1,000 dead women

In memory of Kirsty Treloar

New Year’s Day 2019 and before dawn on the first morning of the New Year a woman in her early thirties, whose name has not yet been made public, was stabbed to death in Camberwell, South London. She will be the 1,000th woman killed by a man whose name I will record on my website Counting Dead Women.

7 years ago today, 20 year-old Kirsty Treloar received a text from Miles Williams, the 19 year-old father of her not-yet 4-week old baby. The text read

“Okay wer all gud now and my new yrs ressy is that i aint going to hit u again and i won’t hit u 4 this yr next yr the yr after that the next yr after that.”

And went on to say “But I wont u to swear on (their daughter’s) life u wont p.ss me off and do things to make me angry love you 4 eva.’

Kirsty was terrified of Miles and had been trying to extricate herself from their relationship; she told him that she didn’t want to see him. She’d spent Christmas at her family home in Hackney. The next day, Kirsty paid the price of lack of compliance.  Williams broke in to the house and dragged her in to a car, stabbing and wounding her sister and brother who were trying to protect her. She was later found dead, dumped beside bins some two miles away. She had been stabbed 29 times.

A few weeks before, Kirsty had been referred to nia, the charity where I work, which supports women and girls subjected to men’s violence. I was told of Kirsty’s death and looked on the internet to see if I could find out what had happened. But Kirsty wasn’t the only woman killed by a man at the start of the year, there were multiple reports of fatalities of women and so I made a note of their names because I wanted to know how many there were. It turned out that in the first three days of 2012, eight women in the UK had been killed by men : three shot, one stabbed, one strangled with a dog lead, strangled, one – a 77 year-old woman – beaten to death with her own walking stick, and an 87 year old woman battered to death with blunt force trauma by her own grandson.

Seven years and 1000 women later, I haven’t stopped recording the names of women killed by men. In reality, the number is even higher, every year there are a number of unsolved cases where women have been killed and statistically almost all of them will have been committed by men. There are cases where men appear to have played a direct role in the death of a woman but they manage to evade prosecution. I suspect there are women whose disappearance has gone unreported, or whose absence has gone unacknowledged and whose body will never be found.   There are women who die of secondary causes related to long histories of abuse by men and there are women who kill themselves because that is the only route they can see to end the pain of violence and abuse.

I continued because I cannot bring myself to say that the next woman killed isn’t important. I continue because a focus on intimate partner homicides at the exclusion of other killings disguises and diminishes the true rate of men’s fatal violence against women. I continue because the killing of women by their current and former partners is so normalised that it is not recognised as a national emergency. I continue because the need for  and benefits of specialist single-sex services for women victim-survivors of men’s violence are still subjected to challenge and given insufficient regard. I continue because I want someone to bear witness and commemorate our sisters. I continue because the slaying of women by men, although it has happened at least 1,000 times in seven years, continues to be described by the police and reported in the media as an ‘isolated incident.’ I continue because I believe the more we look, the more we can learn and the more effectively we can take steps to reduce men’s violence against women. I continue because I believe a different world is possible, but it is only by consciously committing to making changes that look at the multitude of factors that support and enable men’s violence against women, that will give us a hope in hell of getting there.

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Writing women’s lived reality out of the narrative of their death

8 Christina Randall

Hull City Council has recently published a Domestic Homicide Review[i] (DHR) into the murder of Christina Spillane, also known as Christina Randell. The conclusion in the  Executive Summary of the full report stated ‘Nothing has come to light during the review that would suggest that [Christina Spillane’s] death could have been predicted or prevented.’

On 5th December 2013, Christina Spillane had phoned the police and in the course of describing threatening and aggressive behaviour from Deland Allman, her partner of over 20 years, she told them that he was going to kill her. The claim that nothing suggested her murder could have been predicted is not just wrong, it is doing one of the things that DHRs are supposed to avoid: writing the voice of the victim out of her own narrative. Christina had herself predicted that Allman was going to kill her and she told this to the police the first time there was any recorded contact between  her and them. Also, women are more likely to underestimate the risk they face from a violent partner than overestimate it.  Her fears should not have been ignored whilst she was still alive, let alone after she had been killed.

