Not local; unknown; dead.
In Long Melford on November 13th 2014, four children lost their parents. It was and remains a tragedy. My heart goes out to all involved.
In December, the Coroner, Kevin McCarthy, stated:-
'Tragedies like this bring home to us all the complexities of relationships and the frailties of life.’
I’ve been increasingly anxious at the reporting of this case and the language that's been used. Those knowing nothing about the case could be forgiven for thinking that some terrible accident had occurred – with both or neither party to blame.
The reality is that Oliver Ruse, who had previously threatened to kill Deborah Ruse, his estranged wife, did just that. It's reported that he attempted to decapitate her with an axe, left her dead, then killed himself.
If a man took to the streets and hacked a woman to death - attempting decapitation - he’d probably be described as an ‘evil, vicious killer.’ Yet local newspapers described Oliver Ruse as a ‘kind hardworking and loving man’. Their accounts reported that he had experienced mental health problems, with some suggesting that it was his wife's actions that ‘drove’ him to it. There were unsubstantiated reports providing personal information about their troubled relationship from ‘family friends.’ Which friends of whose ‘family’? - I wondered. Were they from his, an influential, well-respected local business family? Or were they from hers; not local, unknown?
The reports provided no such information about Deborah Ruse. I was left wondering if she was gentle and kind and what had troubled her? One report said she had Diazepam in her system at the time of her murder. I also wondered why her country of birth was considered to be relevant in some media reports and whether it was because she was black? Did reporters think her race added somehow to an understanding of her murder? Or are they using it to underline their portrayal of her as an ‘outsider’ in the Long Melford community?
Even if Deborah Ruse had behaved badly, that is no justification for her murder. If Oliver Ruse was mentally ill and suicidal, why did he choose to first kill her and then himself?
Maybe we shouldn’t blame mental illness for her murder. We don’t know the whole story and all it does is risk further stigma for people with mental health problems. The only two people who could tell us the truths of their relationship are dead.
Yet realising this does nothing to relieve my anxiety.
Deborah Ruse died because she was the wife of Oliver Ruse and because he believed he was entitled to kill her. Two women a week are killed by a partner or former partner. The same week that Deborah Ruse was murdered in Long Melford, another woman died somewhere else in England or Wales.
Whichever way the media has chosen to portray this tragedy, let’s be clear: it is Deborah Ruse who was the victim and who bears no responsibility for her own murder. However painful it may be for those left behind to accept, it is a story of domestic male homicide. A man violently killed his wife.
It’s got absolutely nothing to do with the ‘complexities of relationships’ and everything to do with domestic violence and the imbalance of power within them. If we can’t accept this and fail to report it as such, then we become complicit in allowing domestic violence to go unchallenged and continuing to blaming it's innocent victims for their fates.
NB: This blog was written and sent to local papers as a letter last year, just after the inquest was reported on. It wasn't published..