CamdenNewJournal

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Stolen: Bench in memory of young art student Louise

'Whoever has taken it, please put it back – there’ll be no questions asked'

22 April, 2021 — By Bronwen Weatherby

Louise Cattell died in 2011

THE mother of a young woman who died 10 years ago says she is in shock after finding out a memorial bench in Chalk Farm was moved without her knowing – and then stolen.

Louise Cattell, who was 21, died in 2011 after taking the drug ketamine and falling asleep in a bath.

The bench was paid for by a fundraising campaign and placed in Chalk Farm Road as a place where friends and relatives could gather to remember her.

Her mother, writer and campaigner Vicky Unwin, said she was told the bench had been moved from its location opposite the Roundhouse and “dumped” further down the road outside a bar on the corner with Belmont Street. But by the following day, it had disappeared.

She said: “We’ve had trouble before with Camden’s contractors moving it without permission but we’ve always managed to track it down – it always ends up in storage. But this time it’s gone for real.”

Vicky Unwin at her daughter’s bench

Ms Unwin, who has campaigned for reform in drugs policy since her daughter’s death, added: “I’d asked them to reinstate it for the anniversary of Louise’s death on March 2 because we wanted to gather there like we always do at her bench, in the area she loved to hang out. A month later a friend sent me a picture of it – it had been moved further down the road and was outside a bar untethered. The next day it had gone.”

A plaque on the bench reads: “In loving memory of Louise ‘Little Lou’ Cattell (1989-2011) whose glowing, creative spirit still graces these streets. Donated by those she inspired.”

Louise had just returned from Australia and had applied to art school when she died. Ms Unwin believes that if drugs were decriminalised and properly regulated, users would face a lower risk of overdoses. The bench had been placed close to the Roundhouse due to Louise’s love of the arts.

Vicky Unwin and her daughter Louise Cattell

Ms Unwin, who lives in Belsize Park, said: “Camden said they thought it was safe but then a woman rang me in tears and told me they didn’t have it. I couldn’t believe it, I still can’t. I’m in shock I think. It’s just a really bad feeling. It’s really disrespectful. It’s a memorial bench for someone who has died.”

She added: “Whoever has taken it, please put it back – there’ll be no questions asked.”

Ward councillor Alison Kelly said she has submitted an urgent formal request for the bench to be replaced. “Commemorative benches such as this one mean a huge amount to people,” she said. “They become places where you walk past and take a moment to think about that person. I will work with Vicky to make sure Camden replaces the bench.”

The bench was briefly moved around the corner – without permission – but then went missing

A spokesperson for Camden Council said: “We would like to apologise to Louise Cattell’s mother for the theft of the memorial bench, which was stolen during recent footway works on Chalk Farm Road. We have kept in contact with her and have agreed a suitable replacement bench.

“We are working with the new bench manufacturer to enable it to be installed in the correct location by June 21. The new bench will be securely fixed to the footway to ensure its safety.”

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