A bit of a shocker yesterday as the headmistress of the school my daughters attend sent out a letter confirming that Ruby Thomas, who has just been convicted of manslaughter after stamping a man to death (I can hardly type that without feeling sick) in Trafalgar Square, was at the school three years ago. According to my daughters, she was only there for a year, and it was before they got there, so we don’t have any background on the girl. From what I’ve read, though, there can be little doubt that she is extremely disturbed.
It’s worrying on all possible levels. Worrying that our society can produce a girl, 17 at the time of the attack, who is so full of hate and rage that she can set upon a random stranger to the point of wanting, and succeeding, in killing him. Worrying that you cannot walk through Trafalgar Square, as this poor blameless man did, without being attacked and murdered by drunken teenagers. Worrying that teenagers want to get this drunk! Worring that teenagers want to kill! Worrying that this girl went home with a stranger’s blood on her shoes and then laughed with her friends on Facebook about what she had done.
And, I admit, it’s also worrying that she went to my daughters’ school.
In the press, the school is being described as a £12,000-a-year public school. It doesn’t cost £12k a year, and it is not a public school. It is part of the Girls’ Day School Trust, set up in the nineteenth century to teach intelligent, deserving girls who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to learn. Part of the GDST ethos is to fund quite a large number of bursaries and scholarships for girls whose parents can’t afford the fees. I’m not pretending the school is not expensive for those who do have to stump up the fees. It is blimmin blimmin expensive. But it’s not as expensive as some schools. It’s also a private school, not a public school, which means that it is not part of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference.
These differences probably seem ridiculous. The press, after all, is simply making the point that, at some point during her education, someone was willing to lavish some money on Ruby Thomas. She has now, it seems, paid back that investment by blackening the name of the school she attended and no doubt massively distressing whoever paid those fees. Her father, by the way, was convicted of manslaughter for stabbing a taxi driver in Brixton in 2003.
As my daughters said this morning, ‘thousands of really nice girls go to our school and never do anything bad. Now everyone will only remember this one girl.’
I think we should make sure that doesn’t happen. We should remember Ian Baynham instead. By all accounts he was a lovely man, much missed by his sister and his mother, who is in her nineties. May he rest in peace.