A bereaved brother whose sister was murdered by her partner for ‘nagging him’ is teaching teenagers to spot the signs of domestic abuse before it’s too late.
More than seven years ago, Sarah Gosling, 41, was fatally stabbed with a kitchen knife by boyfriend Ian Hope, 53, after a row broke out between the pair.
Mother-of-two Sarah – who a jury heard had suffered 10 black eyes in one year at Hope’s hands – died from a single wound to the chest, which severed an artery and led to rapid bleeding.
Hope denied murder and told police after he was cuffed: ‘She’s been on at me all day.’
In November, 2012, Hope was found guilty of murder by a jury and sentenced to at least 17 years in prison.
At the time, Sarah’s brother Andrew Bernard, 52, said the ‘pain that [Hope’s] killing of my sister has left us with will remain always.’
Andrew told Metro.co.uk he has since channelled that pain into something positive, by giving workshops about domestic abuse in secondary schools and sixth forms to pupils as young as 15.
The speaker, originally from Guernsey, said: ‘I speak about my sister to teach girls to watch out for the signs of domestic violence and to inspire boys to be better men.
‘Men are the problem, it’s not women’s faults they are getting killed. [Hope] said Sarah had been on at him all day.
Two women every week across England and Wales are killed by a former or current partner – Office for National Statistics.
‘You murdered her, and it was her fault? How does that work? I have no idea why anyone would see that like it’s a defence.
‘I just don’t want Sarah to have died in vain. I want people to learn from her story.’
Just over a year after Sarah’s death, Andrew started touring the UK giving talks with his company, Innovative Enterprise, with a portion of proceedings donated to domestic violence support charity Refuge.
Andrew has seen teenagers burst out crying during his sessions and although tragic to see, the talks are there to alert teachers to situations pupils may be silently struggling with at home.
The speaker tries to raise awareness of domestic violence and coercive control from two angles.
One woman in four experiences domestic violence in her lifetime – ONS.
First, by getting young boys to recognise potentially damaging behaviour and stop it in its tracks, and showing young girls that what they are being subjected to might be coercive behaviour.
Andrew gets teenagers to think about where they have seen domestic violence and whether it is ever seen as humorous in popular culture, or normalised in soaps and TV shows.
Andrew said: ‘It’s making sure people know that this is not a normal relationship – sometimes it’s not their fault.
‘They are doing things they have read in books or seen on films… But it’s often subtle behaviour that can be destabilising and can become habit and culture.’
Recalling the moment when he found out his sister had died, Andrew said the family were shocked as they had no idea Sarah’s partner of three years had been abusive.
85% of those experiencing domestic violence sought help from professionals an average of five times before they received effective help to stop the abuse – Save Lives.
‘It was very gradual the way it happened, their relationship was very tempestuous,’ he added.
‘Sarah never told mum – she couldn’t quite believe what happened. I was in disbelief. It completely came out of the blue and floored us all.’
Andrew admitted that he and his sister’s relationship had been ‘quite fractured’ over the years and mostly consisted of them sending cards of well wishes at Christmas.
‘It’s part of the reason I do this – I feel I should do something to repair it,’ he added.
A two-week trial into Sarah’s death heard how police had been at the house hours before her death, after receiving reports of a disturbance but left when the couple assured them all was okay.
Just 13 days before Sarah’s murder, Hope had been sentenced for common assault after hitting her with a rolling pin.
But a simple spelling error meant Hope’s address had been saved incorrectly on Northumbria Police’s system, meaning when officers arrived at their home they did not link him to his past crimes.
41% of UK girls aged 14 to 17 in an intimate relationship experienced some form of sexual violence from their partner – University of Central Lancashire.
In a second mistake, the officers attending did not ask for Hope’s name, nor did they run a police check on Sarah, as they thought what they were dealing with was an anti-social behaviour case.
If they had, data would have linked the couple to a catalogue of abuse.
When officers were called back to the property that same night, they found Sarah’s lifeless body.
The force acknowledged the error and has since made a number of changes since Sarah’s ‘tragic’ death, it said at the time.
Hope went on to plead not guilty at the trial, during which Andrew said the killer was like a ‘shell of a human being’ and was ‘infuriated and upset’ to hear his ‘defence’.
‘He just seemed passive, he was just emotionless – it was very hard to take,’ continued Andrew.
‘He didn’t have any remorse whatsoever, that’s what everyone found very difficult.’
In the year after Sarah’s death, Andrew said he ‘thought long and hard’ about what he could do to support people in his sister’s position.
More: Domestic abuse
‘After speaking to a teacher, who said it’s important for teenagers to learn more about relationships, this seemed like the right thing to do,’ he added.
‘We want to make sure that if anything comes out of discussions, pastoral staff are better equipped to deal with it.’
Andrew added: ‘Talking about this doesn’t feel brave – people are not talking about it enough.’
To learn more about Andrew’s school talks, visit Innovative Enterprise.