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Always neglected

Victim Casey Kearney: A young life taken  a 13-year-old from a loving family

Victim Casey Kearney: A young life taken  a 13-year-old from a loving family

  • by Jo Davison
 

A Doncaster teenager lost her life on Valentine’s Day because no-one really cared enough about the life of another young woman - her murderer.

Lovely Casey Kearney, a 13-year-old from a loving home with everything to live for, was stabbed as she walked to a friend’s sleepover in February.

That dreadful afternoon, her path crossed that of 27-year-old Hannah Bonser’s with such tragic repercussions because Bonser’s life had never been as happy and as normal as Casey’s. And no-one had done enough to put that right.

The findings of a multi-agency inquiry, released this week, paint an incredibly sad picture. Hannah Bonser was eight when social workers were alerted by the family GP and her own grandmother. They found dead cats and sacks of rotting food at the house.

It was two years before they got her into school - only for her to be ostracised for her dirty clothes.

She was taken into care shortly after, because her mother had died. As she grew up, feeling utterly uncared for, she developed mental illness. A number of childhood abuse victims do. She repeatedly asked for help. Before she killed Casey, terrified she was going to hurt someone, she asked to be locked up. As had happened so many times, no-one really listened.

And so a girl with so much to live for is no more, her family will never get over their grief and Hannah Bonser must spend at least 22 years in prison. Are there any family members mourning her fate? Who knows.

This appalling story is not unique, though. It must be stressed that the vast majority of people with mental illness are no threat to anyone other than themselves, but a small number left without proper care commit 5 to 10 per cent of murders in the UK. In the last decade 830 have died at their hands and mental health specialists worry the death toll could soar because of NHS cutbacks.

Hannah wanted to be locked up but, fact is, there are fewer in-patient beds. It’s too expensive; keeping a ­mental patient in hospital costs around £259 a day. Out of necessity and cheapness, they are referred to community psychiatric nurses, so their workload piles up.

The inquiry blames the failure of any professional being appointed Hannah’s lead carer – someone who could have built up a relationship. Someone who could have listened to her.

But where is the money to provide more social workers, more mental health specialists and better co-ordination of services?

As the Government tries to juggle its books, slashing NHS funding and sending local authorities into cost-cutting frenzies, there will be even less care for mental health sufferers. They will pay the price and so could more victims.

When Hannah Bonser was jailed, Casey’s mum Kerry demanded to know why psychiatric services let her out. Now she has answers. But surely it will be cold comfort to know that her daughter’s fate could well be someone else’s.

 

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