“He was the person we needed at that time. I’m not sure if we could have done it without him.”
The words of Alison Rough, paying tribute to the outgoing Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.
Dr Sentamu presided over the funeral of Alison’s daughter Katie. The seven-year-old died after being attacked on playing fields in Woodthorpe in January 2017.
A teenage girl admitted killing Katie at a court hearing that July.
Katie had been baptised at York Minster – and her funeral service took place in the cathedral, with the Archbishop leading the service. Previous to that he had visited the family on numerous occasions to offer comfort and advice.
And as he retires, Alison paid tribute to him for being there for her family in their darkest hour.
‘It meant the world to us’
In an interview with David Dunning of Minster FM, Alison said: “He’s a man who is extremely busy, who has a lot of people to look after, has a lot of things he needs to be doing.
“Yet they stopped everything to come to us when we really needed the help.”
She said she lost count of the times Dr Sentamu and his wife Margaret visited after Katie’s death, when she and her husband Paul “were still very raw and confused”.
“He would drop in for a coffee just to check upon us with his wife. He sat with us while we were arranging things for the funeral – the details that you’re not sure about, and you find it difficult to think of and talk about because it’s so surreal.
“He was there, and he sort of grounded us and helped us to make those decisions. And if we were a bit unsure, he prompted us in the right direction, to give her everything she deserved. It meant the world to us.
“We had a lot of support. We know York, and the country, and even the world in general was shocked by our story, and stood by us in ways that they could – but obviously from a distance. He was in our home, he was there physically, emotionally.
“It’s hard to describe really. He was the right person. He was the person we needed at that time. I’m not sure if we could have done it without him. It was everything to us at the time.”
‘We shall miss him’
She said it was a little strange to have the Archbishop of York in her house at first, “but he very quickly made us feel at ease.
“He was an easy person to talk to, and he was a good person to listen, to advise.”
Dr Sentamu helped with the funeral arrangements.
“She was actually baptised in York Minster, which is quite unusual. So to be able to have her funeral in York Minster, actually directly above where she had a baptism – he made it all fit into place somehow.
“He made it all kind of make sense at a time when nothing really did make sense.”
Alison said she would never forget the Archbishop’s kindness.
“He was just there for anything. He means a lot to us, and he absolutely deserves a long and happy retirement.
“I hope he enjoys the future years. We shall miss him though.”