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Jill Saward: Ealing Vicarage rape victim's ashes scattered in sea

By David Cosgrove | Hednesford | News | Published:

Rape campaigner Jill Saward's husband scattered her ashes in the sea in a final farewell.

Vicar's daughter Ms Saward, who died in January after suffering a stroke aged 51, had her ashes cast out to sea off the coast of Nefyn, in north-west Wales today.

A memorial was held at Saint David’s Church to pay tribute to her 'life, work and ministry' – before her husband Gavin Drake released her ashes.

Ms Saward, from Hednesford, was the first rape victim to waive her right to anonymity to speak about a sexual assault after being attacked at her home in 1986 while her father and boyfriend were tied up.

She chose Nefyn as her final resting place because of a long-running connection with the town which began in her late teens.

Ms Saward first visited Nefyn as part of the long-running annual beach mission, which she first served as part of the team when she was 18-years-old in 1983.

After a decade on the mission, she stepped down from the team but continued to take her annual holidays in the town during the mission fortnight. Her eldest son, Myles, is now a member of the beach mission team.

Mr Drake said his wife never got over the horrific rape which led to her fighting for victims' rights.

He said: "It was always there, it was always something in the background. She lived a full life, a life full of joy, a healthy life.

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"But it was always there. She never fully got over it. I don't think many people do.

"So much change has been brought about by Jill's work, but the way victims are treated is still appalling. There is still so much under-funding from government for sex assault services."

Martin McCall, then 22, was jailed for five years for raping Ms Saward and five years for aggravated burglary.

Christopher Byrne, who was 22 at the time, was sentenced to three years for rape and five years for aggravated burglary and assault.

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Gang leader Robert Horscroft, then 34, who played no part in the rape, was sentenced to 14 years for burglary and for assaulting Ms Saward's father.

Byrne's brother Andrew was beaten unconscious in jail before he could be questioned by police and died after spending four years in a coma.

Born in Liverpool in 1965, Ms Saward once wrote she had no issues with being "tagged" as a rape victim, adding: "I make no complaint about this tag as it has enabled me to challenge politicians and work for change."

Her work over the last three decades saw her advise police and the judiciary on how best to deal with sexual assault and rape cases, as well as numerous media appearances campaigning for the rights of victims of sex attacks.

He said the people of Nefyn took Ms Saward to their hearts after the now-infamous brutal attack in the Ealing Vicarage in March 1986.

She visited the town several times a year and was always made welcome by the locals.

David Cosgrove

By David Cosgrove
Deputy Chief Reporter - @davidcosgrove_

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