‘My cousin was murdered by her ex – men must intervene in violence against women’

‘My cousin was murdered by her ex – men must intervene in violence against women’

Ziggi Fisher was the life and soul of the party. As a teen, she lit up any room she walked into and had a vibrant energy that imprinted on those around her.

Her cousin, Lily Newman, describes Ziggi as “so sassy”, “inquisitive” and “cheeky.” At family events, she’d always be the first person on the dancefloor, encouraging others to join her.

But the world was robbed of Ziggi’s vibrant charm in 2000 when, at just 19 years old, she was murdered by her violent ex-boyfriend.

David Weller, then 35, from Somerset, strangled Ziggi and dumped her body in a country lane in Oxfordshire before covering it with leaves, shortly after she ended their relationship.

Despite denying murder, and claiming he strangled her in a fit of rage, Weller was found guilty in 2001 and jailed for life.

The court heard that, just days before her death, Weller had told Ziggi: “I will never lose you.

“I will kill you and then kill myself. You cannot hide. I will hunt you down.”

This is the last photo taken of Ziggi before she was murdered
(
Lily Newman)

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Sentencing him, Justice Hallett said: “You killed Ziggi Fisher for one reason, and one reason only, because she couldn’t stand your jealousy and wanted to leave you.

“You lured her to your flat and within minutes killed her – the woman you said you loved.”

More than 20 years later, Lily remembers the events clear as day.

“I was pregnant with my son, so I was about 34 when Ziggi passed away,” she told The Mirror.

“I remember my father phoning me saying, ‘Ziggi’s missing’ and that the police were looking into it.

“When I heard the news [that Ziggi had died] I was sitting in the kitching thinking, ‘this doesn’t happen to people like our family’.”

And the shock of Ziggi’s murder took its toll on her loved ones.

“At the time, your immediate reaction is shock and horror. You think, ‘Throw away the key, he should rot in jail’,” she said.

Lily claimed Weller has applied for parole three times since he was jailed, but his requests have never been approved.

As time has passed, while Lily will never empathise with or forgive her cousin’s killer, she admits she’s considered the factors that led him to become a violent man.

“I’m not using that as an excuse for him,” she explained, but added society needs to understand why men become abusive.

Keen to break the cycle of the abuser before they can do real harm, Lily found research from Exeter University that monitored how abuse evolves.

“How do we start off with slightly aggressive banter and get to catcalling and humiliation?” Lily described.

“If the abuser sees this as acceptable, it can move into coercive control and stalking, before it arrives at physical assault.”

Ziggi was the life and soul of the party
(
Lily Newman)

Lily recalls her cousin’s vibrant personality
(
Lily Newman)

She cited the example of Sarah Everard, who was raped and murdered by Metropolitan Police Officer Wayne Couzens in March of this year.

After Couzens was arrested, reports emerged he had been investigated over an allegation of indecent exposure six years earlier.

He had also been nicknamed ‘The Rapist’ by his colleagues and was accused of exposing himself just days before carrying out the heinous attack on Sarah.

Lily also noted that, as of October, 80 women in the UK had been murdered since Sarah Everard’s death.

Armed with the research from Exeter University and her own experience of how male violence against women can destroy lives, Lily came up with the Press Red #BreakTheSilence campaign.

Teaming up with production company Reels in Motion, a script writer and actors who largely gave their time for free, Lily’s campaign has produced a series of videos showing scenarios in which men can show aggression towards women in more subtle ways – that can quickly become overt.

The videos show men remaining silent while a woman is targeted
(
Press Red/Youtube)

Three of the scenarios shown in videos are a football match in a pub, an office discussing the Christmas party and a woman alone on a bus.

In the workplace scenario, colleagues warn a new female employee about the antics at the Christmas party – and one male colleague in particular assures her he’ll “look after” her.

While he makes unwanted sexual advances towards the woman, other employees remain silent, with their excuses for not intervening written on tape over their lips.

Among the excuses are: ‘He won’t listen’, and ‘Don’t know what to do’.

“Most of the world is full of good men,” Lily said. “The challenge is, they don’t know how to intervene.

“We’re not saying women need protecting, but we need to call men in our orbit to order.”

There are three scenarios in which the videos are set, including a pub during a football match
(
Press Red/Youtube)

When it comes to male violence against women, Lily thinks people know there’s a serious problem in society.

“I think people are aware, but they don’t want to look at it, or they don’t know what to do.

“We’ve got to pull this out from dark corners. We believe this is a human problem, a problem with society. It’s not a women’s problem.

“We need to call it out.”

She encouraged men to speak to the women in their lives about what experiences they’ve had with unwanted sexual advances, which she believes is eye-opening for them.

“It’s often dressed up as banter. Men don’t often recognise harmful behaviour, but it comes across as jealousy and inappropriate sexual language. If it feels safe to intervene, then do,

“Men can get away with saying things to other men that women can’t,” Lily said.

She added if it isn’t safe to intervene where men think a woman is in danger, they should speak to someone else, like an HR manager in a workplace, or a charity that can offer advice.

The videos encourage men to step in when they see another man making a woman feel uncomfortable
(
Press Red/Youtube)

As part of Lily’s campaign, she’s running a programme of disruptor training which teaches men how to intervene safely, based on the research from Exeter University.

“One in four perpetrators of abuse will repeat their actions with someone new,” she said.

In tackling the problem of how to stop abusers in their tracks, Lily said it’s important to look at how to help the abuser change their ways – even though this is a slightly taboo issue.

“Only 1% of perpetrators who are involved in domestic abuse go on to have any kind of structured intervention.

“We’re really doing some of those men a disservice if we write them off and say, ‘You’re going to be an abuser forever’. That anger is likely to fester and is likely to manifest itself in further abuse,” she explained, adding that there is enormous shame attached to being abused as well as being abusive.

Lily hopes her new campaign will signpost a change in direction in how we as a society tackle male violence against women – by putting the onus back on men. But she acknowledges we still have a long way to go.

“We need to talk about it from primary school to improve boys’ respect for women.

“A huge majority of young boys have seen hardcore pornography by the age of 12. Children are being exposed to porn and sexual content which is seen as banter all the time.”

There’s an enormous battle ahead to level the playing field, but Lily is confident her campaign can make a difference – and after an emotional conversation with her aunt, she knows her cousin would be on board too.

Do you have a real life story to share? Email jessica.taylor@reachplc.com

“She said, ‘the first person who would be on board with your campaign would be Ziggi’.

“She would go out and bang drums and shake people and hold the mirror up to people and go, ‘look at what we’re doing’.

“She always stood up for the underdog.”

To learn more about Lily’s campaign, visit www.pressred.org

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