When two police officers arrived at Nevres Kemal’s North London home less than a month ago to deliver the horrific news that her beautiful, bright, feisty daughter Azra had been raped after she’d died — not once, not twice but three times — in a hospital morgue, she was consumed by a frightening rage.
Believing that her precious daughter’s monstrous abuser, whom she knew only as Dave, was being held at nearby Colindale police station, she took a knife from the kitchen and ran, shaking and crying, from the house to ‘punish Dave’.
‘The rage . . .’ she says now. ‘My only thought was, “He is not going to get away this.” I’d just been told he’d raped her in hospital when she was dead. It was incomprehensible. I felt I had to take things into my own hands — find him, punish him. I’m her mother.
When two police officers arrived at Nevres Kemal’s (pictured) North London home less than a month ago to deliver the horrific news that her beautiful, bright, feisty daughter Azra had been raped after she’d died — not once, not twice but three times — in a hospital morgue, she was consumed by a frightening rage
Believing that her precious daughter’s (pictured) monstrous abuser, whom she knew only as Dave, was being held at nearby Colindale police station, she took a knife from the kitchen and ran, shaking and crying, from the house to ‘punish Dave’
‘If I’d found him, I’m 99.99 per cent sure I’d have put that knife straight through his heart because he’d put a knife through mine. The thought of him violating her — of touching her hair, touching her skin . . .
‘But as I walked towards the police station, all hell broke loose. Police officers seemed to spring from everywhere. I was handcuffed and thrown to the floor by eight or nine of them.
‘The two officers who had come to the house had telephoned in and said I was running around with a knife. But the police who arrested me didn’t know what had happened. I was crying: “My daughter was raped in hospital and she’s dead.” They were looking at me, going, “Does this woman need psychiatric help?”
‘They read me my rights but I had this rage. I was shouting, “What are you doing? I need to put an end to this. No one is violating my child. I am her mother. I’m here because I’m looking for Dave. He needs to be punished.”’
As it was, Nevres herself was thrown into a cell and kept there for 34 hours.
‘They kept me there that long because they thought maybe I’d hurt myself,’ she says. ‘They were also trying to get some family liaison officers there to tell me the exact details of what had happened to Azra.
‘When they knew what had happened to Azra they were softer to me. One officer in the custody area was crying as she took my fingerprints, photographs and DNA. She said, “It’s awful. We can’t believe it. We’ve never heard anything such as this.” ’
In fact, ‘Dave’ — whom we now know is David Fuller, 67 — was in Belmarsh Prison in South-East London, where he had been awaiting trial since his arrest in December last year.
In fact, ‘Dave’ — whom we now know is David Fuller, 67 — was in Belmarsh Prison in South-East London, where he had been awaiting trial since his arrest in December last year
This week, he pleaded guilty to the murder of Wendy Knell, 25, and Caroline Pierce, 20, in 1987 and admitted 44 charges in relation to necrophilia involving women and girls aged between nine and 100 in morgues in Sussex and Kent
This week, he pleaded guilty to the murder of Wendy Knell, 25, and Caroline Pierce, 20, in 1987 and admitted 44 charges in relation to necrophilia involving women and girls aged between nine and 100 in morgues in Sussex and Kent.
The true number of those he violated is believed to stretch into the hundreds, if not thousands.
Nevres, 57, is the only member of one of the victims’ families to speak out so far about the sickening 30-year crime spree that has shocked the country.
She is doing so because, she says: ‘Azra was always loud and proud and passionate. This is what she’d want. I understand there is a lot of shame and embarrassment around this. People think, “Do I want my kid or relative to be remembered as someone who was raped or abused in a morgue?”
‘But we need to come forward so the law changes. I understand the penalty for raping a corpse is two years. How can that be right in the 21st century?
‘Our legal system has to acknowledge that the dead have rights and the sentencing tariff has to be such as to let society know the law will respect the dead. It’s their duty to do so.’
