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Thou shalt forgive: Can mum say it?

PUBLISHED: 19:00 21 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:53 03 March 2010

NO-ONE may ever know who killed Vicky Hall or what happened on the night she vanished. The big question is: Can Vicky's mum, Lorinda Hall ever forgive the person who killed her daughter? RICHARD CORNWELL looks at the issue.

NO-ONE may ever know who killed Vicky Hall or what happened on the night she vanished. The big question is: Can Vicky's mum, Lorinda Hall ever forgive the person who killed her daughter? RICHARD CORNWELL looks at the issue.

IT is, quite simply, an unnatural act.

It is also one of the most difficult things to do – in any emotional situation, big or small, let alone in the case of murder.

To forgive someone means to pardon them for whatever wrong or evil thing they have done, usually something extremely personal to you.

You remove your resentment and accept the situation as it is, and often provide a release for them in knowing they have your mercy.

But could you forgive anything? Could you forgive the worst thing that someone might do to you? Could you forgive the person who murdered your child?

That's the tough question facing Lorinda Hall, who has not known for two years what happened to her teenage daughter on the night she died.

After the discovery of Vicky's body in a ditch ended all hope that she would maybe just turn up, ring home, or be released by some abductor, the family was left with a gap in their knowledge of the 17-year-old.

They knew she had parted from her best friend Gemma Algar in the early hours of the morning, and five days later her body was found 24 miles away.

But they did not know what had happened in between.

However horrific, it was a gap in the knowledge of the life of their child which almost all parents would find it impossible to bear, a terrible not knowing.

Now they may never know.

The acquittal of Adrian Bradshaw means the killer is still out there somewhere.

The police have to start looking again.

It means the pain and mental turmoil that Lorinda and her husband Graham, Vicky's dad, have suffered will go on . . . and on . . . and on.

But can Lorinda ever say to the killer, "I forgive you"?

Not knowing who it is that was responsible for her daughter's death does make it harder. She has no face to focus on, no identity, no name, no knowledge of what the person was like or why they might have done it.

That is not an unusual situation though. Many crimes go unsolved – parents, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, often never know who was behind mass killings, bombings, war and terrorist atrocities.

Many Americans will be searching their hearts and souls to see if they can forgive Osama bin Laden or his fighters, though no-one is 100 per cent certain that he was responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Centre.

Lorinda sought solace from the church after Vicky's death, going to Trimley St Martin Church alone to pray to God to find peace and search for answers over how her family had been plunged into such horror and suffering.

She had been involved with the church when Vicky was a child and Rev Rod Corke, now vicar of Walton, was parish vicar.

Lorinda run a Sunday School at the church, helping to teach the children on Sundays during the regular family services, and Vicky was a member.

She was also one of the organisers of holiday clubs at the church and a regular worshipper.

One of the main principles of the Christian faith is forgiveness.

In the Lord's Prayer, taught by Jesus to his disciples, worshippers ask God to forgive their sins as they forgive those who wrong them. There is no halfway house. Christians are forgiven by God for their wrongs and so forgive others as part of a peaceful living together, not seeking revenge but harmony.

A world based on love. Love for God, love for one another, love for those who do not believe as a way of demonstrating Christ's love for the world.

According to the world's best-selling Christian writer Philip Yancey, forgiveness is "an unnatural act".

But he says it is an essential one – the only way to halt the cycle of blame and pain, to free yourself from the past and ongoing feelings of resentment.

"I readily admit that forgiveness is unfair," he says.

"Why do I ever make such a leap? As a Christian: I am commanded to, as a child of a Father (God) who forgives. But Christians have no monopoly on forgiveness.

"Why do any of us, Christians or unbeliever alike, choose this unnatural act?

"Forgiveness offers a way out. It does not settle all questions of blame and fairness – often it pointedly evades those questions – but it does allow a relationship to start over, to begin anew.

"Only humans can perform that unnatural act, which transcends the relentless law of nature.

"Not to forgive imprisons me in the past and locks out all potential for change."

Another writer, Lewis Smedes – author of The Art of Forgiving – stresses that just because someone forgives, it does not mean they do not want justice for the wrong they have been caused.

Smedes says forgiveness is not the same as pardon – you may forgive and still insist on a just punishment.

He adds: "The first and often the only person to be healed by forgiveness is the person who does the forgiveness . . . When we genuinely forgive, we set a prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner we set free was us."

Whether Lorinda Hall is able to set that prisoner free will require deep thought and is a decision only she can make. She may feel she can never forgive. That view may change over time.

It is a brave decision to make, too – a courageous act to be able to say those words, "I forgive you" and to mean them.

It is not an act though which will take away the hurt of losing Vicky. That pain will always be with her and her husband Graham, their son Steven, and everyone who knew the teenager.

Whatever they eventually feel about the killer, the murderer's legacy will live in their hearts forever.

n What's So Amazing About Grace? By Philip Yancey, is published by Zondervan Publishing House, paperback, 1997.

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