From the moment Samantha came into this world, her presence was known. She had a vibrancy and spark that could not be missed, and a stubborn but determined personality that carried her forward through life at the speed of light. Samantha was a deeply compassionate young lady, who had time and love for everyone whom she met, she saw the beauty in everything and encouraged other people to do the same. Although Sami was so young when she was taken from us, her spirit and passion had enabled her to achieve benchmarks that most could only hope to achieve in a life time.
Sami was a head strong young lady with a cheeky personality which captured the hearts of all who knew her; leaving us all with unforgettable and cherished memories. In particular Sami had a deep sense of right and wrong, and would often seek to help those less fortunate than herself, including her friends. Sami felt strongly about the care of young people, and was often described as a ‘collector of people’ by her friends.
On the 9th March 2012, Samantha Jade Sykes aged 18 years answered a call from a friend requesting her help. This was a friend whom she had known for many years who had experienced difficulties within her life and who, with Samantha’s support, had recently left a violent relationship. The call for help was a trap to lure her to the place where she was murdered. As Samantha entered the property, the murderer lay in wait, having already murdered her friend’s younger sister by stabbing her 15 times.
Ahmed Otak then carried out a frenzied attack on Samantha who sustained 32 stab and slash wounds to her upper body and neck. She died very quickly. The remaining friend was taken hostage whilst Otak drove to the home of an accomplice, in Samantha’s stolen from where he attempted his escape the country with the surviving friend as hostage. Thankfully on arriving in Dover he was prevented from doing so by another man who had climbed into the back of the same lorry in order to leave the country. We are forever in his debt.
The 17 year old child who died along with Samantha had experienced many problems in her young life and Samantha had been desperately trying to support her. She had identified that her young friend was at risk of being groomed and sexually exploited which led to contacting services. The friend was a Looked-after child, whom it later transpired with the publication of a Serious Case Review, had not received the protection and care that she was entitled to and deserved. Samantha was a very courageous and brave girl who had previously tried to seek help for the surviving friend by reporting Otak to the Police and the United Kingdom Border Agency, but as echoed by Mr Justice Coulson, ‘Unhappily, nothing came of these complaints.’
Sadly, although the outcome of this case is unusual, the tragic stories of many disadvantaged children and young people are not, especially those who are looked-after children. Samantha’s young friend was known to many agencies yet her voice was not heard as she tried to get help for her older sister because of the risk Otak posed. Many Looked-after children are invisible, their voices not heard, but this child was not invisible to our daughter who saw her for the beautiful person she was, someone with so much potential.
This story forms the ethos of our work so that other children and young people may be saved form a life of abuse and inadequate services.