The mother of a university student who was brutally killed after becoming separated from friends on a night out is steeling herself to come face to face with the man who took her daughter’s life.
Lisa Squire is preparing to meet the sexual predator who raped and murdered her eldest daughter Libby, 21, in Hull in 2019. Polish butcher Pawel Relowicz, 26, was convicted of killing the philosophy student when he chanced upon her after she had been out with friends.
Relowicz has agreed to see Mrs Squire, which feels like an inversion of the natural order.
Surely it should be she, the bereaved parent, who determines whether the meeting takes place?
‘I get that he has to know he has some control over it,’ she says. ‘He has committed the worst offences imaginable and the prospect of seeing the mother of the person he killed must be quite difficult.
‘He may be a bit nervous,’ she concedes both with understatement and astounding magnanimity. ‘It’s quite a brave thing for him to do.
‘I don’t hate him, I really don’t. I find anger and hatred incredibly draining, so I choose not to go down that route. Just trying to muddle through life without Libby is hard enough and there are days when I don’t even want to mother my other three children, or go to work, or walk the dog. I just want to wallow in my Libby world.
Libby Squire was a 21-year-old student at the University of Hull when she was raped and murdered by Pawel Relowicz in the early hours of February 1, 2019, following a night out in the city
Libby Squire’s mother Lisa, a maternity nurse from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, has dedicated herself to campaigning to end violence against women and girls. She is determined to meet Relowicz to find out what happened to her daughter
Pawel Relowicz, 26, had a history of spying on female students and was on the prowl looking for a vulnerable victim when he murdered Libby on February 1, 2019
Every parent’s worst nightmare: How the loss of her daughter led Lisa Squire to campaign for an end to violence against women and girls
Libby Squires, 21, was a philosophy student in Hull and was last seen sitting on a park bench after becoming separated from her friends and refused entry in a nightclub in the early hours of February 1, 2019.
She was targeted by married father-of-two Pawel Relowicz, 26, who had a history of spying on female students and was on the prowl looking for a vulnerable victim.
He lured her into his car and drove her to a nearby park, where he raped her before dragging her body to the freezing water of the River Hull.
Her body was later discovered in the Hull estuary seven weeks after she went missing.
In February last year, Relowicz was jailed for life with a minimum term of 27 years and is currently behind bars at high-security HMP Wakefield.
Since Libby’s death, Ms Squire has lobbied politicians for tougher measures on low-level sex offenders to prevent more serious crimes from being committed.
Mrs Squire, who also has three teenage children, previously urged people to report all non-contact ‘minor’ offences to the police.
She said: ‘I know Libby was flashed at, a few weeks or months before she died. It happened after a night out around November time.
‘I’m not sure exactly when. She told him to ‘p**s off’ basically, and berated him.
‘I said to her ‘you should really report it’ and she said ‘Oh mum, I gave him a mouthful and told him what a pathetic human being he was.’ But she didn’t report it.
‘And that absolutely haunts me now because likely or not that was him.’
Lisa said she wants to see an early intervention along with education in school on the subject of flashing and sexual harassment.
Following the murders of Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard, Mrs Squire said: ‘It is the same with Sabina and Sarah. Saying they are vulnerable because they are alone on the street is victim blaming.
‘We can’t accept our girls being murdered on the streets. Women have the right to be out whenever they like.
‘The only way to stop this is to look out for one another – to teach our children, our sons, how to look out for their sisters and girlfriends.’
‘Grief can be all-consuming. So if I had hatred to contend with on top of all that it would just be an extra layer of s***; too much to cope with.’
What she wants, she says, are answers about how her daughter died. Relowicz, a Polish butcher who is now serving 27 years for his heinous crimes, has always denied his guilt.
He was 24 and a married father of two when he killed Libby — then 21, and a second-year philosophy student at Hull University. The fact that he had also committed a string of sexual offences — eight crimes in the preceding 19 months including voyeurism, outraging public decency and burglary (he stole intimate items from women’s homes) — before he murdered Libby should have been a red flag.
But he did not have a criminal record and police did not apprehend him. Could he have been prevented from killing Libby if they had? It is a question that haunts Lisa: ‘Such offences are known as ‘low-level’ sex crimes. Let’s just call them what they are: sex crimes. And people who commit them should be tagged for five years, then maybe their offences would be taken seriously.’
Libby Squire disappeared during a night out with university friends in Hull in January 2019. She had gone to a nightclub but doormen considered her too drunk to be admitted. Her friends put her into a taxi, paid the fare and gave instructions for her to be taken home.
But after the driver had dropped her at her shared student house, she’d wandered off, into the cold, snowy night, perhaps to clear her head, and became hypothermic, confused, tearful. She was in this vulnerable state when Relowicz pounced.
It was seven weeks before her body was dredged from the Humber Estuary, submerged for so long that pathologists were unable to determine the cause of her death.
Lisa was so close to her bright, kind daughter that they felt like a single entity, tied by bonds of love so strong that death could never break them. The puzzle of how Libby spent her last hours of life has never been solved and that plagues her mum. ‘The questions I have are simple ones: What happened to Libby? Was she scared? Did she ask for me? I want Libby to know — and I have a sense that she does know — that I did everything I could to find out what happened.
