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Collier Row woman’s 27-year fight to mark teenage brother’s grave

PUBLISHED: 11:03 28 April 2017 | UPDATED: 15:29 28 April 2017

Michelle Cook at the unmarked grave of only sibling Daren Vale, died in a tragic accident at Fairlop Waters in 1990 aged 18.  Picture: Ken Mears.

Michelle Cook at the unmarked grave of only sibling Daren Vale, died in a tragic accident at Fairlop Waters in 1990 aged 18. Picture: Ken Mears.

Archant

A woman who lost her brother in a tragic accident 27 years ago is desperately trying to raise cash to give him a fitting memorial.

The late Daren Vale, 18, with his nephew Simon who is now 27. Picture: Michelle Cook The late Daren Vale, 18, with his nephew Simon who is now 27. Picture: Michelle Cook

Happy-go-lucky Daren Vale, 18, of White Hart Lane, Collier Row, died when he and a friend jumped fully clothed into Fairlop Waters, Barkingside, to race 150 yards to an island.

Due to family financial hardship, his grave has been without a head stone since 1990 and his sister Michelle Cook, 46, also of White Hart Lane, hopes to finally mark his grave with a fitting memorial.

“Daren and I had a difficult childhood but we always had each other,” she said.

“I am desperate for Daren’s resting place to be recognised and to do this one final thing for him.

“To be there for him in death as I was in life.”

Daren and his friend had been trying to impress their girlfriends when they challenged each other in a teenage prank, on a bright sunny day on September 3 1990.

A Romford Recorder article reporting the tragic death of Daren Vale, 18, in 1990. Picture: Archant. A Romford Recorder article reporting the tragic death of Daren Vale, 18, in 1990. Picture: Archant.

“My brother loved life, his family, had loads of friends and was the life and soul of every occasion,” she continued.

But Daren never resurfaced when he jumped in the water, and his body was recovered the following day.

Michelle, now a mum-of-three and full-time carer to her severely autistic son, has doggedly tried to find the cash needed to buy a head stone.

“There’s been so many problems over the years, my parents couldn’t afford it and had their own problems,” she added.

Michelle had fought for the legal rights to the grave since her father Denis Vale died 11 years ago.

Once the rights were obtained, in February, she traced distant relatives in an attempt to jog memories about her much-loved brother and raised some cash. The mum thought she would finally be able to mark her brother’s grave.

“Straightaway I went into the masons’ in Crow Lane, Romford, to get a head stone but realised I couldn’t afford £1,400,” she said.

“I didn’t have enough money, I’m just a carer for my son who is disabled.”

She has since set up a page on Just Giving in a last ditch attempt.

“It would mean the world to me [to raise the cash],” she continued.

“I have been trying so hard.

“Daren deserves to be buried with dignity, everybody does.”

To help, visit justgiving.com/crowdfunding/michelle-cook-1

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