Saturday 27 December 2014

'I couldn't protect Katy, but I was determined to reclaim her good name'

In her first interview, Jill French tells of her last night with her sister, and how the glamorous model died in her arms

Katy French
Katy French

THE cries of Jill French were audible in Court Number One as Kieron Ducie and Ann Corcoran walked past her and into the morning sunshine. They were free to leave Trim Circuit Court in Co Meath having each received a suspended sentence.

I had spoken to Jill several times since the death of her big sister, model Katy French.

A quiet, unassuming woman who speaks softly and sparingly but with the strength of her convictions, she had always been steadfast in her resolution that she would get justice for Katy.

An artist, she never let herself become part of the social scene that Katy had built her career on. Instead, she stayed out of the limelight and was someone theƒ model would come to in moments of quiet reflection.

To the public, Katy French was glamorous, headstrong, outspoken and confident, a modern woman who seemed to have it all; and if she didn't, she had the nous to succeed at whatever she wanted to.

But her sister saw the real Katy, the one who would come and ask the types of questions about boys and relationships and love and life that you could only ever really ask a sister without having to worry about looking silly.

She was the Katy who never quite had the confidence to walk into an event full of people. She would bring Jill along to parties, ever since they were little girls, and cling tightly to her hand for the first few minutes until she felt comfortable.

So with Katy lying unconscious in Navan Hospital, with her mum and dad taking her hand each side of her bed, it was fitting once again that her sister Jill was there to hold on to her when she needed her most.

"I asked if I could hold her when she passed," says Jill as tears fill her eyes. "My mom selflessly allowed me that in Katy's final moments. She gave me a lot in giving me that.

"They said it could take 20 minutes, but she went immediately. She became so heavy in my arms, I physically felt her go," she continues, almost out of breath.

We're sitting on the floor of Jill's apartment in south Dublin, and the evening is closing in. It's been four years since Jill said her goodbyes to Katy, but the pain in her eyes is as fresh as if she were seeing those last moments unfold in front of her for the first time.

"I think I was screaming. I didn't want to give up," she says. "I wanted to carry her with me forever and spend my entire life looking after her with all that equipment, even though it was against what I knew was best for her. I got no time. It was so short-lived."

Only days earlier, her sister was so full of life.

One of Jill's last memories of the bubbly blonde came among a year full of random nights in watching The X Factor with two of Jill's close friends. Katy and Jill laughed as they chimed in together when the James Blunt hit 1973 came on the TV. Katy indulged in the camaraderie by giving a running commentary and jokingly mimicked the perfect pout and catwalk strut when America's Next Top Model came on.

Once again The X Factor was on TV, but this time Jill was trying to finish writing her thesis on her laptop and Katy was buried in her phone on the opposite couch.

"Katy was very upset about her birthday party the night before and the nasty rumours that were going around," says Jill. "I remember her constantly on the phone and talking to mom in the kitchen. She wasn't as tough as people thought.

"She was always respectful of my education, and it's one of my massive regrets that she didn't come to me to talk. If she asked me to go for a drink around the corner I would have said yes and everything would have been different."

Irish Independent

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