The sister of a woman who was brutally murdered by Fred and Rose West, has revealed how she had to feel empathy for the serial killers before she was able to move forward.
Marian Partington, sister of Lucy, was speaking at the Little Way Novena held in St Eugene’s Cathedral on Tuesday night.
Marian’s sister Lucy (aged just 21), was abducted and murdered by the Wests in 1973. However for more than 20 years the Partington family knew nothing about what happened Lucy when she went missing while going to catch a bus two days after Christmas. Until the backyard of Cromwell Street in Gloucester was dug up in 1994 and the remains of nine young women were found.
Ms. Partington, who has written a book about her sister ‘If You Sit Very Still’ told the people of Derry how she had visited the Chapel of Rest where her sister’s remains had been placed into two boxes in a coffin. In one of the boxes was Lucy’s skull.
“I recognised something of Lucy in the skull,” she said. “I kissed it and wrapped it in a blanket from her childhood. In that moment I felt I had brought back the beauty of her childhood. I felt a profound grace. It felt like we were reclaiming Lucy from the Wests.”
Marian described explained how Lucy, who had converted to Catholicism just five weeks before her death, had appeared to her in a dream.
“Lucy told me - ‘if you sit very still, you can feel the sun move.’ I woke up with that feeling, it felt real and it became my quest to feel that peace again. We had to live for 20 years not knowing what had happened to Lucy. The place we were left in was a frozen silence, this dream was a shining silence full of profound love.”
Marian said the love of her family allowed her to build a relationship with God, and in 1994 she chose to be received into the Quaker Society. “Five weeks after that we found out how Lucy had died in such a terrible way,” she said.
But Marian said she faced the journey ahead with a newly affirmed faith.
“I tried to find God in the people who had killed Lucy,” she said. “I had to find God in everyone, if I excluded anyone my own heart would be diminished.
“I went to Rose West’s trial where I heard the most terrible details of sexual violence against the West’s children. Rose West sat with her hand on her spectacles and I couldn’t believe she was the person who had done all the things that were being described. I knew I needed time to face and accept what had happened or I would be in a state of unresolved pain that would affect my children.”
Marian described how she went on retreat and decided that the only way forward was to work towards forgiveness.
“I made a vow to move in that direction,” she said. “But when I got home I felt a murderous rage. I screamed, I stamped my feet on the ground, I pulled my hair. But to move from that frozen silence I had to feel empathy for the Wests. When that happened and I was filled with a sense of Rose West’s suffering of living in a society where she is hated, at that moment my pain left.”
Now working with the forgiveness project where she visits prisons, Marian says that what Fred and Rose have done is “unforgivable, however people are redeemable and can change.”
She finished her talk with words Lucy wrote in a poem before she died: “Things are as big as you make them – I can fill a whole body, a whole day of life with worry on one scrap of paper; yet, the same evening, looking up, can frame my fingers to fit the sky in my cupped hands.”