Page last updated at 17:38 GMT, Friday, 18 September 2009 18:38 UK

Murder mother's abuse 'ignored'

ughter Francecca Hardwick
The inquest heard the family was under siege in their home

A mother who killed herself and her disabled daughter in a burning car had contacted police more than 30 times about abuse claims, an inquest heard.

Fiona Pilkington, 38, made her last report of intimidation by a gang of youths on the day she died, a jury at Loughborough Town Hall was told.

Coroner Olivia Davison heard police considered her to be "over-reacting" and did not respond to many complaints.

The bodies were found in a burning car in Leicestershire in 2007.

Ms Pilkington, of Bulwell, had driven her daughter Francecca Hardwick, 18, to a lay-by on the A47 near Earl Shilton, where she set fire to the car.

'Under siege'

The jury heard Ms Pilkington had apparently carried out a murder-suicide.

Leicester Police said they logged 33 complaints from Ms Pilkington about a gang between 2000 and 2007, including 13 in the 10 months before her death.

The inquest heard the family were "under siege" in their home but police filed the incidents as the less serious "grade two" and considered her to be "over-reacting".

Earlier in the inquest Ms Pilkington's mother, Pam Cassell, 72, said a gang of up to 16 youths would stand at the front of the family house shouting that they could do "anything they liked to the family".

Fiona just gave up. She was in despair really, nobody did anything to help her.
Pam Cassell, mother

The jury was told Ms Pilkington's son Anthony, who has severe dyslexia, was locked in a shed at knifepoint and beaten with a metal bar.

The gang also shouted at Francecca, who has severe learning difficulties, to lift up her nightdress.

They also pelted the family's home with eggs, flour and stones and shouted insults about the childrens' disabilities.

Mrs Cassell said: "Fiona couldn't defend herself. She was very shy and didn't want any trouble.

"It was going on for so long I thought somebody would have done something. Fiona just gave up. She was in despair really, nobody did anything to help her, not the police, the council or the Neighbourhood Watch.

"Frankie was frustrated because she couldn't go out in the garden without being tormented."

Similarly-intended trip

Chris Tew, former Assistant Chief Constable of Leicester Police, admitted many of Ms Pilkington's calls to police were not linked and were regarded as anti-social behaviour. On some occasions the reports were not passed on to the street's beat officer.

He said: "There's no damage or assault and it doesn't pass the threshold for a crime.

If a police officer reflected on these incidents, an attempt might have been made to apprehend the individuals who were doing this
Coroner Olivia Davison

"The reporting system is that something ongoing is given a grade two. It's infrequent that there are any resources to respond."

Ms Davison responded by saying: "It seems to me that, given the history and the context of the abuse, it would not have been anti-social behaviour but a crime because we had people being hounded in their own home.

"This woman has been too scared on occasions to come out of her house."

She added that officers should have realised the incidents were linked and paid greater attention to the family's predicament.

She said: "If a police officer reflected on these incidents, an attempt might have been made to apprehend the individuals who were doing this, charge them and bring them before a youth court, rather than passing them on to the council who will write them a letter they will probably ignore."

Mrs Cassell told the inquest her daughter had taken her children on a similarly-intended death trip in 2005, but changed her mind after failing to find somewhere to park her car.

The inquest continues.


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