Portraits in words and images featuring people from Gloucester. Words by Christine Jordan, images by artist Russell Haines and managed by James Garrod.
I feel I know Hollie Gazzard by the way her father, Nick Gazzard, speaks about her, the way her presence is still in their family home, in her old bedroom, which is now the epicentre of the Hollie Gazzard Trust, a charity Nick set up in her memory.
But I don’t. She was murdered on 18 February 2014 by her ex-boyfriend whilst at work in Gloucester.
That was the day, Nick tells me, he had to do two of the hardest things he has ever done in his life, which was to tell his wife and daughter that Hollie was dead and to identify her body in the morgue.
Nick now re-tells this story when he gives talks to schools, police forces and many other organisations where he tells them about Hollie in his valiant charity work to educate people about the dangers of coercive control, domestic abuse and stalking, all elements that contributed to Hollie’s murder.
Before this catastrophic event in his life, Nick was living a fairly ordinary life, married with two children and working in financial services. All that changed after Hollie’s death.
Last week for example Nick spoke at three conferences across the country. In his job in Financial Services Nick had done some public speaking but as he says:
“I got thrown into it, so you learn very quickly and I enjoy it, getting the messages across, raising the awareness and using Hollie’s story as an example by tying the elements of what happened to Hollie to all the different elements of coercive control, domestic abuse and stalking and bringing them all to life.”
Nick set up the charity because, he says:
“It was the only way I could react in a positive way. The thing I didn’t want to happen, at that stage, was for Hollie to be just another statistic. She was too good for that. She was a driven, creative individual with lots of passion. She had a good business head on her shoulders and was working towards opening her own salon at some stage. I just thought, that’s such a waste of her as an individual so I thought well why don’t I carry that on. That’s the reason why I set up the trust with the intention of helping other young people by either sponsoring them in terms of hairdressing because of how difficult it is to get into because of the cost of it.”
And this is what Nick now dedicates his life to. But it wasn’t always this way. In fact, Nick’s life could have gone in a totally different direction in his younger days.
Back in 1982, Nick moved to Gloucester from Bristol to start a course at the University of Gloucestershire in Geography and Geological Sciences. At the same time, he was contracted to Cheltenham Town Football Club, The Robins, where he played at professional level until the late eighties when he snapped his cruciate ligaments, putting an end to his promising career as a professional football player.
After graduating from university, Nick got a job at Endsleigh Insurance in Cheltenham as a Claims Manager, which is where he met his wife Mandy. He has remained in Financial Services and now works for the DAS Group in Bristol but he is soon to go part time as the charity and consultancy are making more demands on his time and is testament to the growing success of the charity and the dedicated work Nick does for it. He is also considering going back to university to do a Post Graduate in Public Protection, which may lead to a PhD, majoring in Stalking. He has a real passion to try and raise the awareness of stalking as his own daughter was stalked.
Nick has always had a background in helping people. When his career as a footballer ended at the age of 23, he wanted to put something back, so he started working for the Gloucestershire Football Association on a voluntary basis, running all their youth sides, at representative level, which involves coaching, managing teams, training and selecting individuals throughout the county.
“I’ve always had a background of helping people on a voluntary basis. That’s what drives me as an individual. I like to see people succeed, I like to see people develop, whether it’s in a sporting arena or whether it’s just life in general, helping those perhaps going through hard times, or suffering trauma.”
When I ask him how he would describe himself, he answers: “Strong, determined, caring, quite resilient, sociable, ordinary.”
I’m not surprised that Nick considers himself as an ordinary person. It’s a theme running throughout this Our Life project, of exceptional people, doing exceptional things but viewing themselves as ordinary.