THE grieving sister of a murdered South Tyneside woman is finally able to lay her memory to rest – more than 20 years after her untimely death.
Twenty-three-year-old Claire Julie Forshaw was stabbed 31 times at a bedsit in Portswood, Hampshire, on October 31, 1990.
Because of the date of the offence, it was labelled a “Halloween copycat” murder.
Her sister, Margaret Forshaw, now 43, had the distressing task of identifying the body of her older sister, who had left South Shields just weeks earlier to start a new life in Southampton.
Ms Forshaw was also by the graveside when her closest sibling was laid to rest at Harton Cemetery.
But as a result of the severe pressure she found herself under at the time, Ms Forshaw fled the home she had shared with her sister in Laygate, South Shields, soon after the funeral.
When she eventually returned home to the town five years ago, she headed to the burial ground – but was unable to find the unmarked grave.
Then this week on another walk around the graveyard, a kind-hearted cemetery worker helped her locate the plot.
Now Ms Forshaw is planning to put a headstone on her sister’s grave – and make it her own resting place when she passes on.
She said: “At last I have a chance to give Claire some dignity in death. For many reasons I have not been able to visit the graveyard for years, and she’s had no one else to tend her grave in that time.
“I felt like I had let her down through those years by not looking after her grave. Now I have that chance back.
“We lived at Laygate from when she was 17. She was a lovely person who loved life.
“I have so many happy memories of just hanging around together at Chichester.
“She was so soft-natured. In many ways her death is as raw now as the day she died. There is not a day goes by when I don’t speak to her.
“Now I have somewhere to go and have chats with her again.”
The last time Ms Forshaw spoke to her sister was to call her in Southampton – to tell her their father Geordie Forshaw had passed on.
She added: “I was eight months’ pregnant at the time and I asked her to come home to help me. She had only been in Southampton a few weeks then.
“There was a wooden cross with a brass plaque on her grave at one point, but that was no longer there when I went after I came back to Shields a few years ago.
“I’d been back to the cemetery a few times, but I was so traumatised at the time of her death I couldn’t remember exactly where she was buried.
“The cemetery worker was able to identify her plot by ringing his office. I had never known who to ask in the past.
“Now I have a chance to show that she has not been forgotten after all these years.”
A 32-year-old man was charged and convicted in 1991 of Ms Forshaw’s murder.