Dedicated to Emily Jones, Age 7
Murdered by a migrant in a British park on Mothering Sunday.
[Editor's note: this column was amended on May 20. The woman charged with the murder of Emily Jones is understood to originally come from Albania.]
Dear Mrs. Jones,
I am sitting in my kitchen in my dressing gown, waiting for my little world to wake up. And I am thinking of you, as I often do. Worrying for you, worrying about you.
You don’t know me, of course. I am just a mum like any other, sitting here looking down at my dressing gown, reminded that it could probably do with a wash, listening for little footsteps padding down the hall stairs. Sat waiting for my sleepy little boy who will come and snuggle in for reassurance at the start of another day.
I think of you listening out for those little padding feet, knowing they will never come. Waiting for the soft face to appear from behind the kitchen door, looking at you like you are the answer to everything. Except now all those questions can never be asked.
It is over a month since your daughter was killed. You know, I am never sure under this infernal lockdown whether time stands still or is passing at breakneck speed. Days have lost all meaning for the rest of us; I feel sick thinking what they now mean for you.
Most people will avoid talking to you about Emily’s death because it is too terrible. The things we know are too shocking to mention in front of a grieving mum.
That your child was a happy little thing playing on her scooter in the park with her family on Mothering Sunday when she was stabbed to death, her life ended in one blow by a migrant woman, a stranger to you and to this land.
If these words are too brutal for the grieving, how is it possible these things can happen to the living, on an otherwise normal day?
Instead we tiptoe around the truth, soften our language. We do not talk of murder or of killing. We softly whisper that Emily was ‘taken from you’, like a reclaimed gift or prize, regretfully removed from your arms by gentle hands.
We are not supposed to talk, either, about the migrant killer who hides behind her color and her mental health.
She became invisible that day, like a magic act disappearing in front of our eyes, the media willfully acting as this migrant Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The attackers identity erased to protect her kind from consequence, shielded from justice by her mental health. While you, stripped naked by this country, a mother without her child, have no protection at all.
So I speak the truth of Emily’s death deliberately to you, straight from my worrying heart to yours.
I wonder where everyone else is? How easy it is to allow Emily’s death to go unnoticed in a world where common sense has been lost to the corona virus, and the only people others have concern for is themselves. They live like islands these people, only concerned for the things that touch their shores. They have been such good citizens, drinking the Corona-Kool-Aid fed to them by the government and the media, dutifully living in fear. They see this virus as a threat to all the things they can be bothered to care about: their health, their family, their job, their home.
Never questioning the bigger stuff, never wondering what sort of country we are becoming outside of the nucleus of their own home. Never looking up long enough to see the disintegration of this country to those who wish us harm.
I watch people wiping, disinfecting, masking, flinching, distancing themselves from nice looking couples with dogs. No amount of hand-sanitiser will save them from the state of this country and the people we have let in.
Such effort to protect themselves from an invisible enemy; such effort to ignore the visible enemy in front of their faces. Those cowering from the virus show no fear of the monsters walking among us in plain sight, given a fast pass by those who say diversity is our strength.
I speak plainly about the killing of little Emily to you, Mrs Jones, because I still want the story of your little girl to be heard. Emily’s story is not about monsters, visible or invisible, or some wretched migrant woman with a knife.
It is this picture of your little girl, smart, happy and with fun behind her eyes. Her hair all shiny and clean, her little plaits put together perfectly for her school photo. You even took the time to make sure she had identical hair ties, searching around the back of the sofa or in the funny little pot of hairbands we all have, to chase down a matching pair.
Little plaits are tricky to make work — like braiding slippery silk with a mind of its own, all atop a head that giggles and laughs and wants to race to the next thing.
We see her clean white shirt and her uniform all tidy, knowing that behind it lies a mountain of washing and scrubbing at stubborn ink marks that will not come away. It is the mothering of everyday: nagging for the toothbrush to be used or a face to be washed, searching for the lost tie just before you are supposed to head out the door.
This is a picture of a mother’s love for her child. And no one can take that away.
I don’t know how far the journey to the surface is for you, or how long it will be before the crushing thing pushing down on your chest will let you breathe, but as you struggle please know you are not forgotten. We are not all obsessed with self-preservation, caring only for our own. What use being safe in our houses if our country is not?
I fear we need little Emily to remind us. Britain will beat this virus, but it has failed your family. Our enforced loneliness will end, I know yours never will.