Abuse leads woman to kill disabled daughter, self

A gang of youths terrorised Fionas family for more than a decade

 Years of torment from young neighbours led a despairing single mother to kill herself and her disabled daughter, and police inaction contributed to the deaths, a British inquest jury ruled on Monday.

Fiona Pilkington suffered more than a decade of abuse from a gang of youths who terrorised her family by urinating on her house, taunting her developmentally challenged daughter and beating her severely dyslexic son.

Despite repeated calls to police and desperate letters to her local lawmaker, no one intervened to stop the persecution, and Pilkington killed herself and her 18-year-old daughter when she set fire to their family car in October 2007.

“This has been a shocking and immensely distressing case,” British Home Secretary Alan Johnson said after the verdict, adding that the police and local government officials had “some hard lessons” to learn.

An inquest into Pilkington and her daughter Francecca Hardwick’s death heard that the pair endured having their home pelted with stones, eggs and flour and having their garden ransacked. At one point Hardwick, who had the mental age of a four-year-old, was a verbally assailed by more than a dozen youths who demanded that she lift up her nightdress.

Pilkington’s son Anthony, now 19, also was abused over the years. He was once taken to a shed at knifepoint and locked in by the gang — some of whose members were as young as 10. Later, he was attacked with an iron bar.

The inquest in Loughborough, in central England, heard that 33 calls to the police did not result in any prosecutions for bullying or harassment.
In one case the police reported back that Pilkington had been “overreacting” — in another case she was simply told to draw her curtains.

Police failure

The inquest — which under British law must be held when someone dies unexpectedly, violently or of unknown causes — ruled that the police’s failure to respond to the family’s pleas for help contributed to their deaths. The Leicestershire police said it was “extremely sorry” over the deaths, and the force’s temporary chief constable Chris Eyre offered his “unreserved apologies” to the family and the wider public after the verdict. Pilkington’s family said the case highlighted problems faced by parents of disabled children, and campaigners and academics said the police’s sluggishness in responding to the attacks showed that hate crimes against disabled people were often ignored.
Britain’s police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said it would investigate Leicestershire police’s handling of the case.

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