Uni life, week two – becoming a witness to a murder

7 mins read

Early autumn is the time of year where parents around the world face the moment where their little bundles of joy are all grown up and ready to leave the nest. They set off on their journey into a world full of triumphs as well as disappointments – the world of further academia. It is rather impossible to imagine the stream of emotions of pain and worry, yet bittersweet excitement that floods through mothers and fathers when waving that last goodbye and letting go of their babies off to the scary world.

Will they know how to boil pasta, remember to dress warm, wake up and get ready for university on their own, in addition to being able to make friends with the right people? Will they know how to process the fact that a murder that may occur right outside their student accommodation’s doorstep?

It is standard for a parent to worry over their child’s ability to protect themselves of unfortunate events after setting them off to university life. However, being worried about their children having to literally protect themselves from drug related crimes, murders even, occurring just a few feet from their student accommodation’s bedroom, is all but a standard part of the procedure.

Of course, parents are not the only ones that suffer from the change and the ‘empty nest’ syndrome. Many students moving in to student accommodation find themselves in the position of having to feed and maintain themselves for the very first time. Some may have never spent a night away from home or the people who make them feel safe before moving into halls. This radical change can be very scary and student accommodation is just about the very last ‘bubble of safety’ before entering the real world.

Student halls are often considered as the more secure option, usually close to the campus, filled with staff, people with similar life situations, offering safety from all the scams and “ugly surprises” of the private sector and perhaps, some kind of solace to frightened parents.

Considering the above, a murder was committed just over a week ago in Edinburgh’s Dalry area, mere meters away from the student accommodation buildings of Orwell Terrace – not behind Lidl, as described by some news articles. The murder occurred in the early hours of last Thursday, 20th of September.

In what could be described as a traumatic experience to state the least, many students wound up as witnesses of the murder. The screams of the lethal conflict pierced through their bedroom windows, which overlook the park where the incident took place. Some intrepid students, to track down the source of the distressing outcries, watched the events of the tragic incident unravel before their very eyes.

A student at Napier university and resident of the accommodation, who requested to remain anonymous, was one of them: “I saw two men fighting in the bushes, they were definitely under the influence of drugs.”

Subsequently, many of the flats received visits from officers and detectives during the days following the murder, while police vehicles made their appearance on a regular occurrence throughout the week. The incident hardly went unnoticed, not only by obviously the residents of Orwell Terrace accommodation, but also by locals and students of the whole university. Several students were asked to give their testimonies as part of standard procedure of crime investigations, while others were confronted by interested journalists on their way to their classes.

The incident, as well as the students, received vast interest and attention, yet one source of attention that mattered the most to the worried residents, came half a day late and showed little to no comfort.

The dry text of the email sent by the Student Accommodation Staff mentions:

We have on duty Resident Assistants each night that you can approach during the office hours of 8pm – 9pm. If you want to speak to a member of staff in person, then you can pop up to Bainfield [other student accommodation provided by the university] reception or call the reception on 0131 455 3483 between 9am – 5pm.

After such a shocking incident, the non-increased hours of staff presence each day can hardly be interpreted as a response of interest and concern for the students. While the majority of the residents have reached the age of 20 or above, being subjected to such a harrowing experience could expose them to developing stress and anxiety, perhaps even to the extent of PTSD.

Thus, it would only be reasonable for students to expect full support. As anticipated, students have expressed their disappointment with the way the accommodation staff handled the event. Matilde Ilstad, a 21-year-old Criminology student, tells Brig:

After reading their email, I didn’t feel like the Accommodation Team takes the safety and well-being of students seriously. It feels like the staff are downplaying the events by using the word “incident” instead of a “murder” for example. Some students are able to see the crime scene from their windows which inevitably sets them as witnesses of the crime and yet, we were not offered any kind of mental support.


Feature image credit: Veronica Kontopoulou

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Journalism student with a multicultural background and a special interest in politics, environmental and societal issues.

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