Page last updated at 17:21 GMT, Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Mother talks of stalking dangers

Clare Bernal
Clare Bernal was shot dead by her ex-boyfriend in Harvey Nichols

The mother of Clare Bernal, who was shot dead by a former boyfriend, has called for more understanding of the dangers of stalking.

Tricia Bernal spoke during a conference aimed at tackling domestic abuse held at Kent Police College in Maidstone.

Her 22-year-old daughter was killed by Michael Pech, 30, in September 2005 while working at the beauty counter in Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, London.

At the time Pech was awaiting sentencing after admitting harassment.

He then turned the gun on himself.

Mental harassment is as dangerous as physical harassment and has to be recognised as such
Tricia Bernal

Mrs Bernal, of Groombridge on the Kent/Sussex border, said: "Clare would never have seen herself as a domestic violence case and this is the difficult thing.

"There are many different types of domestic violence. Mental harassment is as dangerous as physical harassment and has to be recognised as such."

Mrs Bernal said the most important lesson coming from her daughter's death was communication between agencies, plus better training, with more emphasis on protecting the victim.

She added: "As far as Pech was concerned he had to gain control even if it meant taking his own life and that should have been recognised early on, that his mental state was such that he was still under the illusion that Clare loved him and she would come round.

"Clare was beautiful inside and out. She was a very gentle person, the last possible type of person you could imagine, it happens to all types."

Abuse increase

There were 21,508 incidents of domestic abuse reported to Kent Police between April 2007 and March 2008 - an increase of 1,205 on the previous year.

These included threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between partners or family members, and forced marriage, stalking and honour-based violence.

The event was hosted by the Kent and Medway Domestic Violence Strategy Group.

Ch Supt Lee Catling, group chairman and head of Kent Police's Public Protection Unit, said domestic abuse was the leading cause of death for women aged 19 to 44.

He said: "Three-quarters of victims stay in abusive relationships after the judicial process.

"Justice only forms part of the solution and needs to be backed up with good housing availability, access to benefits and confidence and trust in local and national support services for victims and their children."

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