The conclusion of the executive summary of the DHR, contrary to several examples given in the body of the report, states ‘There is nothing to indicate there were any barriers to reporting and advice and information was given to [Christina]  regarding services but these were not taken up.’ This belies any understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence and abuse. 1 in 4 women in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes and almost 1 in 10 will suffer domestic violence in any given year. Most women will never make any sort of formal report, to the police or any other service, statutory or otherwise, but most of them would be able to explain why they haven’t, exactly because of the multitude of barriers to doing so: shame, feeling it’s your own fault, not wanting to admit there’s a problem, feeling knackered enough and demoralised by the abuse and not being able to face telling a stranger about it, feeling judged, feeling more afraid of the unknown future than the known present or past. These are just a few examples from a much longer list of possibilities. On one occasion that the police were called to respond to Allman’s violence against Christina, their adult child had told the police that their mother, Christina ‘was too scared to call the police.’ That the panel of people assembled for the domestic homicide review panel declined to identify this, or any other significant barriers to reporting in the report’s conclusion, is a shockingly bad omission.

Research published in 2012 by the Equality and Human Rights Commission showed that 95% of women using women’s services preferred to receive them from a women only-organisation.   Another report ‘Islands in the Stream’ by London Metropolitan University also stressed the importance of independent organisations. The domestic violence and abuse service in Hull is provided by Hull Domestic Abuse Partnership, a multi-agency response within the council’s community safety function. This is not an independent woman-only organisation. It is remiss that the DHR report does not consider whether this might be a barrier to reporting. Indeed it only reinforces the suggestion that too many statutory commissioners are happy to ignore what women tell us about the services they most value and furthermore, that independent women’s organisations are often undervalued and their importance side-lined.

For Christina there were additional problems: she had problematic substance use and a long history of involvement in prostitution. The review details that she had a criminal record including  ‘prostitute loitering and prostitute soliciting’ but does not consider even in passing that this may have affected her behaviour, choices, beliefs about herself or relationship with ‘the authorities’. By failing to look at this, the inclusion of this information in the review risks merely inviting judgment of her character, the expectation of which is itself a barrier to accessing support. Indeed a report by nia found that prostitution-specific criminal records have a profound and specific negative impact on women, massively influencing how they expect to be viewed by others. Additionally, involvement in prostitution itself is a homicide risk factor.  The Femicide Census found that of women who were involved in prostitution and killed  between 2009 and 2015, almost 20% had been killed by a current or former partner, suggesting prostitution must be recognised as not just a risk factor for or form of male violence, but also as a risk factor for intimate partner violence including homicide. There is no indication in the DHR that anyone on the review panel had an expertise in understanding the impacts of prostitution upon women and considered this a barrier.

On 1st February 2015, almost two years and two months after telling the police that she feared Allman would kill her, Christina Spillane was found dead. Allman had stabbed her three times and strangled her in an assault of such force that the blade had snapped. She was 51. Far from there being ‘Nothing [that had] come to light during the review that would suggest that [Christina Spillane’s] death could have been predicted or prevented.’ as concluded in the executive summary, there had been a number of indicators of serious risk: escalating violence, threats to kill, reports of strangulation, separation, expression of suicidal thoughts by Allman, and male entitlement/possessiveness indicated by Allman’s belief that Christina was ‘having an affair’. Christina had spoken to the police, her GP, her drugs support agency, a support provider for women offenders and A&E between calling the police in December 2013 and her murder on the eve of 1st February 2015. It is simply incorrect to state that support ‘was not taken up’. Another interpretation is that Christina Spillane was desperately afraid and made multiple disclosures as she sought to find a route to safety, was facing multiple barriers to accessing specialist services and was failed by those that may have been able to help.

Frank Mullane, CEO of AAFDA,  a charity set up to support families of victims of domestic homicide in memory of his sister and nephew who were murdered by their husband/father, says that the “victim’s perspective should permeate these reviews throughout”. The DHR in to the murder of Christina Spillane sorely failed to achieve this aim

No-one but the perpetrator, Deland Allman, bears responsibility for killing Christina. It is not the purpose of a DHR to redirect blame from violent killers (usually men) who make choices to end (usually women’s) lives. But if DHRs are to fulfil the functions of contributing to a better understanding and the prevention of domestic violence and abuse, they cannot be a hand-washing exercise. They need to ask big questions, there needs to be a robust challenge to victim blaming and they must endeavour to see things from a victim’s (usually woman’s) perspective. If we want them to be part of what makes a difference, we need to make sure that we hear what victims of violence tell us, rather than use them as a means of absolving us from taking responsibility for the differences that we might have been able to make.

