Abhorrent. Depraved. Barbaric.
The murder of Jill Barclay was all of these. She was just on a night out in Aberdeen. She left her friends a little after midnight to walk a mile and a half home but never made it.
Unnoticed, her killer had targeted her. He did not know her. He admitted his motive was sexual.
He stalked her as she left the pub, followed her and attacked at an abandoned property. He raped her, beat her and left her for dead in what the judge called a ‘feral’ attack. More than one person heard her screams and pleas but did not call the police.
Her attacker left the scene but then thought better of his own safety. He returned to what he thought was her dead body and tried to lift her into his car to dispose of the evidence of his crimes. He did not succeed, and she was still alive, so he set her alight and it was this that killed her.
Nothing can guard against the monsters in our midst, certainly not before they first act. The police acted fast and caught her killer quickly. But incredibly he got a reduction in his sentence because he pleaded guilty and because sentencing guidelines allowed it as he was UNDER 25 when he committed this crime.
Jill Barclay did nothing to deserve her fate. None of the legion of victims do. As in the case of Sarah Everard, police tell us that cases like this are ‘vanishingly rare’. They aren’t. Statistically one in twelve murders of women is by strangers.
Too often media and even police blame women for the terrible things that happen to them, to us. It’s not our fault, it’s the monsters who masquerade as normal human beings.
But women must act as if it is our fault. We aren’t as strong as men and are vulnerable when out alone. We can’t teach the minority of men not to do what this killer did. It came from some evil inside him. They act like this because they want to.
So women must reluctantly try and ensure our own safety. Don’t travel home alone, don’t believe that Scotland is safe enough to walk about in late at night. Play it safe. Always get a taxi.
If you hear screams outside in the middle of the night, don’t assume it’s high jinks, call the police. It may have saved Jill Barclay.
If you’re an employer, make sure you get your staff home safely, because cities are not safe for women, not even particularly safe for men. Cities are designed for cars to whisk us in and out fast. We need to redesign cities around people’s safety, even to the point of providing safe and cheap or free transport if that’s what it takes. Or women will continue to be vulnerable, and some will die.
R.I.P. Jill Barclay