Page last updated at 18:00 GMT, Thursday, 17 September 2009 19:00 UK

Car death pair 'abused for years'

Fiona Ann Pilkington (left) and her daughter Francecca Hardwick
Police believe Francecca was killed by her mother

A woman found dead in a burning car alongside her disabled daughter had suffered years of abuse from a gang of youths, an inquest has heard.

The bodies of Fiona Pilkington, 38, and daughter Francecca Hardwick, 18, were found in a lay-by on the A47 near Earl Shilton in Leicestershire, in 2007.

An inquest at Loughborough Town Hall heard Ms Pilkington had apparently carried out a murder-suicide.

The inquest, heard by a jury, is expected to finish on Friday.

The jury heard that in the years before their deaths, police, social services and Miss Hardwick's school - Dorothy Goodman Special School in Hinckley - were aware of difficulties the family faced, including money worries.

'Like an inferno'

Ms Pilkington, of Bardon Road, Barwell, was a full-time carer to Francecca, who had severe learning difficulties. She also had a son, Anthony Hardwick, who is now 19.

The inquest was told Ms Pilkington is believed to have poured the contents of a 10-litre can of petrol over clothes in the back seat of the car, and set them alight.

A fire officer told the jury it caused an explosion so severe it blew off the sunroof and side windows and witnesses said the car was "like an inferno".

Fiona couldn't defend herself. She was very shy and she didn't want any trouble
Pam Cassell

The pair had to be identified by DNA profiling.

Relatives described how Ms Pilkington had complained for years about youths "taunting and abusing" her at her home, but six months before her death had told them "I give up".

Giving evidence, Ms Pilkington's mother Pam Cassell, 72, said a gang up to 16-strong would stand at the front of the house shouting that they could do anything they liked to the family.

She said: "They used to ring on the doorbell and say that she had been hitting her kids. They were petty things like that.

"They used to throw stones at the house and then they threw acorns and flour and eggs."

She added: "Fiona couldn't defend herself. She was very shy and she didn't want any trouble so she tended to ignore them. She was very vulnerable."

Mrs Cassell said the council imposed a 300-yard exclusion zone for the youths around the family's house but had failed to enforce it.

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