Patsy - Interview 21
Age at interview: 61
Brief Outline: In 1999 Patsy's son, Dorrie, was shot. He died soon afterwards. Patsy was devastated, but through her belief in Jesus, her relationship with God, her work with Mothers Against Violence and other community work she has come to terms with Dorrie's death.
Background: Patsy was a social worker (now retired). She is married and has 6 children (1 died). Ethnic background/nationality' West Indian.
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One day in 1999 Patsy’s son, Dorrie, said that he was going out to play basket ball. He was 20 years old. He went out with a friend who came to visit him, who was driving the car. About 10pm that evening the phone rang and Patsy heard that Dorrie had been shot. She waited for her friend to arrive and then they went to the hospital. There she heard that Dorrie had died. He had been shot three times and one bullet was fatal. She went into a hospital room to see her son and was able to touch him.
At first Patsy felt numb. At dawn, she went into the park and jogged for a while, and met an unknown man, and she told him what had happened. She went home and got ready for the Vocational Bible School. She felt that she had to turn to God for help. She had no idea why her son had been shot, though she suspected that jealousy might have been partly to blame. Dorrie had not been a member of a gang. Even though her son had died, the next day Patsy went to her church to help with the vocation Bible School. She continued with her social work and church work.
After Dorrie’s death Patsy could not believe that he had died. She felt devastated when she thought about what had happened. When walking outside she sometimes thought that she had seen Dorrie and on some occasions she broke down and wept again and prayed.
Patsy went to see Dorrie as he lay in the chapel of rest at the hospital. She went a few times, sometimes with Dorrie’s friends. She was glad she was able to see him again.
Dorrie’s funeral was amazing. The church was packed and there were just as many people outside as inside. Patsy’s eldest son sang and there was other lovely music. Patsy believes that Dorrie is now in a ‘better place’ and that he is alright. Dorrie was buried in the cemetery. A year after Dorrie’s death the family held a memorial service, which was also well attended.
Soon after Dorrie died, a group of women met and started the organisation Mothers Against Violence. They wanted to prevent senseless gun crime and gang culture. Since then Patsy and others have worked tirelessly to bring communities together and to raise awareness of the dangers of violent crime. Patsy and her colleagues go into schools, youth clubs and into prisons, to tell people how crime can have an impact on other people’s lives. Patsy sees her work as a living example of the fact that there is life after death. She has found comfort by giving back to the community and by praying to the Heavenly Father.
Sometime after Dorrie’s death a person from Victim Support called at the house. Victim Support is the national charity which helps people affected by crime in England and Wales. Patsy was told that she could claim financial compensation from the State because Dorrie had never committed a crime. Obviously the money could not replace her son but the money was helpful.
Patsy decided not to go to the inquest. She did not want to hear the details of how her son had died. She did not attend the court case either. However, two young men were found guilty of owning the gun that killed Dorrie. The gun had also been used previously, and so they were sent to prison for a number of years.
Since Dorrie’s death Patsy has worked tirelessly to prevent other deaths due to gun crime. She has met the Queen, a Prime Minister, Home Secretaries and other ministers and has helped to change policy.
Patsy was interviewed in 2008.
After Dorrie was shot Patsy wished she had gone to the hospital immediately. He was dead by the...
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Well if I could tell you what happened I would really give you a full story of what happened but because I wasn’t there I don’t actually know what happened. What I do know is that on the 3rd August I came home, my son was in the house and while I was busy in the kitchen a young man who I had not see for about 2 years, 3 years walked into the house and said “Hello” and I said “Oh how are you, where have you been?” and he said “My car was in the garage” and then he said “Is Dorrie in?” well I didn’t know whether he was in because I’d just come in and so I proceeded to talk to him and a young girl came downstairs, from upstairs because she actually came home with me, and she said “Yes, Dorrie’s in”. So he came down later and he said he wanted some money to go to basketball and I told him I really didn’t have any, I was busy in the kitchen so he should go and ask his sister who was upstairs.
The next thing I know he came down, a couple, maybe about 15 or 20 minutes later and said he was off to basketball and that was the last time I saw him. He left and around ten or after ten at night I heard, the phone rang and I heard a scream and it was the same young girl who had answered the phone and she screamed and said “Junior has been shot” because that’s what we called him, Junior, “he’s been shot”. So I woke up because I’d fallen asleep on the settee, quite dazed and not knowing what to do and proceeded to phone a friend and then, you know, and my daughter was in the house at the time and she was saying, “Mummy are you coming?” and I was just so dazed walking around the room and I said, “No, no, no go on, you go on and leave me” so she went on and left me in the house, which was something I’ve really regretted really when I’ve thought about it, I’ve thought I should have gone with her but I was waiting for my friend who, we were very close, we used to pray a lot together and we’re very close. So by the time I got to the hospital my daughter came walking to us and said “Mummy Junior is dead”.
You didn’t know he was dead before you got there?
No, no I knew when I got there that he was dead.
How terrible. What went through your mind at that time?
