling Rob's head,
shouting at them,
and then Ryan Herbert is supposedly have said,
"Oh, God, she's a witness. I'll go back and do her."
I don't believe that.
I don't believe that in a million years.
How come - and I'll say this to my dying day -
how come five of them's attacked Rob?
You're telling me that one of them's attacked her?
He didn't do that on his own, that's ridiculous.
There were young people in the park that night that tried to help them.
They did give them first aid. They did call the ambulance service.
But bear in mind we've got three ambulance calls
and those calls took 17 minutes.
And you can hear - you can hear in the background of that 999 phone call,
you can hear the attack taking place.
You can also hear Rob coming round.
That attack did not take over 17 minutes on Rob.
Where were Sophie?
She's... She's lost somewhere along the line.
Which is the truth, and which isn't...
I don't know, I don't think we'll ever know, either.
On my hands and knees I crawl
Some way, then fall, then curl
This is pain beyond pain
I am seeing stars
I watch planets wheel
I watch heavens whirl
I hear sirens wail
And of all the people to have been attacked, for God's sake,
there's this little, gentle, kind girl, and Rob, God love him.
Our Adam turned up, and then the police turned up as well.
And they were telling me about where they'd been that night, and I couldn't,
and I can't to this day, get my head round
what on earth made them go in that park that night.
Questioning me about Sophie and their lifestyle.
Did they do drugs? What?! No, they did not. You know.
And I can understand what they were doing.
They've got to build a picture up of these two young people.
And then he says to me, "You know, she's at Fairfield."
Rob was at North Manchester, Sophie was in Fairfield.
"You can go and see her now.
"Her dad's with her. But I have to say to you that
"when the ambulance men picked them up, they couldn't tell
"which was the male and which was the female, because she's swollen."
I am dead but alive
Alive but dead
Ghosting somewhere in between
Cushioned and wrapped in Hospital pillows and hospital sheets
Blanketed under fluorescent light
A Medusa of drips and tubes and leads
And clotted braids And tangled beads
And jigsaw shapes of naked scalp
Where clumps of my hair Were kicked clean out
The police can't believe this necklace is mine -
Too ladylike, too feminine
And Mum can't see
That somewhere inside
This swollen, bloodshot
Is my heart-shaped face And swan-like neck
Black roses that bloom On my arms and legs
Are the bitter bruises Of self-defence
I am traumatised
I am compromised
I am deeply distressed
I am sorely defaced.
We walked in, and you see this...girl,
who's got the tiniest of faces. Absolutely stunning face.
It was like a football.
It was absolutely massive, her whole head.
Her face, her head, everything.
And her dad was sat there holding her hand and, um...
I don't know who... I don't know who cried the most.
She'd two black eyes, and she'd marks
on her face that were trainer marks.
You could see them as clear as day.
Even the diamond shapes on both sides of her face.
She'd even got a little tiny star.
And that were from the laces on the trainers.
Now, you're telling me - how much force must they have used to do that?
Her ears... Her ears were big, black and puffy
and there were yellow marks...
God. Her neck.
You know, she had a lovely, long, very elegant neck, like a swan,
and I used to say that to her.
And her neck, God love her, it were black on both sides.
It were horrible, horrible, horrible.
At the back where'd they'd kicked her,
they'd yanked part of the skin off her head, and it looked like
they'd pulled her hair out,
and bearing in mind she had dreadlocks, you know...
She'd defence marks, on both her arms
where she'd obviously curled up in a ball.
She'd marks on her legs where, when they'd kicked her,
she'd moved across the floor.
But all the marks,
everything they did to her, were on her face.
That was, sort of, the Saturday.
Fully expected her to live.
Fully expected her to come round - probably, you know, within 24 hours.
That's what the nurses said - "This is what usually happens."
So me and Adam and Sophie's dad, John, went home that night
and er...got up early Sunday morning,
rang the hospital obviously,
and said "Right, I'm on my way. Do I need to bring anything?"
And she said, "Oh, yes, bring her some pyjamas
"and bring her some toiletries for when she comes round.
"We're going to take her off the machines later."
So I called in and I got her some new jimmys
and I got her a lovely new toiletry bag...
And I got her stuff.
And I thought, "She'll love that."
I took it to the hospital. There was only me there.
And I'm sorry, Mum
For making such a fuss
To be centre-stage
Sorry to twitch
Sorry to mumble and make no sense
Sorry to sweat
Sorry to vomit and arch my back
Sorry you have to see me like this
Purple and blue
Branded and stamped all around my head
With the logo and tread of a training shoe
I can't find my form
I can't breathe on my own
I can't move my mouth to say how I feel
I can't help my feet when they clench into claws
I can't help my legs and arms when they thrash
Can't help my eyes when they roll and track
Can anyone say if I'm coming back?
