Family’s bid to start rebuilding lives five years after tragedy

TIME TO REMEMBER: Penny and John Clough, parents of Jane Clough
TIME TO REMEMBER: Penny and John Clough, parents of Jane Clough
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“We like to think Jane is still helping people here and now – everything we do is a tribute to her.”

Five years ago tomorrow, mum-of-one Jane Clough was brutally murdered outside Blackpool Victoria Hospital, where she worked as a nurse.

Jonathan Vass

Jonathan Vass

Not a day goes by when her parents, John and Penny, don’t think about how their daughter was cruelly taken from them by her abusive ex-partner Jonathan Vass, from Preston.

They have dedicated their lives since the tragedy to helping other victims of domestic violence but, on the fifth anniversary of Jane’s death, they say it is time to start piecing their family back together.

Tomorrow will see them celebrate the life of Jane, who was 26 when she died, and visit a tree that was planted in her memory near her Barrowford home.

Mr Clough, 56, said: “There are still ups and downs – it’s going to be a long time before there’s any change.

Over the last few years, all our free time has been taken up with campaigning

“Significant days like this that approach – Christmas, birthdays and this anniversary – it does affect your mood.

“You just feel a knot in your stomach.”

But after five years of campaigning for changes in the law to protect others like his daughter, Mr Clough said it is time to start thinking about scaling back their work.

He added: “We are trying to work on building the family back up.

Jane Clough

Jane Clough

“Over the last few years, all our free time has been taken up with campaigning.

“Now we are trying to put more time and emphasis on just being a family.”

That means spending time to remember a loving mother who died in the most tragic circumstances.

Jane was stabbed repeatedly by Vass, the father of her child, in the car park of Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

English Men's Amateur Championships 2014 Saunton Golf Club, Devon. 'Winner Nick Marsh

English Men's Amateur Championships 2014 Saunton Golf Club, Devon. 'Winner Nick Marsh

He was on bail at the time, charging with raping and assaulting her.

At his trial, the court heard how he lay in wait for her and murdered her to prevent her giving evidence against him.

After brutally stabbing his victim, Vass was seen to walk away before stopping and returning to slit her throat.

He was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in jail in October 2010.

Mr Clough said: “As a family we will be going up to Jane’s tree and what we will do is try and celebrate her life.

“We will have the grandchildren with us and we want to make it a celebration rather than anything else.”

He said Jane’s young daughter, who was just nine months old at the time of the attack, is coping well with the situation.

“She is growing up in a loving environment,” he added.

“She has just completed her first year at school and is just flourishing really.

“She is doing well –she is still a bit too young to understand it all.”

But while he and his wife are planning to take more time out from their campaign work to focus on the family, they have no plans to stop completely just yet.

“We are still making a difference in Jane’s name,” he said. “The most recent thing we worked on was getting Blackpool NHS Teaching Hospitals Trust to adopt a domestic violence policy for its staff.

“For any staff in domestic violence situations there is a procedure now where they can give them assistance.”

The ‘You don’t seem yourself’ campaign was unveiled by Trust bosses earlier this year and aims to raise awareness of the support available for staff and helping employees look out for warning signs in colleagues.

As well as a planned talk in London later this year on the subject of domestic abuse and stalking, Mr Clough said the family’s next target is encouraging more businesses across Lancashire to put a support system in place for staff.

He said: “We are still out there campaigning and getting our message out there.

“There’s not a day goes by when we don’t think of Jane when something triggers a memory.

“We get emails from people through the Justice For Jane Facebook page –her story is still being shown on television all over the world.

“We still get the odd message that is a cry for help, people asking for help or advice.

“It’s a horrifying thought that people are still going through that.

“And there are messages of thanks for sharing Jane’s story – that does lift you.”

He also thanked those who took part in the latest annual golf tournament, organised by staff at the hospital, in Jane’s memory.

The event at Stanley Park Golf Course on July 16 helped raise £500, which was put towards a trust fund for Jane’s daughter.

Organiser Mary Bird, general manager of ISS healthcare facilities at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, said: “Jane was a lovely, dedicated nurse. We all look forward to this event.

“Blackpool Golf club proved to be a popular venue and the weather was fantastic. Next year the same venue has been booked for July 14.”