Over the course of the past week there have been two tragedies within the public services in England.
Two people went to work in an effort to make the world a better place, yet neither returned home that night.
Both were (allegedly I am legally obliged to add) murdered.
On the night of Thursday the 15th August, PC Andrew Harper was killed when he was “dragged along by a vehicle” while attending a reported burglary.
Andrew Harper, aged 28, who had only gotten married four weeks prior, was reported to have died at about 11:30pm on that Thursday night in Berkshire.
Detective Superintendent Ailsa Kent told a press conference last week that: “A post-mortem was carried out on Andrew’s body and the cause of death has been recorded as multiple injuries. That is consistent with our current belief that Andrew was caught between a vehicle and the road, and then dragged for a distance”
Jed Foster, aged 20, has since appeared at Reading Magistrates’ Court and been charged with the murder PC Harper, and the theft of a quad bike.
In a statement she released via Thames Valley Police, PC Harper’s wife of just four weeks, bravely wrote of how her “heart is broken” after the death of her “darling boy”.
Lissie Harper shared how “We had so many plans for the future, you wanted to do it all. My darling boy I do not know how I will be able to survive without you. I want to be angry that your job took you away from us but I know you loved it and always wanted to keep everyone safe, especially me. My heart is broken without you my sweetheart but my god I feel so lucky that it was me you chose to share your amazing life with.”
“Although we were married for only 28 days before you were cruelly taken away from me, my husband you were perfect.”
The tragedy of PC Harper’s brutal death and the heartrending untimely nature of it, coming only 28 days after his marriage, rightly brought widespread media attention and public support.
His murder was the headline story in all of the national newspapers, was the lead on the BBC website and was considered a ‘breaking news’ event across all television news channels. Within 12 hours there was a statement from the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who decried the “mindless and brutal crime” and rightly heralded PC Harper for his bravery, echoing the feelings of an entire nation when he offered his thoughts and prayers to PC Harper’s friends and family.
In the week that has followed his murder, PC Harper’s legacy and bravery have been remembered in continued high-profile news stories that have focused on fundraising efforts, memorials from police forces all over the world, the views of those that knew him best and updates on the criminal charges brought against his alleged murderer.
All of this attention has been fair, just, warranted and needed.
PC Harper died a hero, protecting the public in an effort to make the world a safer place for all, and his ultimate sacrifice has been rightly brought to the forefront of the nation’s mind by national journalists and politicians.
We owe him thanks for what he did and he deserves to be remembered by all. We can only hope that his death is not in vain and efforts are made to ensure that there are more police on the streets and they are better supported in future.
Just two days after PC Harper’s death, the social worker Belinda Rose was stabbed to death during a home visit in Birmingham.
Belinda, aged 63, was pronounced dead at the scene on the afternoon of Saturday the 17th of August.
A resident from the area, who wished to remain anonymous, told local reporters that Belinda was the assigned social worker for the house she was visiting, which was a house of multiple occupancy.
Neighbours told the press that Belinda had been working to provide “supported living” for tenants in the shared accommodation where she was murdered.
A West Midlands Police spokesperson said in a statement: “Police have launched a murder investigation after a woman was found with fatal injuries at a house in Pendragon Road, Perry Barr. Officers attended the address at around 1.50pm, where a woman was found with stab injuries. Sadly, she was pronounced dead at the scene”.
Inderjit Ram, 52, of Great Barr, Birmingham, appeared at Birmingham Magistrates Court on Monday the 19th August and has been charged with murder.
PC Harper was a public servant who dedicated his life to making the world a safer place for us all.
He died in the pursuit of that goal and we all owe him a debt of thanks.
He was a married man who left behind a doting wife.
Belinda Rose was a public servant who dedicated her life to making the world a safer place for us all.
She died in the pursuit of that goal and we all owe her a debt of thanks.
She was a married woman who left behind a doting, and terminally ill, husband.
PC Harper’s murder made national headlines.
PC Harper’s murder was breaking news in the hours after it happened.
PC Harper’s murder warranted the attention of the Prime Minister the morning after it happened.
His death has rightly entered the public consciousness through the efforts of the national media and our leading politicians.
Belinda Rose’s murder made local headlines and reached the middle pages of some national newspapers.
Belinda Rose’s murder was reported more than two days after it happened.
Belinda Rose’s death warranted a 25 word statement from the British Association of Social Workers.
The majority of the British public will be able to tell you that a police officer was killed doing his job last week.
Hardly anybody at all will know that a social worker was killed doing her job last week too.
So, why is that the case?
Why has PC Harper’s murder warranted such widespread public and political attention, with a direct statement from the Prime Minister, yet Belinda Rose’s murder has hardly registered at all on a national scale; with even our own social work association only deeming it fit to warrant a 25 word statement on their website?
That’s a risky question to ask of course, with the obvious criticism that ‘murder is not a competition for attention’ being easy to telegraph well before the angry emails and tweets start coming in.
But, even though it is a risky question, it is one we must ask as both a profession and a society.
Why has a 28-year old male police officer’s murder been given such attention and yet a 63-year old female social worker’s murder, less than 48 hours later, warranted such scant recognition on a national level?
Why, based on a gauging of the respective recognition afforded to these two tragedies, has the media afforded more public worth and value to the life of a police officer than a social worker?
Those are tough questions to grapple with, but ones we must try to address regardless of their dark and worrisome nature.
The quick and cynical answers follow that:
Police officers are more valued by society than social workers are.
Younger people are more valued by society than older people are.
Men are more valued by society than women are.
If we follow these answers to their logical conclusion, then there is little wonder that a 28-year old male police officer’s murder has been afforded much more attention than a 63-year old female social worker’s murder.
Indeed, even if we try our damnedest to find a valid counter-argument that isn’t quick and cynical, we are left clutching at straws relating to possibilities such as Belinda being murdered on a weekend or less being known about the murder at the time it happened.
On the balance of probability, it is far more likely that the first conclusion is the correct one though, and that is a sad indictment of society indeed.
Yes, of course recognition for murder isn’t a competition and PC Harper’s national commendations are very-much deserved, but there is something deeply wrong when the reporting into his death is contrasted with that of Belinda Rose.
Both of these people were trying to make the world a better place for us all.
Both of these people went to work one day and didn’t come home.
Both of these people died doing the jobs they loved.
And both of their names should be recognised, remembered and revered by as many people as possible.
Listen to SWT and Tilly discuss this subject on this week’s Social Work Tutor podcast: available on iTunes, Spotify, Castbox and all other podcast apps/sites