Sophie Lancaster, a twenty year old girl, was brutally murdered on August 11, 2007 in the UK. She was repeatedly kicked while trying to protect her boyfriend, Robert Maltby, who had been swarmed and assaulted by a group of boys in their mid-teens while walking through a skate park near their home.
Robert Maltby was kicked unconscious during the attack. Afterward, he lay in a coma and slowly recovered, but now lives with permanent brain damage. Sophie Lancaster also fell into a coma. Thirteen days and three hospitals later, the Lancaster family decided to remove her from life support. Police at the scene said that the injuries to the couple were so severe it was impossible to tell which of them was male and which was female. The group of boys who killed her are proud of it.
Sophie and Robert were attacked for no other reason but because they looked different.
Sophie and Robert identified with the Goth subculture, members of which are also referred to as “Moshers” in the UK. As such, their appearance was different than others and the people who killed her didn’t agree with their image. Two of them were sentenced to life imprisonment for Sophie’s murder, others went to jail for their participation.
Sophie’s mother Sylvia began the Sophie Lancaster Foundation with an inspired purpose, anagrammed S.O.P.H.I.E. – Stamp Out Hatred, Prejudice, Intolerance Everywhere. In order to complete this mission, Sylvia says that “The Sophie Lancaster Foundation, will focus on creating respect for and understanding of subcultures in our communities. It will also work in conjunction with politicians and police forces to ensure individuals who are part of subcultures are protected by the law.”
Through the Foundation Sylvia has managed to raise money to support the protection of sub culture communities and educate people on the importance of individuality and respect. Most of all she has found a voice which will help to ensure that what happened to her daughter will never happen again.
“The thing that makes me most angry is that it is seen as an isolated incident, maybe the seriousness of what happened to Sophie is isolated, but attacks are far from isolated”. –Sylvia Lancaster
Many other companies and organizations have thrown their support behind the Lancaster family’s mission. Illamasqua, a UK Cosmetics company, has created the exclusive Medium Pencil in S.O.P.H.I.E., where three GBP from each sale goes to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation. Illamasqua also sells a S.O.P.H.I.E. wristband and accepts donations on behalf of the Foundation.
The Sophie Lancaster Foundation also creates and encourages fundraising events in many different forms. In 2010 Robert Maltby exhibited artwork of his own, inspired by his girlfriend Sophie, for which all proceeds went to the Lancaster Foundation. Similarly, the Foundation has done film screenings, creative writing contests, and radio dramas to help spread awareness to their cause.
When I first heard this incredibly touching story, I was struck with a deep sadness not only for the horrific treatment of Robert and Sophie but for the amount of ignorance that still exists in our society today. It sickens me that people would go as far as to kill another human being for simply dressing in a different way. My heart goes out to Sylvia and Robert who have gracefully channeled their grief into strength and used it as a tool to educate young adults about the importance of tolerance and respect for individuality. I have the utmost admiration for the mission of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, it is a cause that will always remain especially close to my heart.