A personal reflection for Ben Kellett
A personal reflection on the harms of femicide and domestic abuse.
A personal reflection
By Dr Elizabeth Dalgarno.
This time of year, to many, including myself, is a time of hope. Spring beckons and we all anticipate the changing seasons.
Sadly, it is also a time for me every year of woeful contemplation.
This March week brings with it a stark reminder of one of many reasons I do the work I do. It is the week of Ben Kellett’s birthday.
One of my dearest friends, in fact probably the most gentle of souls and equally fierce, that I have ever known, Ben, took his own life on June 13th, 2006.
Ben was 22.
He was alone, in Spain when he did this.
Ben had, as a child, aged 5, been locked in a wardrobe by his father, whilst his father murdered his mother, Deloris, and then buried her in the garden. I do not know if his father knows this, but Ben vividly recalled that day and could hear this happening. He talked about it to me infrequently, mostly when he had drunk a lot of alcohol.
His father was imprisoned, sentenced to a life sentence, being released shortly before Ben took his life.
But Ben was not a drinker.
When Ben’s father, Peter, was released from prison, he contacted Ben, wanting to reunite and develop a relationship. Ben had lived in and out of foster care growing up, before eventually settling with Peter’s parents, his paternal grandparents.
Ben was not keen to meet Peter. He felt though, some sort of obligation to meet him and eventually agreed. I was with Ben shortly before he met Peter and immediately after. Ben struggled intensely with the interaction. What transpired following this interaction, was the unravelling of Ben’s mental well being. He told me how he had never seen a picture of his mother. That she had been treated as a ‘dirty secret’ in his family. That his loving grandparents, who were beautiful, kind people, had struggled so intensely themselves with what had occurred, that they had thought it best not to discuss her at all. I imagine they did not know how to.
Ben then absconded from the UK to Amsterdam and then Spain. I tried to reason with him, but he would not listen. ‘I have a plan’ he said. ‘I’m going to buy a café and live the good life’. I was 19 myself and knew he was having some sort of breakdown. I contacted multiple NHS organisations and sought advice from my mum who was a social care professional. They all told me there was nothing they could do unless he hurt himself or someone else.
Two weeks later, I received a phone call at work saying Ben had hanged himself. He was found alone in Barcelona, with his passport next to him.
His grandma requested to talk to me. She told me ‘Ben was so fond of you Liz, he loved you and we are so grateful you were his friend’.
While I hold this memory dear to me, it was no consolation. I will forever feel that I failed my friend. That everyone failed him. I did fail him, and nobody can tell me otherwise.
I heard recently, that Ben’s dad, had been drunk and driven head on into another vehicle. He then claimed his drinking was due to the ‘loss of his son’ and his emotional problems.
Peter, if you are out there and you happen to see this, I am certainly not here to direct anymore pain to you. I want to say though, for whatever reason, you made a choice that day in 1990. You took Ben’s mummy, in the most catastrophic way and it impacted Ben in a way I feel you may never fully acknowledge. I hope with every fibre of my being, that you realise, no matter what pain you feel, that you need to seek support and take responsibility for your actions, which are hurting innocent others.
I do believe people can change and I do believe in second and third chances. But this must come from you.
You may feel comfort in knowing, I named my son after Ben. My son, like Ben, is kind, fierce, beautiful, loyal, full of warmth and incredibly funny, exactly like Ben was. So, every day I look into his eyes and see the wonderful person that was Ben Kellett.
Ben my friend and Ben my son are part of the reasons I do the work I do. This year alone, 109 women were killed by a man in the UK. I don’t care whether these women ‘cheated’, I don’t care if they ‘wore the wrong clothes’ or any other victim-blaming tropes.
I care about the families left behind. I care about the little boys and girls, scared and alone in the wardrobe or wherever else that may be. I care about their friends, their grandparents, their uncles, aunties, and all those left behind to deal with the grief and pain.
I care about the victims.
While the world turns and spring arrives, I maintain the hope I have in my heart. That we can reach a point, when no more women, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, brothers and sisters are killed by their loved ones.
I will never give up hope.
Rest in peace dear friend.
The little boy lost in the lonely fen.
Led by the wandering light, began to cry.
But god ever nigh, appeared like his father in white.
He kissed the child and by the hand led. And to his mother brought.
Who in sorry pale, through the lonely dale. The little boy weeping sought.
Songs of innocence. Songs of innocence. Songs of innocence. Songs of innocence.
Sweet babe in thy face.
Holy image I can trace.
Sweet babe once like me.
Thy maker lay and wept for me.
Wept for me, for thee, for all.
When he was an infant small. There his image ever see.
Heavenly face that smiles on thee.