Cameron Burke, ‘Cam’, had an “unmatched confidence”. He was described as a “social genius” by his close friends and was the type of person who could make friends wherever he went.
“He would fill the room, chatting to everyone, always laughing at his own jokes just to get the ball rolling. He took a genuine interest in the people he was around, treating people with good humour and love,” say friends and former housemates Ben Johnson and Osian Spencer.
Cam studied Politics at University of Leicester between 2015 – 2018, where he spent three years living with Ben and Osian. During this time, the three, along with their other housemates, enjoyed unforgettable memories, endless pranks and a friendship like no other.
Reflecting on living with Cam, both friends say he “loved a prank” and was an “expert at chatting pure hypothetical nonsense usually sprinkled in with an obscure Peep Show reference”.
“There were 10 of us who met in an all-boys flat in halls, you can just imagine it. The three of us were placed together with another boy and we went on to live together as a four for the next two years. We became really close in that time, there were plenty of pranks and daft behaviour as you’d imagine. It was a great time,” Ben shares.
In September 2022, Cam took his life at 26 years old.
The news devastated Cam’s former housemates and his loss brought with it a heart-breaking pain that no words can do justice.
During the years they lived together, Cam was open with his close friends about his ongoing struggle with depression. While there is no doubt he was the “life and soul of the party”, there were also days were Cam would retreat to the four walls of his bedroom to be in solitude.
“I think it came as quite shocking to a lot of people because they had no idea. He was just so outgoing and so socially amazing that nobody had any idea. It really proved it doesn’t matter what anyone appears to be like or how happy they are on the outside, it was only if you came really close to him – because he was a very private person with his own thoughts – that you’d have seen.
“The world is poorer for not having Cam in it and we cannot put into words how devastated and heartbroken we are to never see him again,” Ben and Osian echo.
Shortly after Cam’s death, Osian was invited to take part in the Seville Marathon, and after running the idea past Ben, the two decided to use the event as an opportunity to focus their grief into something positive. Ben and Osian began their training and launched a fundraiser dedicating what would be a gruelling challenge to their friend, Cam.
In February, five months after losing their friend, the two flew out to Seville where they spent time reflecting on Cam and also helped honour the family’s wish of wanting his ashes to be scattered across the world. They placed some of his ashes in a quiet corner of the Parque de Maria Luisa, which unbeknown to them at the time, would be in clear view from the marathon’s starting point the following day.
While the day itself didn’t quite go to plan, with Osian battling the symptoms of food poisoning from local tapas and neither of them getting a lot of sleep the night prior, both admit was Cam that kept them going to the finish line.
“Cam had this one playlist on Spotify called ‘Songs I could do a brilliant impression of’, and one of them is The Darkness – I Believe in a Thing Called Love, he just used to nail it every time,” says Osian.
“So, towards the end of the marathon we shared AirPods and we listened to that a few times and a few other songs which got us round. Around mile 23 or 24 – where we were passing people who were tired just singing The Darkness out loud. Cam was with us the whole way.”
The pair managed to cross the finish line of their first marathon, completing the full 26.2 miles in 3 hours 50 minutes, while simultaneously raising an incredible £4,688 for PAPYRUS.
“Cam was very much at the forefront the full way of marathon and the trip,” Ben says.
“We really wanted to do this because a lot of people are struggling. This isn’t an issue exclusive to us, there are so many people either struggling with being bereaved by suicide or struggling with suicidal thoughts and we wanted to help and let people know that support is out there for them.”