‘There is no question of forgiveness but I can try and get something positive out of this horrendous situation. And as soon as he has answered one question, another will take its place. I’ll always want to know more.
‘I’m not interested in hearing he is sorry, or that he has a problem or that it was a lapse of judgment. I want to know how Libby died. It will be hard, but not harder than living without her. The worst has happened. There is nothing he can say or do that will be worse.
‘But at the moment, my mind fills in the blanks and it goes down some dark paths. I wonder: did he torture her? I thought at the start, maybe she wasn’t dead when she went into the water. But we know she was, because of the post-mortem. There were none of the signs of drowning. And before I saw her body I thought, ‘Did he stab her?’ I had to look to satisfy myself that he didn’t.
‘He said in court that when he first came across her, she was crying and cold and — by then disorientated by hypothermia — asking for him to take her home to her mummy. I knew she’d ask for me and I’m grateful he confirmed that. She knows that she is never far from my thoughts, that although I wasn’t with her physically that night, my love was there with her.’
Since Libby’s death, Mrs Squire has lobbied politicans for tougher measures on low-level sex offenders to prevent more serious crimes from being committed
She said she feels strong enough to find out what happened during Libby’s final moments and wants to speak to the depraved killer in person. Pictured: Lisa and Russell Squire
Lisa still speaks of Libby in the present tense; as if she were a palpable, living presence. And there is, even now, a communion between mum and daughter.
‘I still feel the bond. I talk to her every day: ‘I’ve really missed you. Why did you die? What happened?’ I hear her voice replying, ‘Mum, it doesn’t matter,’ and there is a real sense that she is at peace now; happy and never far from us. I know we will be together again when I die, not that I want to hasten my death.
‘But how lovely it is that I’ll see her again. That is a gift from her. And I try not to sink into the depths of grief because I know she’d feel guilty if I did; that it’s her fault. That’s another reason to keep myself going.
‘I’m not nervous about meeting him at all. It doesn’t make my stomach churn. It fills me with hope that I might put a few pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together.
‘It is about honouring Libby. I want to do everything I can to find out what happened. It’s no different from wanting to support a living child. That mothering instinct never goes away. You don’t stop being a mother to your child just because she is dead.’
Lisa, 52, a nurse on a postnatal hospital ward, is married to engineer Russell, 56, and their three other children, Beth, 21, Maisy, 16, and Joe, 15, are a source of hope and solace. She believes, unequivocally, that Relowicz should have been handed a full-life tariff.
Lisa Squire, 51, said she feared no lessons have been learned since her daughter (pictured together) was raped and murdered in 2019 by Polish butcher Pawl Relowicz
During the trial, the court heard Relowicz ‘targeted’ Libby after seeing her ‘drunk’ and ‘vulnerable’ in the streets of Hull, East Yorkshire
‘If you kill someone you should forfeit your freedom for the rest of your life,’ she says. ‘He is due for release in 27 years, but Libby will not come back to us then. So why should he be allowed out? He shows no remorse now. Why will he in the future? If he is released, he will do it again. There is no doubt in my mind. So as long as I have breath in my body I will make sure he never comes out of prison.’
Lisa met Boris Johnson, then prime minister, to petition him on this. ‘When he said, ‘There aren’t enough spaces in prison’ I said, ‘Then build more prisons.’ ‘ Grief and loss have made her fearless, uncompromising.
She casts her mind back to the heart-stopping horror of that awful night when Libby went missing. She was working a night shift at the hospital when a friend of her daughter rang in the early hours saying, ‘We can’t find Libby.’
Lisa waited vainly for news — and with mounting terror: ‘When her friend rang I felt immediate panic. I did my work, continued my observations, and phoned her friends. There was still no news. I rang the police, university security, and did some more work.
‘Then I finished my shift at 8am with this sense of dread. I had the strangest feeling; an emptiness along my left-hand side where she always sat. I knew she was dead.’
‘Sexual deviant’ Pawel Relowicz, 26, was jailed for life in February to serve a minimum of 27 years for the rape and murder of Libby Squires
Relowicz’s mother Marzena (pictured), 53, revealed her own inner torture at her son’s shocking crime. Speaking from her home in Warszewice, Poland, in 2019, she said: ‘A beautiful girl was killed. It’s heartbreaking.’ She said the murder had ‘torn her heart apart’
Lisa had the unenviable task of telling Russell, Beth, Maisy and Joe that Libby was missing. By 2.30pm that afternoon, when she had not turned up at a lecture, Lisa called her parents, who arrived to look after the children. Lisa and Russell then began the 200-mile drive from their home in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, to Hull. ‘I was crying all the way and when we got to the Humber I said, ‘She’s in the water.’ I just knew she was. I knew she wasn’t coming back because she hadn’t contacted me, and she’d text me three times a day.’
These messages marked their relationship. Libby would text saying, ‘I love you.’ Lisa would reply: ‘I love you more.’ Back would come, ‘I think you’ll find I love you more,’ and Lisa would counter: ‘I’m your mother. I think you’ll find I do.’
