IT took two decades for Marian Partington to find out her disappeared sister was a victim of two of Britain's most notorious serial killers.

 

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Now she is to visit Scotland for the first time to share the remarkable story of how she undertook the long and painful journey of trying to forgive Fred and Rosemary West, who tortured and raped at least 13 young women and girls.

Partington's younger sister Lucy, an English literature student, was 21 when she vanished while waiting for a bus in 1973. The writer Martin Amis, who is cousin to the sisters, dedicated his novel The Information to Lucy. He also wrote about her life and death in his memoir Experience.

Lucy's family had no idea what had happened to her until her remains were found buried in the basement of the West's home at 25 Cromwell Street in Gloucester in 1994. It was ­discovered she had been gagged, raped, tortured and murdered, before she was beheaded and dismembered.

But Marian says she refuses to go down the "easy path" of ­demonising the Wests and has even written a "well-wishing" letter to Rosemary West, who was jailed for life in 1995 after being convicted of 10 murders. Fred West hanged himself in the same year before his case came to trial.

Partington will speak about her experience to school pupils and a community audience as part of a week-long exhibition by charity The Forgiveness Project, taking place from Monday, November 24 at Shawlands Academy, Glasgow, as part of Scottish Interfaith Week.

Partington told the Sunday Herald: "Of course, when you talk about forgiveness, you are never condoning the act. It is not forgiveable what happened to Lucy, how could it be?

"But you are opening yourself to the possibility of change within the person and within yourself. That is what brings hope."

But forgiveness was not the first reaction Partington experienced when she found out what had happened to her sister. Her initial reaction, she said, was "murderous rage".

She began going on Buddhist retreats to try to deal with the feelings which emerged after the years of what she calls "frozen silence".

"I realised that I wasn't as different as I thought I was from the Wests in that I knew I was capable of killing," she said.

"I did make a vow to try to forgive the Wests after a retreat in which I realised the most creative, imaginative way forward would be to try and work towards forgiveness.

"I didn't really know what that was and how it could be, but I made a vow to try to go in that direction."

Partington, 66, who lives in mid-Wales, became involved in The Forgiveness Project when it was set up 10 years ago. The charity uses real stories of victims and perpetrators of crime to explore the notions of ­forgiveness and reconciliation.

Founder Marina Cantacuzino, who describes the organisation as "grittily secular", acknowledges the idea of forgiveness is viewed by some as a soft option. But she says for many it is a choice which offers a route out of victimhood and the "final victory" over those who have done harm.

Partington said: "I don't see forgiveness as a noun you tick off, I see it as an ongoing verb in everyday life.

"At some point you realise the excruciating truth of a Chinese saying - those who cannot forgive must dig two graves.

"It is that sense your own life is going to be destroyed if you stay in a place of rage or bitterness."

Partington published a book about her experiences in 2012 called If You Sit Very Still, which was named by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, as one of his books of the year.

But she said publishing her first piece of writing about Lucy, in a newspaper article in 1996, was far more difficult while the family was still dealing with the trauma.

She added: "I couldn't just leave Lucy out there as a West victim, ­without anybody knowing the person she was and what she was hoping to do with her life and that she was real."

Partington also penned a letter to Rosemary West 10 years after she found out what happened to her sister.

"I wasn't talking in the letter about 'I have forgiven you', but I was making a gesture towards her and wanting her to know something of the journey I had to go on because of what had happened."

It was met with a letter from prison security confirming the letter had been received - but adding that West did not want any further correspondence.

But Partington said: "The thing I do try to do is to draw attention to the fact I refuse to demonise the Wests.

"Once you take that route and once you try to just turn your back on what has happened and not talk about it, and take a fixed position of it never being a possibility you might be able to forgive, it has a corrupting effect.

Partington said she believed there was a sense of God in everyone.

"It is vitally important for the world we live in as it is really about ­developing empathy and compassion," she said. "It is about opening one's heart to the suffering in the world - rather than shutting it off."