Daughter says murder victim was 'not a prostitute'

By Anna Foster
BBC Radio 5 Live

image captionKirsty Rushworth said her mother Susan had turned her life around

A man has been charged with murdering three Bradford women. Now the daughter of one of them - Susan Rushworth, who vanished a year ago - has spoken to the BBC about her memories of her mother and why it makes her angry to hear her described as a prostitute.

We meet outside a coffee shop in Bradford city centre. I see Kirsty Rushworth approach through the crowd of shoppers - smartly dressed, with dark hair pulled back in a ponytail to show off her gold hoop earrings.

Over cake we chat about "normal things". She's just been browsing the summer clothes in a shop around the corner.

We talk about the weather and how disappointed we are that it's raining in June. She seems like any other 21-year-old, until we get on to the real reason why we've met to talk.

Kirsty tells me it makes her "boil" to hear her mum described as a prostitute.

Drug habit

She says Susan gave up the streets six weeks before she went missing and was trying desperately to turn her life around.

"It still doesn't seem real seeing it and hearing 'prostitute' and naming her vice girl and stuff because she wasn't, she'd stopped doing that. I don't want people to remember her as that prostitute that got murdered because she wasn't."

Mum and daughter once worked together in Bradford's red light area. They started around four years ago, Kirsty remembers, to feed their habits for heroin and crack cocaine.

Now she's proud to tell me that she's been clean for more than 18 months. She talks quietly, sometimes stopping to draw breath or calm herself.

Kirsty has tears in her eyes, of sadness as she recalls her mum's personality, or of anger when she thinks about how her mother's been labelled as a "sex worker" rather than a human being.

"She'd just starting seeing her little son again and her grandchildren, she couldn't see them before. She was buying them things which she never did before, and her face was just blossoming really.

"She looked so healthy. She was planning to come on holiday next year. She was buying all new clothes, even suitcases."

'Normal mum'

Susan Rushworth vanished in April 2009. She went out to the local chemist's shop one morning and never came back.

"She phoned and told us she'd just missed the bus," recalls Kirsty. "When Tuesday came there was no contact. She always had credit on her phone to phone us. She'd always stay in contact, always."

She can hardly remember the emotions that followed in the days after. "I was just being there for the rest of my family and my little brother especially, because he was only nine at the time. I just had to be strong for everyone else."

A year on and Kirsty just has memories left.

"When she stopped taking drugs, she was just like a normal mum. More of a sister than a mum. She didn't deserve to go like she did."

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