 [i]  Since 2001, local authorities have been required to undertake and usually publish reports on Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHRs) where the death of a person aged 16 or over has, or appears to have, resulted from violence, abuse or neglect by a relative, household member or someone they have been in an intimate relationship with. The purposes of the reviews, which should be chaired by an independent person with relevant expertise, include establishing and applying  what lessons are to be learned from the ways that agencies work to safeguard victims and also, to contribute to a better understanding of and the prevention of domestic violence and abuse.

 

Holy Cow! Women killed by their partners or ex-partners are their own worst enemy says columnist

Yesterday, The Birmingham Mail published a hateful piece by Maureen Messent about the 77 women killed though domestic violence in the year April 2012-March 2013. Messent described the 77 women killed  as their own worst enemies : “holy cows, never to be held accountable for staying with brutal men”.  She shared her sympathy for West Midlands Police, imagining their “ frustration and disappointment, then, when the women they want to help fail to turn up as witnesses “because I love him really”.”

In the year in question, at least three of the 77 women killed by a partner or former partner lived in the area policed by the West Midlands force: Da In Lee, Natasha Trevis and Shaista Khatoon.

Da In Lee

Da In Lee was a 22-year-old student studying International Relations and Sociology at Aston University.  She met Daniel Jones in 2011 at a local church but had ended their relationship  on 24 March 2012 though spent the night with him on 8 April.  We only have Daniel Jones’ account of what happened the next day because Da In Lee is dead. According to Jones, during an argument, he ‘caused her to fall over’, (a phrase which neatly eradicates his responsibility), before climbing on top of her.  By his own admission, she  struggled and screamed so he put his left hand over her mouth before taking hold  of her throat.  He described how her face went purplish blue, he said he saw tears well up in her eyes and two tears rolling down her face.  Yet he claimed he had not intended to cause her any harm and  lost track of time and so didn’t know how long it was he was applying pressure to her throat.  Accident-prone forgetful  Daniel Jones had been cautioned for common assault on a previous girlfriend in 2010.

 

Natasha TrevisNatasha Trevis was 22.  She had three children aged three, two and one with 28 year old Junior Saleem Oakes.  Oakes was violent and controlling throughout their relationship. He had a history of domestic violence including a conviction at the age of 19, and was known to carry a knife.  Oakes and Natasha were recently separated, she had not told him that she had recently terminated a pregnancy because she was afraid of what he might do. On 7 August,  five days after a social worker let slip this information, Natasha had called a taxi to her mother’s home but Oakes had travelled with her to be dropped off elsewhere.  In his statement, the taxi driver said he heard Natasha say to Oakes that they ‘didn’t need to talk about their relationship because they didn’t have one’. Natasha tried to escape but Oakes stabbed her 26 times.  She had wounds to her head, face, neck, chest, back and legs, one stab wound to her brain was 10cm deep.

Shaista Khatoon, 33 and Shoukat Ali, 38  had been married 15 years and had five children. His behaviour had become controlling and violent, they had separated but his harassment and threats had continued.  Shaista wanted a divorce. On 19 November, two days after receiving a divorce letter, Shoukat Ali  broke in to the where Shaista lived with three of the children.  As Shaista called the police, Ali cut her throat.  The operator heard her screams.  When the police arrived, they found her body in a pool of blood.

In addition, on May 8th, Lynda Jackson, 56, was found strangled to death at her home in Erdington.  A 60-year-old man was found with injuries at the same address and taken to hospital where he was said to be in a critical condition.  Police confirmed that they were not looking for anyone else.  Lynda was a teaching assistant at Hodge Hill Sports and Enterprise College who was strangled to death. Marie McMahon, head teacher at Hodge Hill Sports and Enterprise College, said: “Lynda was a talented and well respected colleague. She was loved by staff and pupils alike and she will be sorely missed.”

