Jill Saward: Husband pays tribute to rape campaigner

Jill Saward
Image caption Jill Saward's humour and faith helped her to use her experiences to help others, her husband said

The husband of the rape campaigner Jill Saward has described her as an "extremely loving and caring" woman.

She died from a stroke last week, nine days short of her 52nd birthday.

Ms Saward devoted much of her life to campaigning for victims' rights after she was brutally raped in the notorious Ealing vicarage attack of 1986.

Journalist Gavin Drake, her second husband, said her sense of fun and concern for others were key to helping her overcome her ordeal.

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Speaking to Radio 4's Last Word, Mr Drake - who lived with Ms Saward and their three sons in Hednesford, Staffordshire - said he developed a "close friendship" with his wife-to-be very soon after meeting her at a Christian music festival in Northamptonshire.

'Love at first sight'

"I walked into the hospitality tent and she was sat on the same table as my editor," he said.

"I didn't know who she was, but I took one look at her and thought: 'I don't know who you are, but I'm going to marry you.'

"It was as instant as that - people talk about love at first sight, and in this case it really was."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Jill Saward taking part in a course on violent crime in 1994. Four years earlier she became the first rape victim in the UK to waive her right to anonymity

Though Mr Drake was not fully familiar with her suffering at first, just weeks into their friendship one of her attackers was released from prison.

While she flew to the US to stay with a friend of her father, he was tasked with helping to find Ms Saward a new home.

"The police warned that he'd threatened to kill her and that they knew that he had the address," Mr Drake said.

After learning more about the trauma Jill suffered, Mr Drake read her book, Rape: My Story, which he said helped her get over some of the darker moments in the following years.

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Media captionIn 2013 Jill Saward spoke to the BBC about the impact of the vicarage attack

Though she still suffered 30 years after the attack, he said her faith, humour and bravery drove on her campaigning and led her to help others.

"The word courageous has been used a lot in the tributes that have been paid, and I think that's true," he said.

"A picture has been painted of... almost the saintliest of saints, but she was also somebody who did it at a great cost.

"She did it anyway, because it was something that she felt needed doing."

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