1.Everyone shall possess the right to freely express and publicise his thoughts in words, images or by any other means, as well as the right to inform others, inform himself and be informed without hindrance or discrimination 2.Exercise of the said rights shall not be hindered or limited by any type or form of censorship Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, Article 37.º

Leicestershire Police failed mother and daughter who burned to death in car

A mother who killed her disabled daughter and then herself after suffering years of harassment from local youths was partly driven to do so because the police did not heed her pleas for help, an inquest jury found today.

by Peter Walker and Sam Jones

The jury at the inquest of Fiona Pilkington, 38, and her 18-year-old daughter, Francecca Hardwick, also criticised a failure to share information between the police and the local council as one of the reasons why they did not respond to the calls for help.

This evening, the jury found that Francecca Hardwick was unlawfully killed by her mother who went on to kill herself.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission tonight said it was launching an investigation into the way the "distressing" case was handled, in particular, how seriously the police responded to Pilkington's calls for help.

The inquest at Loughborough town hall heard that Pilkington, her daughter and her son, Anthony Hardwick, who had severe dyslexia, endured more than 10 years of abuse from a gang of teenagers living on their street.

Pilkington's blue Austin Maestro was found ablaze on a layby by the side of the A47 near the family's home in Barwell, near Hinckley, Leicestershire, late on the night of 23 October 2007. On the front seats, firefighters found the severely burned bodies of Pilkington and Francecca. The rear seat had seemingly been set ablaze with petrol.

The jury found that Pilkington killed herself and her daughter "due to the stress and anxiety regarding her daughter's future, and ongoing antisocial behaviour".

It was then asked to report on whether the response of police and two councils contributed to the deaths of the pair.

To the question of whether the police properly responded to the 33 calls made by Pilkington over 10 years about antisocial behaviour, the foreman said the police's failure had an impact on Pilkington's decision to unlawfully kill her daughter and commit suicide.

He added: "Calls were not linked or prioritised."

Asked whether Hinckley and Bosworth borough council's response to complaints of antisocial behaviour contributed to the deaths, the foreman added: "Prior to February 2007, actions to control antisocial behaviour were not evident."

The jury also found that Leicestershire county council failed to properly help the family.

The foreman said: "A referral was not made for a professional assessment of Fiona's state of mind."

The jury had heard days of evidence chronicling the desperate attempts of a depressed, timid single mother with borderline learning difficulties to attract the sustained attention of officialdom to her plight before her death.

As well as the difficulties of coping with two extremely vulnerable children – Francecca had severe learning difficulties and needed constant care while her brother, Anthony, now 19, has serious dyslexia and attended a special school – Pilkington spent more than a decade "under siege" in her own home from local youths, the inquest heard.

Their 1930s semi-detached house was pelted with stones, gangs smashed bottles outside and jumped into the front hedge. On some weekend nights youths hung outside the house for hours on end, shouting taunts and insults.

In a harassment diary kept by Pilkington for a brief period in the year of her death she recounted shouts outside her living room window from 11.30pm until the early hours. The entry ends: "Sat in the dark until 2.30am, stressed out." The harassment would hit peak around Hallowe'en and Bonfire Night when flour, eggs and fireworks were aimed at the house.

The youths would imitate Francecca's walk and signal to her bedroom window for her to lift up her nightdress. Anthony was also targeted. On one occasion he was forced into a shed at knifepoint and locked inside, having to smash a window to escape, the inquest was told.

Apart from contacting police no fewer than 33 times – including 13 in the year of her death – Pilkington discussed matters with two antisocial behaviour officers from her borough council, dealt with a series of social workers and even wrote to her MP.

But not one person was convicted of a single crime, or even arrested, although the identities of the main culprits were known to both police and council officials. The council twice gave Pilkington diaries to chronicle the abuse, but neither was collected.

The inquest was also left with an increasing impression of organisational haphazardness – even chaos – with different agencies meeting regularly but failing to share information or even establish the basic facts of the case.