Not all women killed by male violence are included in those killed by domestic violence. In addition to the women above, in the year in question a further five women in the West Midlands were killed though men’s violence against them.  Janice Smithen, 46, was killed though blunt force trauma and Pauline Gillen, 69, was stabbed, both killed by their sons;  Kaysley Smithen and Ian Woolley.  Carole Mudie, 68, died after being mugged by Marvin Blake. Georgina Stuparu, 23, was stabbed by her friend’s boyfriend, Phillipe Burger.  Christina Edkins,16,  was stabbed by Phillip Simelane and Hayley Pointon was shot.  Are they less responsible for their own deaths in Messent’s eyes because they hadn’t been in a relationship with their killer?

Daniel Jones, Junior Saleem Oakes and Shoukat Ali have all been found guilty of murdering the women who were trying to leave them: Da In Lee, Natasha Trevis and Shaista Khatoon.  We do not hold these women accountable for their own murders, not because they are ‘holy cows’ but because the ones who are responsible for male violence against women are the violent men themselves.  Men who kill women are responsible for their actions whether the woman they killed was in the process of taking court action, of leaving, had already left or was still in a relationship with them.

Messent describes West Midlands Police as taking “whatever steps necessary to help the vulnerable. Officers burn the midnight oil, never preach, are prepared to listen for hours at a time”.   Is this the same West Midlands police who had to apologise to 19-year-old Alex Faragher who, when she reported domestic violence was called a “fucking slag” and a “bitch” by  two officers who allegedly inadvertently recorded the message?

The killing does not stop.  Since April 2013, Salma Parveen, Yvonne Walsh, Lilima Aktar, Varkha Rami, Jacqueline Oakes, Kanwal Azam,  Jane McRae, Amandeep Kaur Hoti and Tracey Snook-Kite have been murdered though male violence or a man has been found responsible for or charged with causing their death. Nine more dead women.   Holy Cows?   Women who allowed “themselves to be used as punch bags” and “their own worst enemies”? No.  Women who are victims of male violence.  Women who were killed by men. Men who are solely and entirely responsible for their actions.

There are a lot of isolated incidents around

One of the reasons I started counting dead women was hearing a murder of a woman killed referred to as an ‘isolated incident’.  Seven women were killed in the first three days of 2012 and yet connections between these occurrences of men’s fatal violence against women were absent.   It’s little over two years and 275 dead women later, and police are still describing men’s killings of women as isolated incidents.

On Sunday 23rd February 2014, two women, one in her 60s and one in her 40s, as yet unnamed but believed to be mother and daughter, were shot dead.  82 year-old John Lowe has been arrested for their murders.  A Detective Chief Inspector speaking on behalf of Surrey police said:

“We are conducting a full and thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding these two deaths. However, at this time, we believe this is an isolated incident and there is no further risk to the wider community.”

Which aspect of  their murders was an isolated incident? That they were killed by a man.  Surely not, as stated above 275 women have been killed by men in the last 26 months.  That they were shot?  No, not that either. At least 15 of the 275 women killed were shot .

Less than two weeks earlier, 20 year-old Hollie Gazzard was stabbed  to death. A Police Chief Inspector said

“I would like to reassure members of this community, both residents and local businesses, that this is an isolated incident. These offences don’t happen in Gloucester regularly. This incident was very tragic, however; both victim and suspect knew each other. They were in a previous relationship. That doesn’t lessen this horrific incident but it would be good for us to reassure the local community.”

Again, it’s difficult to see which aspect of Hollie’s murder was isolated.  That she was stabbed?  Definitely not, already in 2014, 6 women have been stabbed to death by men.  In 2013, at least 45 women were stabbed to death and there were 44 in 2012.  That’s 95 women stabbed in 26 months.  Was it that she was stabbed by someone that she had been in a relationship with? Certainly not that, approximately three-quarters of the UK women killed by men since January 2012 have been killed by a partner or former partner.  Perhaps then it’s that Hollie was killed in Gloucestershire.   Gloucestershire wouldn’t be described as a femicide hotspot, though  it’s only 6 months since the body of Jane Wiggett was found dead, her ex-husband has been charged with murder and remanded in custody.  Two women dead in 6 months?  Not so isolated then.