Well I was quite dazed, I was quite dazed. Numb I think, as I walked towards the accident and emergency unit. And after my daughter said that and my husband making a grunt, because he was there, I’m not even sure if he was in the car with me, I don’t think he was I think he actually went off with my daughter. And that started a journey that I will never ever forget.
When Patsys son died she turned to God for help, and prayer became her companion.
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Was your husband supporting, was he there supporting you?
My husband was there but my husband is a very quiet person, he’s a little bit like my son, he’s a very quiet person and kind of an insular person and he never said a word to me. Even, even well even to this day my husband doesn’t talk about my son’s death to me, we don’t, oh we know other people who talk a lot anyway, you know, and we just said what we had to say and got on with life and you know. I wouldn’t say that he didn’t support me, I wouldn’t say that because I think he was grieving in his own way and I was grieving in my own way and like I said, our relationship was really very, kind of a quiet kind of a thing, we would only say what we needed to say. And I suppose he didn’t have anything to say about that but during that time prayer became my bedfellow.
It did, it became my bedfellow.
Have you always been a, is it the Christian church you believe in?
Well I do, I actually go to a Pentecostal church and all my children was actually born during those, I mean during those years that I was in church. And I grew up in church, having a faith and reading the word and believing in the word and so I then, for me had to turn to God to help me in that situation.
Years after Dorries death, family members have learnt how to deal with their grief. Patsy's...
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How would you say the death of your son has had an impact on your whole wider family?
Well we have missed somebody that was really very important in our family and we have learnt the importance of that person in our family because I think one of the things we do we take people for granted. And we then learn how important that person was in the family and the loss that we suffer, the emptiness that we feel and knowing that that person isn’t here anymore, we have learnt that. We have learnt how to deal with our grief, we have been through a process in which we are dealing, and we continue to deal with our grief, do you get what I’m saying, and missing the person and then coming to a place were we can say and I believe we will come to that place were we can say, well we’re free from that, I really believe we will come to that place one day, I don’t know when and how but I believe that, and that we can actually be a kind of, a figure which people can look at and say you know something that person has been through what I’ve been through and they know, they understand what I‘m going through and they are coming through it alright, so I too can, you know, I mean so we are really examples, you know, and we are living examples, we are a living testimony to the fact that there is life after death.
Through her work with Mothers Against Violence, Patsy has met the Prime Minister and the Queen....
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Would you mind saying a little bit about your work with Mothers Against Violence and a bit about what’s happened over the years, you say you’ve been to see Prime Ministers?
Well wow, amazing occurrence really because that is what actually, the death of my son is what actually led me into meeting these people, the Prime Minister, sitting down talking with him, meeting the Queen, talking to her as well because I didn’t just meet her. Some people met her and she just walked past them, she spoke to me and I really believe it was fulfilling something that God had said to me would happen. Even when there was lots of people in that hall and we were all standing in line and she chose to speak to me, okay and I believe that for me was the fulfillment of what I was told would happen and then sitting around the table with the Home Secretary’s, you know, a number of them and meeting different people who I would have never met, you know, people who have gone through trauma, who I would have never met, you know.
And how have you contributed to those discussions mainly would you say?
Well changing policies within the Home Office, you know, the Prime Minister listened saying, “Yes this and this is what we intend doing” and the Home Secretary listening and changing things and getting us on board to be a part of that change it’s amazing going into schools, going to schools.
Have you been talking to children in schools as well?
Yes we talk to children in school, we talk to children in youth groups, we talk to, we go into prisons, we talk to murderers in prison, we talk to people who have committed crime in different ways, we have spoken to them. We have impacted their lives.
Patsy suggests that professionals must remember that those bereaved by a traumatic death may be...
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Are there any other professionals you’d like to give a message to?
Well I just think all professionals should remember that they are people first and professionals after and if they deal with people in the way they need to be dealt with, then they will get the response, the response will be that if you treat somebody well, you will get that response from them depending on the situation as well, because sometimes you treat people well and because of where they are they are very aggressive and things like that but you can never put fire out with fire you must always have nice cool calm water to put that out, so it’s about knowing how to deal with people in every given situation, we need to learn those skills, people skills, it’s very, very important because our lives are about people.
By people skills would you just like to say what you mean by people skills?
People skills, it's learning how to deal with people when they’re angry, When they’re alright we can always deal with them but when they’re angry, when they going through trauma when things are happening to them, its about learning how to deal with them, how to come to them and what to say to them and how to be with them, you know, these are some words like gentleness, kindness, you know, patience, endurance these are the words that are very, very important in the lives of every one of us because all of us are going to be in the same place at some time wanting the same thing, give as you expect to, treat someone as you expect them to treat you.
Patsy was amazed to see how many young people packed the church. There were more people outside...
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Do you want to say a bit about the funeral?
Well it was amazing; it was such a big funeral. I was amazed to see the amount of people that packed the church and the amount of young people that packed the church. I think it was an ideal time for people to hear the gospel and that was what was in my mind at the time, when I looked around and saw the amount of people that was inside and outside of the church, the church was so packed inside and outside, I think there were more people outside than there were inside, yes and I was amazed by that. His friends carried the coffin which was another amazing thing, never thought of, never planned it, you know, I think my daughter did most of the planning around the funeral really.
