Shooting tragedy mum gives aid to victims’ relatives

Theresa Bryce, whose son was murdered, and  Sarah Agnew at Petal counselling service. Picture: Scott Taylor

Theresa Bryce, whose son was murdered, and Sarah Agnew at Petal counselling service. Picture: Scott Taylor

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A MOTHER whose son was shot dead 21 years ago is helping set up a specialist support group in the Capital for families of people who have been murdered.

Petal – People Experiencing Trauma and Loss – has already helped 1400 people across Scotland, who have lost relatives through murder, culpable homicide or suicide.

It offers one-to-one counselling, practical and emotional support and advocacy.

Although it has worked with some families from Edinburgh and the Lothians, its work has been based in Glasgow and Lanarkshire up until now.

The group has opened new premises at West Point, Redheughs Rigg, South Gyle – to expand its operations.

One of those helping establish the new centre will be Theresa Bryce, whose 21-year-old son Douglas, pictured left, was murdered in 1994.

He was an innocent bystander shot by accident during an alleged gangland shoot-out in a street in Craigneuk, Lanarkshire.

Ms Bryce spoke of the importance of a listening ear and said the pain of losing a loved one in such tragic circumstances never disappears for the families and friends left behind.

“It doesn’t go away,” she said. “There’s always something that comes up – an anniversary or something happens to someone – and it all comes back.

“But families feel they can come in and talk to us about these things because we know something about what they’re going through.”

Ms Bryce got involved with Petal soon after it had been set up by two mothers following the murder of a member of each of their families in 1994.

“It’s a unique group,” she said. “It’s really done a lot for people.”

The opening of the Edinburgh premises follows a three-year pilot project to assess the needs in the Capital and Lothian area.

Ms Bruce said: “A lot of people in and around Edinburgh need help and now they can come here rather than having to travel to one of our other groups.

“The counselling rooms are lovely – so peaceful. People are coming in because they are distraught and this will make them feel relaxed.”

Neil Moore, chief executive of Petal, said there were more people affected by murders than people often realised.

“It’s not just one person, it can be the whole family. And sometimes it takes two or three years for people to have a problem.”

He said they were among the most vulnerable and traumatised people in society. “They need support, confidentiality and to regain their coping skills.”

He said once it was up and running the Edinburgh centre could be working with potentially hundreds of relatives.

Families can contact Petal direct, but they can also be referred by doctors, psychiatrists, procurators fiscal, the police or Victim Support Scotland. Petal also provides telephone support.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com