Kirsty Maxwell death: Family felt 'abandoned' by Foreign Office

Image source, Facebook
Image caption,
Kirsty Maxwell was with a group of friends in Benidorm when she died in 2017

The family of a Scottish woman who fell to her death from a balcony in Spain have criticised a lack of support from UK authorities following her death.

Kirsty Maxwell died in mysterious circumstances in Benidorm in 2017 while on a hen party weekend with friends.

Her father, Brian Curry, said the family felt "abandoned" by the Foreign Office (FCO) in the days that followed.

It comes as a report from MPs said the right to consular support for families should be enshrined in law.

Kirsty Maxwell, from Livingston in West Lothian, had only recently married when she travelled to Benidorm for a friend's hen party.

The 27-year-old fell from the 10th floor balcony of a room where five men were staying on 29 April 2017. The men were arrested but never charged.

Her father said that in the hours following Kirsty's death, there was very little information from the authorities about what had happened.

Image caption,
Kirsty Maxwell fell to her death from a 10th floor balcony of an apartment block

He described how he and his wife took the first flight to Spain they could after a phone call to the family from a Spanish official in "broken English".

He said the pair arrived in the early hours of the morning with nowhere to stay and no-one to meet them off the plane.

Mr Curry said they ended up in a bus station hotel where they were eventually met by a Foreign Office official the following day.

He said: "The girl from the FCO was really nice, but I don't think she had the proper training to deal with what was involved.

"There didn't seem to be a procedure, in fact there was no procedure. Everyone seemed to be winging things."

Image caption,
Brian Curry said the family were given very little information about Kirsty's death

Mr Curry described the experience as "harrowing" and said the lack of consular support compounded the family's grief.

He added: "I don't think they're prepared for something like this happening.

"We felt we were abandoned. We felt quite helpless. We were frustrated, we were angry."

Special attention

The family's local MP, MP Hannah Bardell, set up a Westminster All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) to look into the consular assistance available to families whose loved-ones had died abroad.

Ms Bardell said she took action following the deaths of Kirsty Maxwell and another constituent Julie Pearson, both of whom died in suspicious circumstances.

She has called for the creation of the "Pearson Maxwell Protocol" - a joined-up, cross-agency process that "held the hands" of a bereaved family from the point of notification of death, through travelling to the country of death and repatriation.

She said MPs had listened to the testimony of 60 families from across the UK to produce their report.

Ms Bardell said: "Listening to harrowing evidence through this report, it is clear that changes must be made at the earliest opportunity.

"Experts have told us that these families are at risk of re-traumatisation and secondary victimisation as a result of their experiences with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

In a statement, the FCO said it was disappointed that the APPG had not engaged directly with them.

They said: "Last year we helped more than 22,000 British people overseas and the feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive.

"We are disappointed that the APPG declined our offer to meet with them and explain the professional and empathetic support we already give. We carefully consider all feedback we receive to continuously improve our service."

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