All the minutiae of Libby’s life were charted in their chatty exchanges — the spider she had found in the bath, what she had eaten for breakfast. ‘She texted me about everything.’ Then came silence. Lisa just knew.
Still, she was tormented by the terrible ambiguity of loss: certain that Libby was dead but refusing to concede that she’d never see her again. ‘I felt guilty for not having hope and, although I knew she was never coming back, somehow I didn’t — and still don’t — feel it.
‘I’m terrified of the day when I feel she’s dead. I always think she’ll walk through the door, that I’ll wake up from this really horrible dream; that she’ll be there saying, ‘Oh my god, Mum. They said I was dead but I’m not.’ I still cling to that.’
In those early days when there was no word of Libby, Lisa reflects: ‘I felt completely numb, but the human brain is incredible because somehow you carry on.’
Days turned into weeks. Still Libby was not found.
Despite her first instinct that her daughter was dead, Lisa’s mind ran in panicked circles.
‘I was thinking, ‘Where is she? Could she have been trafficked, abducted, held against her will? Has she banged her head and lost her memory?’ You have a different thought every minute.’
Then, after seven weeks, police called to say they had discovered her body in the Humber. Lisa recalls: ‘You think you’ll fall on the floor and scream but I was really quiet. I said to Russell: ‘They’ve found her. Does that mean she is dead?’ I still didn’t want to believe it.
‘And after that, I couldn’t wait to see her. The coroner said I couldn’t. [Forensic investigations were still being carried out.] But I said, ‘I’m coming.’ For me, it was a primal need.’
The fact that Libby’s body had been submerged for so long delayed its decomposition. ‘I would have taken doors off their hinges to get to her. And when I saw her she looked absolutely beautiful. Her body was just a vessel. I felt her presence in the room.’
It was September, nine months after Libby’s death, before Lisa could, again, see her daughter’s body — this time at the funeral home. ‘I chatted to her as if she was still alive. I stroked her head and kissed her face and hands, sat with her. I was desperate to lie next to her and give her a hug and if I could have picked her up and taken her home I would have done.
‘It seemed fitting — a privilege, in fact — that I’d been the first person to see her when she was born and the last to see her after she died.’
I wonder if she feels any residual animosity to Libby’s friends who failed to accompany her back to her student house that night with such tragic consequences.
She chooses her words carefully: ‘If I’m honest, to begin with I was really disappointed that they hadn’t gone home with her. But they put her in a taxi, thought she’d go home and be safe. They have to live with Libby’s death for the rest of their lives. I don’t bear them any animosity. There is only one person to blame for Libby’s death and that’s Pawel Relowicz. But I tell my children now: ‘You go out as a pair; you come back as a pair.’ ‘
Hull MP Dame Diana Johnson is now backing Lisa, calling for offences such as indecent exposure to be reported and treated with gravity by police.
‘What we do know is that this sort of behaviour often escalates to far more serious offending and murders, as happened in the case of Libby Squire in Hull and Sarah Everard in London,’ Dame Diana told Parliament last year.
Baroness Casey of Blackstock, who publishes her final report into failings at the Metropolitan Police in February, is also expected to focus on this point.
The report was commissioned after the murder of Sarah Everard by police officer Wayne Couzens, who is alleged to have previously exposed himself four times to women.
Pawel Relowicz, 26, who was found guilty of raping and murdering Libby Squire, 21, was photographed grinning in a pair on reindeer antlers just weeks before he killed the student
After Relowicz was arrested, Jagoda visited him in prison only to be told by him that he had been seeing prostitutes during their marriage, his friend revealed
Libby’s murder is explored in a three-part Sky Crime documentary starting tonight — Libby, Are You Home Yet? — which features previously unreleased footage of Relowicz laughing as he is told he is being arrested for Libby’s rape and murder. In it, too, we see the grainy CCTV footage of her last, vulnerable steps. We also witness the genuine affection and care of her closest friends.
No date has yet been set for Lisa’s meeting with Relowicz, arranged via a restorative justice charity, and although he has said he does not want to talk about what happened on the night he killed Libby, Lisa says: ‘I will wear him down eventually. I’ll keep on until I find out.’
Libby was, says her mum, the sort of gregarious, funny, loving girl that everyone counted as their best friend. ‘She was a one-off, unique: a fantastic, kind daughter, adored by her brother and sisters.’
Every year, on January 1, the family marks her birthday: ‘We have a cake and a celebration for her. I buy her a present every year. A place is set for her at the table whenever we sit down for a family meal.
‘She has a bench we dedicated to her on the hill where I go in the morning and chat with her.
‘I am still a mum of four and although there are days when I’m really tearful I try not to feel sorry for myself.
‘I’m not brave. It’s Libby who gives me strength. She’s an amazing person. I still think of her in the present tense.
‘She got an incredibly dangerous man off the streets and stopped him from killing other women, saving countless lives. I’m so proud of her — but for that she paid the ultimate price.’
- Libby, Are You Home Yet? starts at 9pm tonight on Sky Crime.