‘Terror killed my siblings, now I’m saving lives in their memory’
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‘Terror killed my siblings, now I’m saving lives in their memory’

One year on from the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka that killed 269, David Linsey tells Alex Davis how raising £400,000 to support victims is his way of healing

Aftermath of the bombings in Sri Lanka. Photo by Perera Sameera/UPI
Aftermath of the bombings in Sri Lanka. Photo by Perera Sameera/UPI

Just over a year ago, David Linsey was approaching his Oxford finals. For this bright, spirited and highly ambitious young man, who had recently secured a job at a data analytics company, Easter Sunday should have been another day of revision. Nothing more.

That morning, a call came through from his father, 5,000 miles away in Sri Lanka.

“I was woken by screaming. It was chaos,” he recalls. His voice trembles, the memory still raw. The events that followed changed everything.

Hours earlier, his siblings Daniel, 19, and Amelie, 15, had been murdered in one of the worst terrorist attacks since 9/11. They were having breakfast on the third floor of the Shrangri-La hotel in Colombo with their father when a series of bombs exploded. The family had been due to fly home that afternoon.

For the first anniversary of their deaths, David had planned to travel to Sri Lanka with a team of trauma surgeons from McGill University. “My actions have always been driven by my siblings’ core values of kindness and openness,” David explains. “I wanted to save lives in their memory and so a year ago we set up the Amelie & Daniel Linsey Foundation.”

David Linsey

His aim is to support families devastated by the attack, and upgrade the country’s medical facilities to reduce mortality from future traumatic events.

Remarkably, the foundation has raised more than £400,000 through crowdfunding on the JustGiving platform, private donations and a charity ball, which raised £85,000.

The planned trip to Sri Lanka, his third in the past year, was to be a reconnaissance for how to spend the money raised.

Jewish News’ front page covering the tragic death of Amelie and Daniel Linsey

From his home in west London, where he lives with his parents and younger brother, Ethan, David explains that his travel plans have been put on hold owing to the Covid-19 lockdown. Yet his resolve is unwavering.

Within a matter of days, an alternative plan was implemented. The foundation is instead donating £25,000 of medical equipment, including a ventilator, which costs around £16,000, and eight patient monitoring systems, such as ECG machines and haematology analysers, to the island. “I hope these are helpful during the coronavirus pandemic,” he says. “Saving lives is how  I want to commemorate my siblings.”

It’s not the first donation David has orchestrated. At the end of 2019, he delivered 100 beds to nine hospitals, and funded the development of a new model for trauma care across Sri Lanka.

During that trip, he met Sri Lankan President, Maithripala Sirisena, who organised a centralised meeting of all the directors of the hospitals affected by the attack. The results were promising. Far more emotional was his subsequent visit to the National Hospital of Sri Lanka in Colombo, where his siblings had been taken that fateful Sunday morning. “I found that really tough. It was the hardest part of the trip.”

People attend a vigil honouring the victims of the bombings in Sri Lanka (PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Hanging over his head, too, had been the prospect of visiting the Shrangri-La hotel. After a long deliberation, he chose not to enter. “I emerged from the trip with a clear plan for transforming trauma care in Sri Lanka”, he explains. “That’s my focus now.”

The foundation also has concrete plans to build a playground for children with diabilities and sponsor the education of children orphaned by the terrorism attack. Its work is a full-time job for David. His healing depends on its success.

To mark the first anniversary of Amelie and Daniel’s deaths, the family held a virtual commemoration service, with Westminster Synagogue Rabbi Benji Stanley leading proceedings.

“It was a celebration of life, not a sombre occasion,” he reflects. He isn’t religious, but says Rabbi Stanley has helped him feel part of the community. “I’ve really come to appreciate how Jews look out for each other all across the world.”

Does he forgive his attackers? “I haven’t thought about it,” he admits. “The emotion that flows in the wake of tragedy is a powerful fuel, and one easily used to drive hate. It is a cycle that must stop somewhere if we are to win the battle against extremism.

“We must bring Amelie and Daniel’s values to bear in the toughest times, and not respond in unthought wrath,” he adds. Does he have any future plans? Only one thing is certain: “I will carry on Amelie and Daniel’s legacy for the rest of my life.”

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