Families releasing photos of victims to the media

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Below, we tell the stories of two mothers who have suffered the horrific experience of bereavement through a road crash who have taken the step of releasing to the media pictures of their loved ones as they lay in their hospital beds. In one case, the 20 year old young woman was already dead when the photograph was taken. In the other, the young boy was critically ill when he was photographed and died shortly afterwards. We take a look at the terrible circumstances surrounding each death and examine why these two mothers took the brave step of allowing the world to see their children in this heartbreaking way.

In memory of Abigail Craen

Medical student Abigail Craen, 20, was killed by a hit and run driver in October 2005. Abigail was thrown more than 30ft along the road when she was hit by a car as she used a pelican crossing in Edgbaston. The car, which went through a red light, sped off without stopping. [1]

Abigail’s mum, Susan, released a photograph of her daughter lying dead in hospital to encourage anyone with information to come forward and to raise awareness of the effects of road crashes.

She said: “I chose to release the photograph of Abigail lying dead in hospital because I thought it was important for people to see the effect of what can happen if you do not treat your vehicle with respect. When people are killed, a photo is often released of a happy smiling person and yet they are dead. I wanted to shock people into paying more attention behind a wheel.”

Daniel Conroy Curtin

Eight-year-old Daniel Conroy Curtin was hit by a speeding stolen car as he played with friends near his home in Middlesborough on May 16 2006. Daniel was left fighting for his life, and died in hospital days later due to the severity of his head injuries. [2]

Daniel’s mother, Clare Conroy, allowed him to be photographed as he lay in hospital breathing through a ventilator in intensive care, believing at the time that he would get better. She chose to release the photograph to highlight what can happen when a child is hit by a car.

Following Daniel’s death, his mother requested that the media no longer use the photograph taken of him in hospital, but instead use a photograph taken on his seventh birthday. Clare made the decision to donate Daniel’s heart, kidneys and liver to transplant surgeons, and said she hoped his death would be a warning to people everywhere of the dangers posed if youngsters are tempted to get behind the wheel of a car.

Clare said: “Cars are not some play thing. In the wrong hands they can and do kill and I would urge all parents to think long and hard on that. No one should have to go through what our family has endured for the past nine days. We have sat by his bed and watched Daniel’s fight for life. Daniel has died but I hope his spirit and memory will live on and that some good can come from the tragic consequences that have engulfed our family.”

A brave choice

Brake believes that parents who release such photos should be applauded for their bravery and given support, and that parents who chose not to release such photos should have their wishes respected.

Mary Williams OBE, Chief Executive of Brake said: “The heartrending photographs which Abigail’s mum and Daniel’s mum bravely issued to the national media should act as a wake up call to the Government and everyone who gets behind the wheel to stop, once and for all, deaths in such horrendous circumstances. Such photos may not have an impact on all drivers, but doubtless have an impact on some. Anything we can do to raise awareness of the appalling effects of road crashes, and their frequency, we should do. So often road crashes are treated as local news and don’t even feature in the national media, despite killing so many more people than more high profile disasters such as terrorism or aeroplane crashes.”

What should parents do who want to consider placing such photographs in the media?

While some parents would be horrified at the thought of the world seeing a photograph of their dead, or dying, child, others may get comfort from the fact that other people are sharing their grief and witnessing the tragedies that can occur on our roads. They may also take solace in the fact that some good may come from the death of their child - if the photograph saves the life of just one other child it has not been in vain.

If you are being helped by a specially-trained police officer called a Family Liaison Officer, they should be able to help you liaise with the media and release your photo for you.

Alternatively, you can talk to the Brake helpline for bereaved families on 0808 8000 401. We can advise on many aspects of talking to the media, including the help that police family liaison officers may be able to provide, or any other concerns you wish to discuss with us.

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[1] Hit-and-run Killer Did This to my Daughter, (Birmingham Mail, 3 November 2005)
[2] Joyrider Crash Boy’s Organs to be Donated, (Daily Mail. 26 May 2006)

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