The end of 2022 will be forever marked by the deaths of many high-profile figures. The late Queen of course, in September, followed by such famous figures as Pelé, Vivienne Westwood and then on December 31, Pope Benedict XVI.
But there was one name which didn’t make the headlines.
On Christmas Eve, Tania El-Keria, a mum of three, was tragically killed in a road accident.
She was a woman who’d given years of her life to campaigning for better, safer provision for children needing expert mental health services.
Her incredible work came from the deepest pain any mother could suffer - the loss of her own daughter, Amy - at the age of 14.
Amy, the youngest of her three daughters, had complex mental health needs. So extreme were her difficulties, that Amy was eventually found a place at Ticehurst Hospital, run by the biggest name in mental health - The Priory Group.
Tania thought Amy had finally got the care and support she needed. But after an abysmal catalogue of failings and neglect, Amy was found in her bedroom with a ligature around her neck and taken to hospital. She died the following day.
It always astonishes me, the strength some are able to find - in the depths of grief - to not only fight for justice but then to fight for others too.
Tania El-Keria was just such a woman. I met her back in 2019 when she’d been campaigning, fighting, pushing for justice for seven years for her daughter and others. The Exposure team at ITV were investigating what happened to Amy and the care other teenage patients received subsequently at Ticehurst.
Tania had been willing to sit down and talk openly about all that she’d been through.
She was simply wonderful.
We visited her at her home several times. The door was always already open when we got there - the kettle on, and food in case we were hungry. She put up with us dragging camera kit into her home, made space and time for us. And hardest of all for her, she shared everything she had about her daughter: family photos, memories, and every last detail of her daughter’s terrible story.
She was wise, funny, passionate and caring. A mother who’d given her all for all her family. Who’d been pitted against a massive healthcare business, which took forever to acknowledge its mistakes.
The warmth with which she welcomed us into her home was unforgettable.
Tania eventually got some justice. The Priory Group was fined £300,000 over Amy’s death.
But for Tania, it was never about the money. She’d done it for Amy’s memory and then used the moment to shine a light on other families who were fighting for better mental health care. She never gave up campaigning. Just the light of her character, and her refusal to ever give up brought energy to others.
What a brilliant woman. What a loss to her family, and to everyone who knew her.
Sometimes in my job you’re asked about who are the most important, memorable people you’ve interviewed.
It is, in fact, rarely those whose names are famous.
Tania El-Keria was simply one of the most inspiring women I’ve had the privilege to meet. Our team will never forget the story she shared with us.
May she rest in peace, with her beloved Amy.
In a statement at the time, Priory Group CEO Trevor Torrington offered "sincere and profound apologies to Amy's family".
Mr Torrington added: "There was common ground between the experts that the care planning was of good quality, that the suicide of 14-year-olds is extremely rare and prediction is likely to be extremely difficult."
He said they accepted some risk management procedures and training were not robust enough before adding "the court found such shortcomings were not causative of Amy's tragic death."
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