FOR Denise and Brian Curry it has been a long and painful five years since their daughter died while on a hen weekend with friends in Spain.

Their beloved daughter Kirsty Maxwell lost her life after falling from a 10th floor balcony in the holiday resort of Benidorm on April 29, 2017.
Despite an ongoing investigation and hearings in Spain, they still don’t have justice for their daughter and no-one could have blamed them if they wanted to withdraw to be alone with their grief.
However, instead the couple realised there was a real gap and missing link when it came to trying to get help and support in the weeks and months after Kirsty’s death and decided to launch their own charity to help families who find themselves in the same situation as them.

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The Kirsty Maxwell Charity was set up in 2019 two years after Kirsty, 27, died and was formalised as a charity in early 2020 just as the country was plunged into a national lockdown due to the pandemic.
Now as foreign travel opens up again and Scots begin to travel abroad, the couple are looking to raise awareness for the charity to let people know they are there to help.

The Herald: Kirsty Maxwell was on a hen weekend with friends when the tragedy happenedKirsty Maxwell was on a hen weekend with friends when the tragedy happened
Heartbroken Mrs Curry, 58, says while they can’t prevent this kind of thing happening to another family, they can offer help. “It’s about being there for someone if they end up in the same position we were in,” she said.
The couple, from Livingston, recalled how they thought the first phone call about Kirsty was a prank.
“There was a phone call from a Spanish police officer which we thought was a prank at first and then phoned the girls she was with to find out it was true,” said Mr Curry. “This happened in a broken English call and I thought that was certainly not the way this should be done and that was from the off.

We had no translator
“From there on we actually had to make the phone calls. We had to contact the British Consulate in London to find out more, but they didn’t know. We had to book our own flights and get across there. 
“We arrived that night in Benidorm with no-one there to meet us. It was midnight and we were trying to get taxis and get somewhere to stay. We ended up staying in a bus station hotel until we could arrange to meet the police the next day.”
Kirsty and her friends returned to their apartment block where they were staying after a night out. Shortly before 8am the following morning, she fell to her death from a 10th floor balcony of another apartment being used by a group of men. It’s thought she knocked on the wrong door when she went to look for her friends.

The Herald: Denis and Brian Curry have launched a charity in Kirsty's nameDenis and Brian Curry have launched a charity in Kirsty's name
Another issue which didn’t help the couple as they tried to find out exactly what happened was not having access to a translator and while they were later supplied with a list of lawyers to contact it lacked any firm advice. It was months later before they discovered the lawyer involved in the case was an expert in property law rather than criminal investigations.
Mr Curry, 63, added: “We met with the police and we had no translator which was very difficult. We did meet a consulate who was helpful and we asked about translation help but their remit is so defined that they can’t do anything legally or technically or get involved if it is a police case which makes it very difficult. We were given a piece of paper with some lawyers’ names and had to go and find one.
“We had to phone them and find out if they could help with the case as we knew then that Kirsty’s case wasn’t an accident, it was an incident.”
During the frantic and traumatic first few hours, the couple didn’t even know where their daughter’s body was.
“Kirsty was 50 miles away in a morgue and we hadn’t even seen her. We were being told there had been arrests and it was a homicide, but we were doing all this by ourselves. When we looked back on this and what we went through we thought this was wrong. People need help and they need to know where to go particularly in the first 48 hours,” added Mr Curry.
“It is important that if they need help, they know where to go and what to do. And that’s where we hope the charity can come in. It would have made such a difference to us if we had someone advising us with what to do.
“Sadly we now know what to do first such as ask for a police report. In our case the police report went out before we even knew what was in it. Getting a translator is crucial as well and we were being told that it would be £3,000 to get it translated which is wrong.”

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Mrs Curry felt as if they had been abandoned from the moment they arrived in Spain and she doesn’t want another family to go through what they did.
The couple have already helped some families who have got in touch following an incident or death abroad.
They have been a listening ear in the first instance and are then able to offer advice on what to do next and point them in the right direction for more assistance.
“We want people to be able to get the right help and signpost them to people who can help,” added Mr Curry. “We hope that some of the things we have learned in the legal process and trying to find out about the investigation we can pass on to someone in the same position.”
The aim of the charity is to put people in touch with the relevant expertise, advise on social media campaigns and fundraising.
“We have already helped with a case and accessed audio files which the family knew nothing about,” added Mr Curry. “And we do hear the same stories but access to police reports and information so nothing has changed since we went through this five years ago.”

The Herald: The couple arrived in Benidorm just hours after receiving the news about KirstyThe couple arrived in Benidorm just hours after receiving the news about Kirsty
As well as raising awareness about the charity, they are also looking to raise further funds and already have a link up with Amazon Smile for donations.
And last year one of Kirsty’s friends Lauren Arndt embarked on her own fundraising drive to help the charity. 
She had been planning to run the Edinburgh Half Marathon in May 2020 which was cancelled due to the pandemic, but instead Lauren took on the virtual challenge last year, running her own route. She raised more than £1,000 which was split between Kirsty’s charity and the British Heart Foundation.
Future fundraising events are being planned which might include a buggy walk or events which people can do in their own time.
Kirsty’s aunt, Angela Lees, Mrs Curry’s sister, has supported the couple since they received the devastating news and has been helping with the charity. 
“We think about Kirsty every day and how different things would be if she was still here,” added Mrs Lees. “She would probably have a house and a baby. My son and Kirsty grew up together and hoped they would be having families at the same time.
“I can see the change in Denise and Brian – they have never been the same people. 
“They were fun-loving and happy go lucky.  It’s horrible to watch them go through this and I have lived every minute of it with them.
“Kirsty would phone on a nice summer’s day and ask ‘what are you doing mum? Can we have a barbecue?’ We’d all have family time and laughter and they were great hosts. We do have our own family time now privately, but they are not the same people. Denise’s heart is completely broken.
“I know that Kirsty would be so proud of what they are trying to do now and help people.”

Truth might come out
Over the past few years some progress has been made in raising awareness of the plight of families when someone dies abroad and a Westminster All Party Parliamentary Group on Deaths Abroad, Consular Services and Assistance, led by Hannah Bardell, SNP MP for Livingston, recognised there is a real gap in the consular assistance.
The couple, who have a son Ryan and grandson Jude, met the Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC and Scottish Justice Secretary Keith Brown.
“They have both been supportive, but we do want to see things change when someone is killed abroad, but progress seems to be slow,” added Mr Curry. “We haven’t given up hope that something might happen with the case or the truth might come out.”
Six weeks after Kirsty died, a new law came into force in Scotland, allowing fatal accident inquiries to be held into the deaths of Scots abroad.
It wasn’t retrospective and such FAIs would only take place at the discretion of the Lord Advocate.

The Herald: Former Strathclyde Police senior detective David Swindle has been helping Kirsty's familyFormer Strathclyde Police senior detective David Swindle has been helping Kirsty's family
Retired Strathclyde Police senior detective David Swindle, who led the operation which snared serial killer Peter Tobin, has been helping the family. He set up Victims Abroad in response to cases where individuals were trying to work their way through a minefield when a loved one has been killed abroad.
As well as helping Kirsty’s family he has also been working the with family of Craig Mallon. The 26-year-old, from Coatbridge, was killed on holiday in Spain 10 years ago.
Mr Swindle said: “Kirsty’s family have been let down by the lack of holistic support in the UK and Spain and the flawed Spanish investigation into Kirsty’s death which has not progressed all potential evidential opportunities.”

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