Although much of the abuse centred taunts at the children's disabilities, police failed to recognise it as a hate crime rather than simple antisocial behaviour, which would have made it a far higher priority.

The inquest heard that Leicestershire police had at the time of Pilkington's death not implemented Home Office guidance on hate crimes, issued two years beforehand.

Hinckley and Bosworth council's community officers visited Pilkington but never even learned until after she was dead that any member of the family was disabled.

An official who dealt with her case in 2004 moved to Australia and his successor did not learn of the family's problems for three years. Case files went missing or were destroyed.

The coroner, Olivia Davison showed signs of apparent bafflement that the family's desperate situation remained unrecognised by so many people who could have helped.

Questioning a senior social services manager from the county council, at one point she remarked: "If somebody had just sat this woman down with a cup of tea they could have perhaps helped her."

She also showed surprise at the lack of police action, noting that there were "seven or eight acts of parliament" under which the culprits could have been punished.

Davison said she planned to write a report to the head of Hinckley and Bosworth council, copied to the Ministry of Justice, following the inquest.

She said: "I am concerned about the evidence I have received in this inquest about the process for gathering and recording information from victims of antisocial abuse.

"The council representatives have given evidence of the manner in which information was collected from Fiona Pilkington, the forms completed, and the manner in which paperwork was dealt with.

"I am concerned about the process and my report will address the process.

At a press conference following the verdict, Leicestershire police apologised to the family for what went wrong and said it had instituted a series of changes, including training for officers to better recognise vulnerability.

Video from BBC

The force's temporary chief constable, Chris Eyre, said he wanted to offer "an unreserved apology to the family, the community and the wider public".

He said: "We are extremely sorry that our actions failed to meet the family's needs. There are things in retrospect we would have done differently."

The findings of a serious case review by Leicestershire county council, also issued after the verdict, made a series of recommendations, including better communication between different agencies and more recognition of hate crimes against the disabled.

Speaking after the inquest on behalf of their family, Pam and David Cassell, Fiona's parents and Francecca's grandparents said:

"It's been almost two years since we tragically lost Fiona and Frankie and we still find it hard to take in. We miss them very much and think of them everyday.

"We are hoping that now the inquest is over we can try and get back to some kind of normality although our lives will never be the same again. This has been a terrible time for us and we wouldn't have managed without the love and support from our friends and family.

"This case has highlighted the difficulties that families with disabled children face. We know that the agencies involved have looked to see how they can improve the way they work. If this helps just one family then their deaths would not have been in vain and something good will have come out of this tragedy.

"We would also like to thank the coroner, Miss Olivia Davison, and those who have taken part in the inquest for being so thorough. Their efforts are very much appreciated."

The home secretary, Alan Johnson, called the case "shocking" and said police and councils had "some hard lessons to learn about past failures, which will be the subject of further investigations".

Responding to the verdict, the Conservative shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, said: "This case has horrified the nation, and the police claim that they aren't responsible for tackling antisocial behaviour was completely shocking.

"We need real action to stamp out antisocial behaviour, to get more police out of police stations and onto the streets, and to demonstrate to law-abiding citizens that the criminal justice system really is on their side."

in Guardian


  1. Coincidentally Baggot was moved as head of Leicestershire police to the top job in Ireland only last week.

  2. On September 29, Feather said...

    Coincidentally Baggot was moved as head of Leicestershire police to the top job in Ireland only last week.

    Could this move to the top job in Ireland be anything to do with Common Purpose, and the Irish being encouraged,(some say BRIBED) to vote YES in their second vote on the Lisbon Treaty?

    Common Purpose identifies and trains future leaders. Did the top job in Leicester get just a little to hot for Baggot?

    The Lisbon Treaty is a self amending treaty with far reaching implications.

    Tony Blair is apparently waiting in the wings to be the first President of the European Union.

