KATIE Haines’ story is too much. One minute she was knocking about with us outside courtrooms and in council corridors. The next, news too dreadful to bear, that she had died in a carbon monoxide leak at her home, a life gone in an instant. That’s how it felt, although Katie, Katie Samuel as we knew her when she was a journalist on the Ham and High, had long since left behind reporting on events in Camden, finding work on the nationals before taking a new direction as a press officer outside of London. I knew her only briefly, but she was smart, with-it, good. There is rivalry among newspapers, friendly in my experience, and if you are standing outside a courtroom for a couple of hours waiting for a jury to return with someone from the opposite team, you talk, laugh, learn, gossip. That’s how I knew her, nothing more, but colleagues who worked with her always spoke highly of her and the website set up in her name could capsize under the weight of tributes.
Since her death in 2010, her parents have campaigned for greater awareness about CO, asking for not much more than three minutes of everybody’s time to watch a campaign film and a fumes detector in every property. And yet, this simple desire to prevent another tragedy seems to come up against some surprising hurdles. Having spoken to Gordon and Avril on a few occasions, it does seem curious that they need to petition about something so simple and that the films they have commissioned through the charity trust set up in Katie’s name are not screened on television. The schedules always used to seem to have more room for public awareness films, and we remember the good ones, like the warnings to not take risks at railway crossings.
Now, they have tried twice. The first film, released two years ago, made the point that we all use smoke alarms and seat belts but not carbon monoxide detectors. It did not make the television. Now, this week, they have come back with something stronger, a hard-hitting minute or so which ends with a distressing scene that almost replicates the circumstances of Katie’s death. The charity has been advised it is too upsetting for some TV stations to consider showing. I’m posting it here, so be warned about what you are about to watch if you press play.
Katie’s parents sound exasperated at the difficulty in getting it shown to a wider audience, though. It’s hard to watch but it’s the kind of thing that, at a reasonable time of the evening should be out there.