They, um...decided to try and take her off the machines
because she'd been in a coma for 24 hours
and...she was sick.
Vomited all over the place.
But it wasn't that that was interesting, it was her movements with her hands.
I knew, I thought, you know... "There's...something wrong."
Heart monitor going up and down, up and down.
And...she'd be sweating and they'd sponge her down,
and then they'd have to wrap her up
because she'd be ice-cold in this foil - it were just...
Her legs were going, she was having epileptic fits,
And the noise - oh...
The noise she were making were like...a cow, lowing,
I can't describe.
It were...loud, really loud,
like...oh, it were horrible.
And she were mumbling, actually, mumbling to herself,
Well, the nurses, you could see there were a bit of panic here,
"Oh, my God, put her back on."
So they put her back to the machines
and I'm sort of stood there,
thinking, "Oh, my God, what is going on?"
And they're saying to me, "Oh, no, she'll be fine,
"it's just not what we expected.
"She probably just needs another 24 hours.
"We'll try her again tomorrow."
But by this stage, I didn't want to be here.
I'm proper scared...scared by then,
I thought, "I don't want to be here."
So I left Sophie, and John stayed with her,
and I went up to North Manchester to go and see Rob.
So that's how it stood, then - we'd two of them in hospital,
both of them still on the machines.
So I went home that night
and, um...I think I lasted about a couple of hours,
I think, while I were at home - I thought, "I can't...
"I got to do something." You know - pacing about.
I thought, "I can't sit down, I can't watch TV.
"I can't do anything."
How distant I am
How far away
Am I not myself?
Am I still of this world?
I am critical
Beginning to fade
And then, funnily enough...yeah, I woke up, and I thought,
"I'm going to ring the hospital."
It'd be about four o'clock, I think.
And I rang, and as I rang, the doctor answered
and he said, "Oh, Mrs Lancaster, I were just going to ring you.
"I think you'd better come down.
"She's, uh...taken a turn for the worse, she's gravely ill."
So we all set off, and...
It was horrible, horrible -
there was blood all over the floor, she'd had a massive heart attack.
But they did say, "As soon she starts to rally a little bit,
"we're going to take her down and get her brain scan done
"because, you know, there's summat...not right."
So they took her down, and I came back on to the ward
as they were bringing her back up.
And the nurse, she were in floods of tears
and I knew then, you know, I thought, "Oh, God."
I knew then, you know, "That's it."
And what they said was that they'd done a brain scan
and...basically she'd no brain left.
It were just...dead.
They would turn the machines off on the Friday
and they would do the brain stem test.
Do I even know that my man survived
Whose handsome head I cradled and kissed
While they beat him with names and stoned him with kicks
Whose innocent face I tried to shield
Whose life I wrapped and held with my own?
Well, Rob, they tried to take him off again on the Monday.
And he came off and he was awake.
And he says he remembers, you know, um...seeing his mum and dad there.
Don't think me cold or impolite
If I don't respond when you say goodbye
If I lie here unmoved when they wheel you in
In stitches and pins for a final time
Body broken, spirit dimmed
Don't think me rude
If my eyes don't light up at my favourite things
At these new pyjamas
This toiletry bag
But I'm losing ground
When you loosen my clothes
Please don't be fooled by the hidden tattoos
And the studs and rings in intimate folds
And the woman's body I've secretly grown
Because under this skin
I'm your helpless daughter all over again
Your little dot
Your baby girl
As you did then, do again now
Mop my brow as you mopped my brow
Climb in my bed as you climbed in my bed
Lay at my side as you laid at my side
As you kissed my ear
As you wiped my mouth
As you soothed me to sleep
As you washed me down
As you bathed my breast
As you put me to rest
Night follows day
Day becomes night
I am sunken
Out of reach
They have scanned and searched for vital signs
But I'm hardly a pulse
Barely a breath
Then on the Friday morning, they, um...took her off.
Was going to do the brain...stem things.
And then they take you into a room,
and they say, "I'm really sorry, Mrs Lancaster,
"but there's...nothing there.
"We're going to turn the machines off."
And they then screen, obviously, you know, the bed off
and take the machines off.
And, um...we stayed with her, obviously.
And, uh...it took her about 20 minutes to die.
And I lay down with her.
And I held her in my arms until she died.
It's a horrible, horrible thing.
She's just so little, this tiny thing.
Well, by then, I'd had enough.
I just wanted to come home, leave her, and just come home.
Our Adam, bless him, came back and sat with her.
But I couldn't.
I just wanted to go home.
The line on the screen goes long and flat
Pull the curtains round
Call the angels down
Now let me go
Now carry me home
Now make this known.
Sophie Lancaster was kicked to death in a Lancashire park in 2007 because of her appearance. Sylvia Lancaster remembers her daughter and the tragic events after the attack as Sophie tells her own story through a sequence of poems written by poet Simon Armitage.