Letter:Sara Thornton's family life

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your report of the Sara Thornton trial (31 May) under the heading "Tragedy that tore apart a family" caused distress and I consider was an entirely unnecessary intrusion into the privacy of our lives. My daughter's portrayal of her parents as a "cold and uncaring" father and her dead mother as a "brutal disciplinarian" dates from the time of her meeting with George Delf while in Durham Prison, after the publication of a letter from Sara to your newspaper. None of this reflects the truth. Sara used to boast to her former friends about her wonderful and privileged childhood while showing them films of her life in the Pacific.

I happen to have letters written to Sara by her mother and by myself when she was a pupil at Millfield School. (Any thinking journalist, or psychiatrist for that matter, would surely ask himself if these parents "with the characteristics attributed to them" would have chosen Millfield School - one of the most progressive in the country at the time!) I will not quote them all, for there are many, but they clearly show how false a picture Sara has painted of her mother. Shortly before her O-level examinations her mother wrote, "Daddy says you are doing very well at work. It does not matter if you don't pass any exams only self-satisfaction if you do. Anyway you're quite capable of passing any you want! ... Don't work too hard darling, lots of love and kisses from all of us - Mummy". Barbara, her sister, wrote after her adoptive mother died, "At about half past nine on 26th November, Mummy died. We all loved her and miss her terribly."

Barbara attended the trial accompanied by her natural parents - they gave their baby daughter away for adoption when she was a day old. Louise, my granddaughter, spent many summers with us in Devon, and I still have one letter from Sara when she asked me to have Louise for two years. None of this supports the way in which her dead mother and I are now depicted. You refer to the fact that I have had no contact with my daughter for four years. She wrote to me from Bullwood Hall Prison on 29 December 1992 saying, "One day I will pity you, and then no doubt forgiveness will happen, until then I would appreciate it if you would stay out of my life."

I resent the comment that Malcolm's sisters, Gladys and Jean, and ourselves make an "unlikely alliance". My family have every reason to be grateful to Malcolm's relations for the kindness and understanding they have shown to us. The inference that we deliberately sat behind them in the court is petty - when in fact we sat where we were told to sit. We had hoped desperately that my wife and I would not be called to give evidence, but having been legally obliged to make statements, we had no choice in the matter.

HENRY COOPER

Devon

The writer is the father of Sara Thornton

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