'It changed us as people' Sarah Parish opens up about the devastating loss of her baby daughter

Sarah Parish

Broadchurch star Sarah Parish has spoken about the loss of her baby daughter Ella-Jayne to a congenital heart defect when she was just eight months old.

Speaking to You Magazine, Sarah Parish said, “I’d had a very easy life before that. Nothing awful had ever happened to me. But with something like that, I know it’s a real cliché, but it has made us. And the charity – especially running alongside careers as actors – is perfect.

"It’s the ideal thing to do, because as an actor you really do have the space to become an awful person if you want."

She added, “Because everything is based around you and what you need. It’s a great job and we’re very lucky. Then when you work on a charity alongside it, and you see what life is, the really bad side of life, it just makes what you do [for a living] amazing, you know. My job is my holiday and the charity is my job.”

The charity Sarah refers to us the Murray Parish Trust, which she set up alongside her husband James Murray. This was set up following a visit to Cambodia, where the couple spent two months working in an orphanage.

The Murray Parish Trust was set up in 2014, and it’s dedicated to advancing paediatric emergency medicine in the south of England. Alongside another local charity, they’ve raised £2.5 million for Southampton University.

This money was matched by the government, and it paid for a new children’s emergency and trauma department at the hospital.

Sarah and James have been together for 14 years, and have a 10-year-old daughter together called Nell.

Reflecting on the loss of Ella-Jayne, Sarah said, “It changed us as people, definitely. It has to. And actually, the older you get, the more people you meet who have lost children. A lot of people lose children in far worse circumstances than Jim and me. Ella-Jayne was only eight months old, she was very poorly anyway, so we were already prepped for what could happen.

A photo posted by on

“Whereas I’ve met people along the way who had a healthy child, everything was good, and suddenly they’ve gone. I’ve known people who have lost their children at the age of 16. It’s just unbearable. It will always change you as a person. It’s changed us for the better, I think.”

The Murray Parish Trust is currently working on a project to raise £5.5 million for an intraoperative MRI scanner, which will scan children in the operating theatre during a brain or spinal surgery.

Explaining the reason behind this project, Sarah Parish said, “It’s so important because at the moment they’ll be scanned at the other end of the hospital and by the time they’re wheeled into the operating theatre, their brain has moved, so the scan doesn’t make sense any more.

"I was reading a case study the other day of a two-year-old girl who had 19 operations and 12 CT scans. She died – but if we’d had the IMRI, we think that she would have lived.”

Lucy Buglass
Digital Writer

Lucy Buglass is a Digital Writer for What's on TV, Goodto.com, and Woman&Home. After finishing her degree in Film Studies at Oxford Brookes University she moved to London to begin her career. She's passionate about entertainment and spends most of her free time watching Netflix series, BBC dramas, or going to the cinema to catch the latest film releases.