|Michael Payne has died aged 45|
"When his eight-year-old daughter Sarah was abducted in July 2000 his world collapsed. She was found dead in West Sussex 17 days later, murdered by Roy Whiting - a paedophile now serving life in jail - but it was a term that gave Michael only temporary escape from his demons.
With his wife Sara, Michael found brief solace and purpose in campaigning for Sarah's Law, giving people greater information about sex offenders, but he began drinking heavily and the marriage collapsed. He later said he had failed to protect his own daughter. He had tried to come to terms with his suffocating loss, but in the end he was consumed."
|Sarah Payne aged 8 in 2000|
Sarah Payne's mother, Sara, later spoke, eloquently I thought, of how the extent of her husband’s pain may have been sidelined, with support systems not oriented towards helping fathers. “I feel sympathy for any man in the situation. It’s not geared to dads. It doesn’t take into account their emotions. They have no one to turn to.” Sara herself was able to throw her energies into the work around Sarah's Law and advocating for victims of such crime with the support of wonderful people like Shy Keenan who's book 'Broken' I read after hearing about her in the contexts of supporting Sara Payne. It is a towering read if one needs insight to what it is to be the survivor of horrendous levels of childhood abuse but has been withdrawn for 'legal reasons' which suggests someone mentioned in it has taken action against her which would be a shame not to say crime?
Michael Payne struggled in the way so many men do by drowning his sorrows with alcohol, or trying to, and he was jailed for 16 months in December 2011 after pleading guilty to attacking his brother after they had drunk large amounts of alcohol. His defence counsel said when he was charged Referring to the murder of his daughter, at the time: “The assorted aftermath had a life-changing effect on him . . . It’s desperately sad. He never sought nor was offered assistance with bereavement counselling. In a nutshell, he suffered the kind of experience that is every parent’s enduring nightmare.” That must have felt never ending.
As a professional counsellor I reflect today on how much my vocation may or may not have let Michael Payne down but it feels like it. Men tend not to ask for help and male counsellors especially have a duty to offer and continue to offer help to people who have tried to come to terms with such a terrible loss.
I was especially moved by reading that his daughter and Sarah's sister, Charlotte, posted a picture of her father on Facebook alongside a message saying she was "heartbroken".
"No matter what happened and how many mistakes we all made you will always be my daddy," she wrote. She later added: "I'm sorry I couldn't save you dad. I hope you have finally found your peace and happiness." Counsellors and specially trained abuse therapists like myself may have cause to pause and reflect that she shouldn't really have had to end up feeling it was her responsibility to 'save' her dad when the support professions didn't.