Earlier this year, on 24th January, 17 year-old Elizabeth Thomas was stabbed to death in Oxted, Surrey.  A 16-year-old male, said to be known to her, has been arrested on suspicion of her murder.  The Senior Investigating Officer Detective Chief Inspector said:

“We believe this to be an isolated incident and that there is no risk to the further community.”

It’s difficult to fathom which aspect of Elizabeth’s murder was an isolated incident.  That she was killed by a man known to her? No. That she was stabbed?  No. That she was a teenager?  No, not that either.  Of the 275 women killed since January 2012, she’s the 16th teenager.  Maybe it’s that she lived in affluent Surrey, the county ranked fifth least deprived according to the multiple deprivation index?  Maybe that, after all it’s a long 14 months since 25 year-old Georgina Hackett was bludgeoned to death with a mallet by her boyfriend Daniel Baker.  Yet Elizabeth’s murder was followed only 5 weeks later by the fatal shooting of the two women mentioned earlier. Maybe now, Elizabeth’s murder seems a little less of an isolated incident.

Also earlier this year, 43 year-old Karen Wild was stabbed to death in Hanbury, Worcestershire.  A police  Superintendent said:

“Following this tragic incident, we continue our investigations in and around the house, including searches and forensic examinations.  I would like to reassure the local community that we believe this to be an isolated incident and no-one else is being sought in relation to our investigation.”

What was isolated about Karen Wild’s murder? We know it isn’t because she was killed by a man.  We know it isn’t because she was stabbed.  Worcestershire is another largely affluent area, Worcester district is ranked third least deprived according to the multiple deprivation index.  Maybe all that affluence shortens memories, after-all 3 women – Alethea Taylor, 63; Jacqueline Harrison, 47 and Louise Evans, 32 – were killed though male violence in Worcestershire in 2012.  Could it be that Karen’s son, Lian Wild was arrested and charged with her murder, that marks her killing as an isolated incident?  No, it isn’t that either; Karen Wild is one of at least 32 women who have been killed by their sons since January 2012.

This is not about local communities, affluent or not. It is about women and it is about men.  Are women not a community?  Is our risk through men’s violence unrecognised? It is self-evident that each women killed by a man is a unique individual, as is each man that makes the choice to kill her. The circumstances around each killing are never identical.   But that doesn’t make them isolated incidents.  By refusing to see a pattern we are refusing to see the myriad connections between incidents of men’s fatal violence against women; and by refusing to see the connections we are closing our eyes to the commonalities in the causes. What sort of a message would it send, if, when a man killed a woman, police didn’t refer to an isolated incident but to yet another example of femicide? Yet another example of men’s fatal violence against women. Maybe then, naming male violence,  misogyny, sex-inequality, dangerous rules of gender and patriarchy wouldn’t be restricted to feminists and would become part of a wider understanding.  Maybe then, there would be sufficient motivation to do something about ending men’s fatal violence against women.

Clare’s Law: the domestic violence disclosure scheme

The basic principle of allowing women to find out if a partner/prospective partner has a violent history is sound.  I’ve spoken to several women who have had violent relationships who have told me that they think it would have made a difference to them, to have what we might call ‘warning signs’ confirmed.

But I have a number of concerns:

  • Most domestic violence is not reported to the police, estimates vary but it is thought that only 24-40% of domestic violence is reported to the police, so the possibility of false negatives is high, “no history on record” is not the same as “no history” or “no risk”.  Women are psychologically undermined through domestic violence, they learn to question and doubt themselves, being told that a  man who is showing signs of coercive/aggressive/violent behaviour has no record, may make a woman more likely to doubt what is happening or to blame herself.
  • Will there be sufficient specialist help available if a woman finds out a man has a violent history? We know that specialist services are facing unprecedented cuts. Women’s Aid research has shown that in 2013 there are 21 fewer specialist refuge providers in 2013 than there were in 2010.
  • What if she has children? (By him or a previous partner)  Will there be pressure on her to leave from social services or face child safeguarding enquiries?
  • If she doesn’t leave and is killed, will agencies use the fact that she knew as a way of absolving themselves of any responsibility?
  • What happens to the man? Presumably, if the woman chooses to leave him, he will simply move on to another relationship. Are perpetrator programmes available?
  • Will a woman be pressured to report a crime if she wants to use the scheme? Not all women want to and pressurising a woman to take action before she is ready could put her at further risk.