The true number of those he violated is believed to stretch into the hundreds, if not thousands
Nevres, a social worker who was so appalled by what she witnessed while previously working for disgraced Haringey Council that she turned whistleblower, is a strong, passionate woman with a deeply ingrained sense of right and wrong.
Indeed, so horrified was she about Haringey’s dire treatment of children in its care that in 2007 she wrote to ministers to warn of an imminent catastrophe. Six months later, Baby P was dead.
You sense that, since the death in July 2020 of her 24-year-old daughter, a law graduate from the London School of Economics, her crusading spirit is all that gets her out of bed in the morning.
Azra, who was conceived with the help of a sperm donor, was Nevres’s soulmate. Nevres wrote a letter that she put in her daughter’s coffin, in which ‘I thanked her for all her craziness, all her stress, all her madness, but also for making me complete for however long she lived.’
Azra died from the fatal injuries she sustained after falling from a bridge on the A21 in Kent after her car caught fire. She had phoned her mother in the early hours of that July morning to tell her about a row she’d had with a friend, ending the call, ‘I love you. I’m on my way home.’
‘That was it,’ says Nevres, who has never felt her daughter’s case was thoroughly investigated.
‘My heart had already been broken,’ she says. ‘Once that happens you’re beyond that. There’s nothing left to break. I sat there in the cell, thinking, “I wish I hadn’t given birth to Azra.”
‘I’ve been fighting for the last year to have her death properly investigated and here I am in a cell, and someone has raped her.’ After her 34 hours in custody, Nevres was taken to an interview room, where two family liaison officers told her the terrible details of her daughter’s abuse. ‘They had to give a disclosure saying, “What we’re about to tell you is going to be very distressing.”’
Nevres is in tears again. She tells me she rarely cries, particularly in front of strangers, but the tears have rarely stopped coming in the past three weeks.
‘They told me the dates, the times and where Azra was penetrated,’ she says.
She had been to visit Azra’s body for two hours on one of the days the assaults happened. ‘I was kissing my daughter’s mouth and face where he had abused her — and touched her hair and touched her skin. He took her shroud off. How do you . . . that image . . . how?’
The tears overwhelm her again. It is impossible to see her pain and not feel it, too. It is also impossible not to be truly sickened by what this monster has taken from her. She will not call him by his name. Instead she calls him Insignificant — but, of course, he is not.
When Azra died on July 16, 2020, Nevres was unable to see her daughter for five days because of the Covid restrictions.
‘When two officers told me “We’re sorry to inform you Azra passed”, I ran out of the house screaming. That screech of pain is horrendous. I still hear it echo in my brain.
‘I’ve heard that scream before because [as a social worker] I’ve been around people who have lost children. It’s a haunting scream that has no name.’
When Azra died on July 16, 2020, Nevres was unable to see her daughter for five days because of the Covid restrictions
Staff at Tunbridge Wells Hospital, where Fuller worked as a maintenance supervisor, would not allow her to visit her daughter
Staff at Tunbridge Wells Hospital, where Fuller worked as a maintenance supervisor, would not allow her to visit her daughter. Eventually, after appealing directly to ‘a kind woman’ at the hospital’s mortuary, she was allowed to see her ‘for five minutes behind a glass screen.’ She went with four friends, including Azra’s godparents, and by the time they had reached the morgue, she had persuaded them to allow her to spend 20 minutes with her daughter.
‘When I walked in, Azra didn’t look happy and at peace. I questioned the mortuary staff about that afterwards,’ she says.
‘She was lying with her head towards the window. I’ve seen people who’ve passed and there is some angelic peacefulness about them but Azra didn’t have that and that upset me.
‘She’d had her nails done that day and she was in a shroud and the top half of her hands were free. Her head was on the pillow. I was just kissing her hands and talking to her. Her father, who was a friend, was from Malta and Ireland. I’m from Cyprus, so I used to call her my Island Girl.
‘I didn’t even have the emotion to cry because there were no more tears. You’re looking at a body — my baby’s body. This is the reality now. I was talking to her in Turkish just about things and how much I loved her, but her hands were cold and lifeless so I started touching her hair. That seemed to be the most real part of her because it was still curly and it had a little bit of grass on it.