And did you have some hymns?
Yes we did, we did we had some hymns I think that I’d chosen some of the hymns and had his cousins and different people doing readings and my son and my daughter, my son, eldest son who is a singer and has an absolute brilliant voice, he sang with a group on that day and the song they sang was Praise Him, Praise Him and Jesus so Blessed Redeemer, Saviour, Blessed Saviour is worthy to be Praised, and it was an amazing, amazing, you know, time at that time, it was just an amazing, it wasn’t like a funeral at all it was like a some kind of a conventional service, you know, it was just an amazing time that day.
After Dorrie died two men were charged with owning the gun that killed him. Patsy thought that a...
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Do you know what the coroner concluded?
So was there a court case after that?
Yes there was a court case with two young men because they eventually found the gun from the house that the gun was in but they actually couldn’t place the young men at the scene, but they found the gun. So the court case went on that basis that they found the gun that shot him but not only that, that was used previously as well and they found, and two young men who they, apparently the gun belonged to. So there was a court case and they got I think it was 15 years and 10 years or something like that, I’m not sure.
So you didn’t attend the court case?
No I didn’t attend the court case either because for me it wasn’t going to bring my son back.
Nothing was going to change that. What I heard was going to more upset me than anything else. I was living my life, I at the time, you know, had accepted that my son was dead and he was dead for a reason so I wasn’t looking, even though, you know, I mean whether they caught somebody or not wasn’t the most important thing to me because it wasn’t going to, whether they lock them up or not, you know, for me the thing that would have, if I was going to think of any kind of a justice, it would have been them dying as well, that would have been my justice, do you hear what I’m saying, but that was the justice I chose, do you hear my say.
Patsy was glad that someone from Victim Support visited her and explained the Criminal Injuries...
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They [the police] came to the house afterwards, yes the police came, the people from Victim Support came, spoke to me, she was a Christian woman, which was really quite nice, to talk to her and she was trying to encourage me and everyone who come to the house and everyone who came to the house actually, you know, I would encourage them, rather than them encourage me, which was the other amazing thing that people found and people said to me and afterwards, you know, because I felt that everything happened for a reason and it was all going to work out.
What did the lady from Victim Support have to offer you?
Well she offered me a form to fill in if, you know, to claim compensation, that was something and I didn’t know about it, so I was really glad that she came because if she hadn’t I wouldn’t have known about it and I wouldn’t have claimed anything.
Could you say a bit about that for other people?
Well one of the things that happened was that she came and she had a form and she said, “This form is for compensation, if your child has never committed a crime then they can get the maximum”, which at the time was £10,000 but if they had a record of any kind then that could hamper it. So then I said “My son has never committed any crime and he’s not got a record” and she said “Oh good you should get that” and so she helped me to fill that in and she gave me leaflets and told me if I needed someone to call and if I needed to come to them, so all the information was in the leaflet. And she visited me maybe another two or three times after that and told me if I needed their help then I should get in touch.
So you can send this form and the Government pays?
Well I think she did all that for me, I signed it and she did it and sent it off for me and, yes, we got the money.
Patsy said that she came to terms with her sons death very quickly. She wept at Christmas the...
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Are certain times more difficult like the anniversary of your son’s birthday or Christmas?
No, it’s no more difficult now, no not now. Initially the first year, yes I wept at Christmas when he wasn’t there but after that I would think about him but I would think about him differently, like I said I came to terms with my son’s death very quickly, knowing that first of all he’s dead and that’s where we’re all going and I think that was my main thing, that we are all going to die there’s nowhere when we came out of the womb that said you would live until you were ten. At the bottom of my son’s grave there’s a child of eight and every time I go and see him, things are put into perspective and nobody murdered him, he got caught under his grandmother’s brand new wheel chair, playing as a child of eight, went under there for some reason, got caught and suffocated and died. Can you think of the trauma that grandmother went through? You know and so he is lying at the bottom of my son. Death is a fellow, is a fellow partner really in our lives, there’s life and there’s death and so once you come to terms that we’re all going to die, there’s nothing says we have to live up till we are 90 and there’re lots of babies in the cemetery as well, and they didn’t ask to be dead, you know what I’m saying, but they’re dead and that’s something I really believe we all need to come to terms with, it’s a part of life.
Patsy found help by talking to God. She suggests that people find comfort for themselves by...
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Well for me the way I dealt with my trauma was to go to the Father and I found it was beneficial to me. It’s not everybody who believes in the Father, we have a Heavenly Father that exists, but for me it worked, and it’s about giving to others as well because when you actually give to others, whatever it is, whether it’s time, money, or whatever you do, when you give, in giving you will receive. So it’s about learning how to give and who to give to and the appropriate time to do that.
So have you found comfort yourself by giving back to the community?
I have found comfort yes.
Yes I can see that.
Yes and I believe because we’re human beings, just because we’re human beings we need to, because they’re all other human beings around you and you look around the trees and the plants don’t talk to you, the dogs don’t bark, you know, I mean they don’t speak, bark, human beings we are all human beings on this earth and we need to learn how to relate to each other.