Published: September 15, 2011
by TOM FOOT
THE mother of a toddler who died of flu wants thieves who stole bags full of heart-warming gifts and personal cards from her 40th birthday party to feel the weight of her tragedy.
Jewellery designer Clara Francis and Jason Watkins – a TV actor who plays the vampire in the hit BBC series Being Human and stars in the prime-time Sky One comedy Trollied – are still struggling with an unimaginable sense of loss after two-and-a-half-year-old Maude was found dead in her cot on New Year’s Day.
Ms Francis had a message this week for the thieves who stole presents from her party at a Kentish Town pub on Saturday.
She said: “I have had the worst year of my life and I want them to know that. In some ways I had been dragged out to celebrate – I hadn’t been out since…
“It was the first time I had seen a lot of my friends and the cards would have been personal. They probably just threw them away. People who do this kind of thing should know there may be a context.”
The couple said that three young women gatecrashed their private party at the Bull and Gate pub. Pub managers confirmed that the women – in their mid-20s – arrived drunk and may have run off with all the presents as the lights went down and the group sang “Happy birthday”.
Maude was one of just five children in the country to die from flu this year. Mr Watkins, 48, and Ms Francis, who live in Camden Road, Camden Town, said they want to use their tragedy to campaign for more children to be vaccinated.
The over-65s, people with chronic or long-term medical conditions, health and social care workers are vaccinated against winter flu – but children do not receive the jab as routine. Influenza is a highly infectious disease caused by viruses that attack the respiratory tract and is mainly spread by coughing or sneezing.
Mr Watkins said: “Children don’t have strength to fight the flu, they are too weak. I know there is no money, but it is really scandalous that there is no vaccination for under-fives. More children will die this year.”
He agreed with the findings of the St Pancras coroner that “no blame” attached to experts at University College London Hospital.
Ms Francis praised the work of an independent parents bereavement service, Surviving Loss of Your World, based in Tufnell Park.
“They really understand how you feel,” she said. “It’s hard because you want to move on, but you don’t want to at the same time.”
Numbed by the death of Maude, she says it left her watching endless “crap on TV” and struggling to concentrate on a new portfolio of intricate beaded necklaces and bracelets to go on show at London Fashion Week on Friday.
Her career has seen her design jewellery for Hollywood stars and she has had her work displayed at the V&A Museum. On her website, her biography is told like a children’s fairy tale about a young girl “who was fascinated with all things that shined” and hoped to live “very happily ever after and sleep soundly by night”.
Ms Francis is pregnant again with a baby due in January.
Anyone with information about the stolen gifts, can contact the New Journal.