Murder #11, Rhys Lawrie, Erith
Murder #11, Rhys Lawrie, Erith
Three year-old Rhys Lawrie died from severe head injuries on January 21, 2011. The boy, who had been diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy, Dravet’s Syndrome, was taken to hospital after he was found collapsed at around 3.30pm. He was pronounced dead in hospital and a postmortem revealed up to 40 separate injuries including a broken leg, brain damage and bruising which suggested he had been picked up by his ears. At the time he was living with his mother Sadie Henry, 26, and her 16 year-old boyfriend Cameron Rose at a flat in Erith, Kent. Henry and Rose were arrested on January 26 on suspicion of grievous bodily harm. They were later re-arrested on suspicion of murder in September 2011. Five months later on 22 February 2012, detectives decided to caution Rhys’ mother for perverting the course of justice and charge Cameron Rose with murder. On October 30, 2012, the jury acquitted Rose of murder but convicted him of the lesser charge of manslaughter on the grounds he did not intend to cause serious bodily harm. Rose, then 17, was also convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm in relation to the injuries in January 2011 but cleared of a similar charge in relation to the December injuries. On November 29, 2012, Cameron Rose was jailed for five years.
The last photograph I took for my project, The Landscape of Murder, was the 11th murder to have occurred in London in 2011. I made the photograph in February, 2013. A lot of the details were not available to me until after November 2012 and before then I had given up on making a photograph of the site of Rhys Lawrie’s death. I knew a child was involved and from what I knew of the case I wondered if it would be declared a murder or an accidental death. In the course of my project I did not want to include a murder site photograph of a case that was later to be declared not a murder but an accident or something not malicious. So I waited and sort of forgot about making a photograph until I found out the mother’s boyfriend had been found guilty of manslaughter. Rhys Lawrie suffered a lot before he finally died. The details of the case are hard to read.
I was having trouble finding the address of where Rhys died and in my research I came across Trevor Lawrie’s website . It was more painful reading. The site is run by Rhys Lawrie’s grandfather. Mr. Lawrie is fighting for what he feels is justice for his grandson. He details his battles against the courts, the police and Bexley Council. You can’t helped but be moved by the site as you read through what is a very thorough and passionate case. I sheepishly emailed Mr Lawrie and asked if it would at all be possible to get the address after explaining my project to him. He kindly emailed back with the address.
I dont think I had ever been to Erith for any reason. Walking from Erith railway station I made my way southeast along the busy A206 and then headed east along Manor Road. You could see the Thames between the terraced houses if you look north. A giant wind turbine looms over the houses of Erith and Slade Green if you look south. I turned into a pathway that led me to the small council building that contained the flat in which Rhys died. The estate was a bit unkempt which betrayed the obvious poverty of the area. I struggled to make a photograph but was drawn to broken toys, the graffiti at the entrance to the building and a baby’s cot abandoned in the parking lot.
When I finished it suddenly dawned on me that I was finished photographing the project. It was a relief to be done documenting such a dark morbid subject. I walked back to Erith station feeling a bit empty and unsure what I had accomplished over the last two years.
As always I am indebted to the website Murdermap for their reporting and help. I will write a lot about the site in the future as the blog progresses.
links to the case below