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Page last updated at 06:20 GMT, Tuesday, 29 September 2009 07:20 UK
'A prisoner in her own home'

Barwell

By Mike Thomson
Today programme

For a street that has become a by-word for the horrific consequences of anti-social behaviour, Bardon Road is rather unremarkable.

Hazel Smith

In the time I spent in there, I only saw one boarded up house on the social housing estate in the Leicester village of Barwell. There were "For Sale" signs on the street and a Jaguar parked in front of one home.

Yet Bardon Road was the place that, for Fiona Pilkington, a divorced mum with two teenage children, became a vision of hell.

On 23 October 2007, after years of abuse, she drove her daughter Frankie and herself to a lay-by, soaked the car in petrol and burned them to death along with the family pets.

"She was one of the the best," says Ann Jones, who lives opposite Fiona's former home and knew her before the abuse began.

"She was a good woman, she loved her kids and she helped me out."

Held prisoner

The inquest into the deaths has concluded that Fiona committed suicide and unlawfully killed her daughter, after repeatedly asking for help.

But the reason for why the bullying started is still not clear.

Fiona Pilkington's former home
Fiona Pilkington was scared to leave her home in Barwell

Fiona's life was not easy. She was the full-time carer for her daughter, who had severe learning disabilities. Her teenage son Anthony had dyslexia.

Some of those I spoke to say that Anthony may have fallen out with another local boy. Others that Fiona challenged local youths over their cruel mocking of Frankie's learning difficulties.

Whatever the reason, the bullying continued over at least a seven year period.

"She suffered name calling, urinating at her entry, jumping in her hedge, her window was broken," says Hazel Smith , a family friend, local councillor and chair of the local Neighbourhood Watch.

"She was more or less held prisoner in her own home. Any kind of threats you can think of that poor woman took."

Thirty three calls were made to Leicestershire Constabulary in the seven years before Fiona's death, raising concerns about the abuse.

But no arrests were made, no charges pressed, no prosecutions heard.

At the inquest, it was claimed that Fiona did not press charges because she was frightened of reprisals, but is there anger in the community over the lack of action by Leicestershire's police force.

Reverend Andrew Murphy
If we are really a community then we all need to take more responsibility
Rev Andrew Murphy

"The police weren't there to help her," says Ann Jones. "She used to phone them up but they couldn't send 'cos they ain't got no-one".

Fiona was not the only one who raised concerns over the problems of anti-social behaviour on the road.

"The evidence was there, we had the delegation that met the police, the police clearly were told that there were problems on the street and it was getting worse," says Andre Williams, the leader of Barwell Parish Council.

"There was nobody shouting for them that actually had a voice that could make a difference."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is now to probe why more was not done to help Fiona and her family.

Community blame

The question of the responsibility for the deaths continues to hang over Barwell.

For Reverend Andrew Murphy, minister of the village's Methodist church, there are lessons to learn from the terrible story.

"If we are really a community then we all need to take more responsibility," he says.

Fiona Pilkington (left) and her daughter Francecca Hardwick
Fiona Pilkington and her daughter Frankie died in a burning car

"We talk so often these days about community, when often what we mean is that we other people to do community for us."

Others blame the lack of activities for the local youth.

When I arrived in Leicestershire one of the signs on Bardon Road had been changed to "Bordom Road".

"There's nothing to do other than get pissed or take drugs, that's all there is to do, just nothing," said one teenager I spoke to at a nearby park.

But for many of those living on the street, who witnessed the continuing harassment of the Pilkington family, the blame lies firmly with the people who made Fiona's life a misery, and with those who had the power to deal with them.

"The council said they're going to move them out. They never ever done nowt about it," says neighbour Ann Jones.

"If the police done their job and the council, they should have sorted it."

And for Hazel Smith, the criticism goes one step further.

"I blame Gordon Brown. They give them Asbos and Crasbos, they get those and what are they doing? They're making them look glorified and fantastic. They actually love getting them," she says.

"Nobody wants to know, do they? They keep giving them warning letters and get threatened with eviction. They're given a second chance and a third chance and it does not work."




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