    To find out more about this sinister and secret organisation, have a look at Brian Gerrish / Common Purpose on the

    In the interest of justice, we all need to pray the Irish vote NO to the Lisbon Treaty.

  3. Thank you Joana for posting an article on this tragic story.
    Como dizemos em português, "uns são filhos, outros são enteados"...


  4. Nao e esta policia de Leicester, a mesma que montou sentinelas a porta dos Mccann para os proteger de jornalistas?

    Nao e a mesma policia a quem os Mccann recorreram para montarem um sistema de alarme em casa?

    Nao e esta a policia, que substituiu a Scotland Yard no Algarve, em 2007, a pedido dos Mccann?

    Nao e a mesma policia que demorou semanas ou meses a enviar o relatorio ou os resultados dos exames do FSS?

    Nao foi esta policia que cumpriu as cartas rogatorias da PJ e entrevistou( porque interrogar e outra coisa) os amigos tendo lhes facultado respostas dadas anteriormente, para os ajudar a reavivar a memoria?

    Na e esta mesma policia que se recusa a esclarecer jornalistas ingleses a proposito de determinados passos dados na investigacao de Maddie, que os jornalistas nao entendem?

    HUM... Parece-me que vai mesmo aquecer o tempo em Rothley. Espero que o publico ingles nao se cale e leve por arrasto os portugueses, a quererem ver esclarecidos todos os contornos do caso Maddie.

    So por curiosidade, acho que o assessorado Mccann ja anda a impor a lei da rolha nos jornais portugueses. O Sol-online tras a noticia muito resumida e faz questao de salientar os erros das " autoridades locais" sem dizerem que as autoridades locais sao as de Leicester. E mesmo para o pessoal nao fazer o clic: Leicester- Maddie - Mccann....

    Curioso, um clic que fazia vender tanto papel.

  5. it seems leicester police force have a lot to answer and not just over this case,god are there ANY POLICE IN LEICESTER THAT ARE NOT AFRAID TO TELL THE TRUTH

  6. Strange how Leicestershire Police lacked the resources to respond to this poor woman yet could assign specialist officers to go all the way to Portugal to counsel a pair of child neglectors.
    Why also have they failed to investigate the allegation of paedophilia made against McCann in a statement to them by the two Doctors Gaspar?

  7. anonymous at 29/09/09 11:32
    A very pertinent point, but not more than:
    "Leicestershire Police lacked the resources to respond to this poor woman yet they could assign various officers to go all the way to Rotheley to deliver flowers to a pair of child neglectors."

  8. It would seem that Leicestershire Police have a history of failing the vulnerable.

    Still, in other news we can see that they clearly have other priorities, such as selling confiscated property on eBay and trousering part of the proceeds. And let's not forget they took time out of their busy schedule to applaud the nation's most celebrated child neglector at one of their own functions.



  10. The three-quarters of a million pounds (IIRC)spent so far by Leicestershire police on the MCCann case could have been spent on extra officers on patrol or in their offices. Police resources are needed by normal residents of their patch. This poor woman and her daughter (and son) suffered neglect unnecessarily.

  11. I was speaking to my friend yesterday who lives just round the corner from Bardon Road, where these incidents took place. He and his elderly mother were also subjected to months of abuse by the same gang of youths. They had windows smashed, garden walls knocked over and verbal abuse.
    What was done, nothing.
    He told me that there were a family up the road from him
    where the son was also disabled and they suffered too.
    180 phone calls they made to this disgrace of a police force. Nothing was done to help them either.
    They eventually moved away.
    Just what are Leicester police doing for their wages?
    How much taxpayer's money has been spent protecting 'The Close' in Rothley?
    I'd really like to know.

  12. My friend lives in Barwell. He and his elderly mother were also targetted by these vicious youths.
    They had windows smashed, garden walls knocked over, much verbal abuse. His old mum was a virtual prisoner in her own house.
    Did Leicester Police do anything. No.
    How much have the force spent protecting 'The Close' Rothley?
    I'd really like to know.


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