Clare’s Law needs to be resourced and that means investment in, not cuts to, specialist women’s services.

I’m concerned that the government is going for quick fixes and potential headlines.  The number of women killed though domestic has remained consistent for over 10 years. Yet that’s not the whole story.  It’s being reported today that 88 women were killed through domestic violence last year, but I’ve counted 120 women killed through men’s violence, including 16 women who were killed by their sons.  Clare’s Law would not have helped them. We’re not being told the whole story about men’s fatal violence against women.  A long term, wide reaching approach is needed.  Men’s violence against women and girls is a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men. Quick fixes are not the solution.  Clare’s Law, may make a difference to some women who request information, but it’s not enough.

On Monday 25th November  it is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. I’ll be highlighting the UK’s appalling record of women killed through men’s violence in 2013.

Starting at 6.00am, on the twitter account @countdeadwomen, I’ll be going through the UK’s diary  of women killed by men.  I’ll be starting with the 2nd January when Janelle Duncan Bailey, was strangled by ex-boyfriend Jerome McDonald, moving on to 3rd January at 6.10, when Akua Agyuman died,  two months after being stabbed in the chest and abdomen by her husband Minta Adiddo.  Every 10 minutes, I’ll move through the year to commemorate all the women who I have found who were killed though men’s violence.  So far I know of 114 women killed this year, so I’ll still be tweeting at midnight.

I’d massively appreciate if you could circulate this information through your networks and if you’re on twitter, please tweet support or re-tweet.  Getting the link out to to the petition ‘Stop Ignoring Dead Women’ would be great too.

Men’s violence against women is not natural, it is not inevitable, so much more could be done to end it. Please join me demanding action.

Don’t these feminists just need to lighten up and have some Halloween fun?

Artist Emma Bolland took and shared on twitter a photo of a mannequin in the window of the Amazing Party Company fancy dress shop in Leeds.  After seeing the photo, I called the shop to complain, by this time they had removed the knife from her chest, they told me “It isn’t a woman who has been stabbed.  It’s a zombie nurse.  Zombie’s don’t really exist. It’s just a bit of fun”

The stereotype of the ‘sexy nurse’ isn’t fun, it is objectification, 90% of nurses are women, it is reducing the role of a nurse to a woman’s sexual agency. It is pure and simple sexism. A UK poll found that for men a nurse was the most sexually-fantasized-about job. Reducing nurses to sex objects is an insult to the hard work and professionalism of the thousands of women in nursing and contributes to the devaluing of the role and towards sexual harassment of nurses in their place of work.

As the Amazing Party Company – who describe themselves as a family run retail business –said “Zombie nurses don’t exit.”  Zombie nurses don’t exist, but stabbed women do, stabbed nurses do. I’d like to see them explain the fun of stabbed nurses to Penny and John Clough, whose daughter, 26 year old nurse Jane Clough, was stabbed 71 times by her former boyfriend Jonathan Vass before he slit her throat in the hospital car park.  Or the family and friends of 25 year-old estate agent Nicole Waterhouse from York or 28 year-old Gabrielle Stanley from Doncaster, both of whom were stabbed to death this month.  From my records of women killed through suspected male violence I know that 33 UK women were stabbed to death by violent men in 2012.  At least a further 11 women have been killed though stabbing so far this year, probably more – if 2012 was typical, stabbing seems to be the most frequently used form of murder. Stabbed nurses, stabbed women, I’m failing to see the fun side.

Those stabbings take place within a wider context of fatal male violence against women.  In total, I know of 120 women killed though male violence in 2012 and a further 100 already suspected so far this year. Not fun.

Jane Clough  had written in her diary that she thought Jonathan Vass would try to kill her after she ended their relationship.  In the December before he murdered her, Vass was charged with 9 counts of rape and 4 of assault against Jane. Against the reported wishes of both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, Judge Simon Newel granted him bail.  Making male violence against women fun contributes to a society that doesn’t take the threat of male violence against women seriously. A society that doesn’t taken male violence against women seriously is one in which bail can be  granted to men with a history of violence against women.

I’m still not finding this fun.  Happy Halloween Amazing Party Company.  Did you make  a good profit out of the fun that is fatal male violence against women?

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