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Jill Saward, sexual violence campaigner and 'hero of our times', dies aged 51


Jill Saward was the first person to waive her anonymity to talk about being the victim of rape

Jill Saward was the first person to waive her anonymity to talk about being the victim of rape

Jill Saward was the first person to waive her anonymity to talk about being the victim of rape

Jill Saward - who became a campaigner against sexual violence after being raped at her father's vicarage in Ealing - has been hailed as a "hero of our times" following her death at 51.

The vicar's daughter became the first rape victim to waive her right to anonymity to speak about a sexual assault after being attacked at her home in 1986, while her father and boyfriend were tied up.

The brutal attack, which came to be known as the Ealing Vicarage Rape, received widespread attention after judge Mr Justice Leonard said the trauma suffered by her "had not been so great".

Ms Saward, aged 21 at the time of the attack in west London, went on to write about her ordeal in her memoir Rape: My Story, and campaign on issues including sexual violence and violence against women.

She died in hospital after suffering a stroke earlier this week and is survived by Gavin Drake, her journalist husband of 23 years, and three sons.

In a statement, her family said: "It is with deep shock and great sadness that we must announce that Jill Saward (Jill Drake) died this morning in New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton, following a subarachnoid haemorrhage on Tuesday.

"In consultation with medical staff, the family readily agreed to Jill's desire to be an organ donor.

"Jill dedicated the past 30 years of her life to helping other people. It gives us great comfort to know that our wonderful wife, mother and sister was able to help other people to the very end."

Born in Liverpool in 1965, Ms Saward once wrote she had no issues with being "tagged" as a rape victim, adding: "I make no complaint about this tag as it has enabled me to challenge politicians and work for change."

Her work over the last three decades saw her advise police and the judiciary on how best to deal with sexual assault and rape cases, as well as numerous media appearances campaigning for the rights of victims of sex attacks.

Broadcaster Nicky Campbell tweeted to say Ms Saward had been a "hero of our times".

He said: "I'm devastated to hear that Jill Saward has died.

"She was a beautiful, remarkable and inspiring human being. A courageous hero of our times."

Ms Saward co-founded Jurors Understanding Rape Is Essential Standard (Juries) to campaign for mandatory briefings about myths and stereotypes about sexual violence in trials.

Co-founder Alison Boydell said: "Jill was an indefatigable advocate for victim-survivors of sexual violence and dedicated her life to campaigning and raising awareness of rape and sexual violence.

"She also championed many other campaigns and causes and supported so many through her work, kindness and compassion.

"I will do everything in my power to ensure that her work on Juries was not in vain and that victim-survivors get justice."

Martin McCall, then 22, was jailed for five years for raping Ms Saward and five years for aggravated burglary.

Christopher Byrne, who was 22 at the time, was sentenced to three years for rape and five years for aggravated burglary and assault.

Gang leader Robert Horscroft, then 34, who played no part in the rape, was sentenced to 14 years for burglary and for assaulting Ms Saward's father.

Byrne's brother Andrew was beaten unconscious in jail before he could be questioned by police and died after spending four years in a coma.

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