The mother and stepfather of a 13-year-old who was found hanged after a family argument “lacked emotional warmth” towards a girl in crisis, a coroner has concluded.
Amber Peat’s body was found three days after she went missing from her home following a row with her mother over household chores.
The coroner found as a fact that the teenager had to scrub the floor until 1.30am and that her stepfather had forced her to wear a “ridiculous” outfit to school in order to humiliate her.
Amber’s mother Kelly Peat and stepfather Danny Peat insisted the accusations were lies, but were described as “not concerned in the slightest” about Amber’s welfare by the coroner.
Mr and Mrs Peat admitted neither of them were worried when Amber stormed out of her home in Bosworth Street, Mansfield, on May 30 2015, because they believed she was “close by” and expected her to return.
Despite the youngster having a history of running away, Mrs Peat only called police to report her missing nearly eight hours later, at 12.56am the following day.
She admitted she should have called sooner when she gave evidence at the inquest.
The couple decided to go shopping, have the family car washed and have tea during the time the youngster was missing.
Although up to 400 police staff were involved in the search for Amber, her body was only recovered on June 2.
At Nottingham Coroner’s Court on Friday, Assistant Coroner Laurinda Bower concluded that “household chores being used as punishment fits with the modus operandi of discipline that Mr and Mrs Peat enforced”.
She said the lack of consideration for Amber’s welfare was a “theme” throughout the events leading up to her death, and there was “corroborative evidence of the lack of attention that Mrs Peat paid towards her daughter’s feelings such as the lack of emotion when Amber went missing”.
But she also launched a scathing attack on health and children’s safeguarding agencies – saying there was a possibility their 11 missed opportunities could have led to her death.
Concluding with a narrative verdict at the inquest, Ms Bower said: “In evidence, both Mr and Mrs Peat sought to present as concerned parents.
“Their behaviour in going to the supermarket and then the car wash, of leaving a missing Amber with no way of getting into the property, and of waiting some seven-and-a-half hours before calling the police, in fact fits squarely with the picture that neither of them was concerned in the slightest when Amber left the house.
“Perhaps in light of the tragic outcome, both Mr and Mrs Peat would wish to believe that they demonstrated more care when Amber went missing.”
Turning to agencies involved in Amber’s welfare, the coroner said: “In my opinion, this case represents a damning indictment of those agencies who are charged with safeguarding children.
“It is difficult to extrapolate the precise reasons for the multiple failures across so many agencies, but it is more likely than not that the individuals involved failed to appreciate their collective responsibility to information share.
“It is possible, that with the right assessment and support Amber’s life may not have ended when it did on 30 May 2015.”
Ms Bower concluded the medical cause of death was hanging.
Speaking on behalf of Mrs Peat outside Nottingham Coroner’s Court, solicitor Amy Robinson said: “Like all parents, Kelly knows she is not perfect, but she has done, and continues to be, the best parent she can for her children.
“While Kelly does not agree with all of the coroner’s findings, the coroner’s conclusion was that with the right assessment and support from the education, health and social care agencies involved with Amber and her family, it is possible that Amber’s life may not have ended the way it did and when it did.
“Kelly wonders whether things could have been different had Amber and her family received more support and advice for Amber’s behaviour.”
The statement claimed Mrs Peat had proactively sought help with Amber on numerous occasions and was always willing to engage with any support offered.
Ms Robinson continued: “While nothing will bring Amber back, Kelly is keen to ensure that the authorities learn from their mistakes, make the changes needed, and support families more in the future.
“Kelly will always wonder why Amber did what she did.
“She and her family find it impossible to believe that Amber purposely set out to take her own life.
“Kelly feels strongly that Amber would not have meant to deliberately harm herself or mean for this to happen.”
Ms Robinson added: “She and her family will do all that they can to ensure Amber’s memory is kept alive, and they will forever remember her as a wonderful, loving, clever, kind, inquisitive and beautiful girl. A girl who loved reading, who was quick, clever and a true joker.
“Kelly will always miss her beautiful and thoughtful first-born daughter. She is always thinking about Amber, and what she would be doing now.
“She doubts the pain of having to live her life without her will ever go away.”