I OFTEN think of little Sophie Hook. The pretty seven-year-old with curly hair wearing her denim shirt is an image I have little difficulty in recalling. I wish it were not so.

I didn’t know Sophie or her loving parents Julie and Chris. It was as a journalist that I was brought for a short time into the outer reaches of their orbit.

And for someone in my trade that is usually only for one of two reasons; triumph or tragedy. For young, innocent Sophie it was tragedy of the most heinous kind.

For me she is always the excited little girl having her first camping sleepover with her cousins in their back garden in Llandudno, in July 1999. A rite of passage that all children experience.

But Sophie would not see another day, taken by a local lunatic called Howard Hughes who sexually assaulted and strangled her leaving her dead in her Winnie-the-Pooh nightdress.

I was working on the Western Mail newspaper at the time and it was my job to pull the story together. It was a heartbreaking task. But as well as the terrible details of the crime and the police calls for information it was instantly clear to me that we also had to reclaim the life of Sophie from the clutches of a mad man.

Her parents’ description of the short years bursting with joy she gave them had to be given equal billing and so they were in our reports. The story ran for months until Hughes was jailed for at least 50 years. At all times the dignity of Sophie’s parents shone through. The little girl now lives on in the hearts of those who knew her and she’s out there in cyber space still with that lovely smile and wearing that smart denim shirt.

I thought about Sophie last week as we reported and recorded the build up to the sombre anniversary of the Shoreham Airshow disaster. Here were more people taken too early from the world. And here were journalists with stories to tell, jobs to do.

But of course it’s not really just a job. Reporters don’t see it like that. Sensitively Argus journalists approached the families of the victims, who would have known and probably dreaded that the day was coming, the year having rushed by in a haze of grief.

And from those stories, both in the aftermath of the crash and on the anniversary, we have come to know many of those who were taken in that million-to-one chance happening on that sunny day last year.

I think of Jacob Schilt’s football boots still by the back doorstep of his parents’ home waiting for the son who is forever coming home from that match in Worthing. Handsome Matt Jones, the apple of his mother’s eye, his mate Daniele Polito with his last words “bye Mum, I love you”, Mark Trussler’s children being told their father is now God’s window cleaner and of course the tears of a bride on her big day when she realises why, for the first time in his life, wedding chauffeur Maurice Abrahams is late for an appointment.

It is not to be intrusive, nor prying nor mawkish that we wish to read these stories. They were men who lived among us and if we have any sense of community left it is surely right that we should mourn them, to want, in a small way, to share in the burden of grief.

Someone once wrote that journalism is “the first draft of history”.

The history of Shoreham has begun to be written in the eyewitness accounts, the progress of the investigation and, more powerfully, in the poignant remembrances of the families of the victims.

Those recorded words will help ensure, that just like Sophie and her winning smile, it will be the lives of those men we will remember not their untimely deaths.

The Argus: The Flaming Lips at End of the Road Festival 2014The Flaming Lips at End of the Road Festival 2014 The Flaming Lips perform at End of the Road Festival 2014

It’s been a strange summer hasn’t it.

Momentous political upheavals, brilliant splashes of colour like the Olympics, miserable journeys to work and in the background of it all changeable weather to the extreme.

I was thinking that last Saturday when the local primary school had the misfortune to hold their fundraising fete.

As hurricane winds blew the majorettes’ batons out of any hope of synchronicity, the tannoy words of the announcer (why do schools always choose the most annoying dad with the worst jokes for this job?) could thankfully not be heard. One thing’s for sure though.

Next weekend the VW campervan is hitting the road for our annual music festival (this time End of the Road in Dorset) which means only one thing given our recent experience. If I were planning a school fete I’d cancel. For the sideways rains will undoubtedly be returning.