‘I spread her hair out on the pillow and lay behind her. As a child, her hair was everywhere and many times she’d sleep with me. That was her favourite thing, sleeping with me and cuddling.
‘So I lay there looking down on her and she looked like she was in a deep sleep. I slept too and at that time, Azra was alive again to me.’ The staff let 20 minutes drift into two hours as Nevres held Azra.
‘I wouldn’t describe it as a feeling of peace but I’d had the opportunity to doze with her one more time and hold her. When I held her when she was born she slept in my arms and now she was gone I was holding her in my arms.’
Azra was identified early in the police investigation as one of Fuller’s victims. When he was arrested for murder, officers discovered 14 million images of the women he had violated.
Azra was identified early in the police investigation as one of Fuller’s victims. When he was arrested for murder, officers discovered 14 million images of the women he had violated
They learnt that he had scoured Azra’s Facebook, and her name was in a black book that was recovered from his office.
‘After his abuse he would relive it,’ says Nevres. The disgust is writ large across her face. ‘Azra was identified fairly early on as a definite victim by her nails. Her face was in the videos. Her tattoo was in the videos. He’d recorded her name tag.
‘During that interview with family liaison officers I was calm. I wanted detail, I didn’t want bull****. The emotional impact was something I took home with me — the screaming, the crying again, the walking, the silence, the disbelief. How can anyone be allowed to do that?’
Nevres sought a meeting with Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust chief executive Miles Scott. When she was told how many hundreds, if not thousands, of times Fuller had gained access with his pass to the mortuary, she said, “You’ve got to be joking.”
‘I asked why there were no cameras. He said, “We’ve put them in now.” I said why wasn’t the fridge locked on one side. He said, “It is now.”
‘When I asked how Fuller got in, he said he used the swipe card and the face recognition to gain access.
‘The Insignificant had gone in and out of that mortuary thousands of times. I said, “Surely they’d have been in a work log. He could have built a mortuary from the number of times he was going in and out. I found out there was no log.
‘The hospital and the trust had a duty of care as much for the dead as for the living. I said to Miles Scott: “You need to resign. You’re sitting there very smug and smirking about how the Board’s backing you. I’m telling you how I feel as the mother of a victim who’s been violated.”
‘It’s too easy to sit there and say I’m sorry. He admitted to me he was responsible as head of the trust — so if he’s responsible for allowing a monster to do what he did, why is he sitting there?’
In a statement, Miles Scott said: ‘I want to say on behalf of the Trust, how shocked and appalled I am by the criminal activity by David Fuller in our hospital mortuary that has been revealed in court this week. And most importantly, I want to apologise to the families of those who have been the victims of these terrible crimes.
‘My immediate priority is to ensure that the families of Fuller’s victims are given the time, space and privacy to come to terms with what they have learnt, and that they receive all the care and support they need.’
Nevres went to court to see her late daughter’s abuser on the first day of the trial.
‘My first thought was, “He’s only ten feet from me.” I wanted to see his face in its entirety but he was wearing a mask. I looked at his hands and he had a wedding ring on. When he started to move his hands, I was thinking: “Those are the hands that violated my child — the hands that have been imprinted on my daughter’s skin.”
‘Azra was cremated and I’m happy she was cremated because his vileness has been burnt away. That’s some sort of comfort.’
Nevres also draws comfort from a paid internship programme in her daughter’s name that has been established with the support of the legal charity Centre for Women’s Justice. The programme aims to address the under-representation of Black, Asian and minority women in the legal profession.
Such was Azra’s pride in her education and law degree, she was cremated in her graduation gown.
‘Azra was very passionate about law and women having opportunity, particularly minoritised women,’ Nevres says.
‘This will be Azra’s legacy and through it she will continue to live. It’s important because she has to live for me to heal.’
If you would like to support The Azra Kemal Legal Internship Programme and help to make it a lasting legacy, please visit crowdjustice.com/case/azra-kemal/