Bullied Hattersley Man Was Unlawfully Killed

7 December 2011, 18:25

A vulnerable Hattersley man who died after suffering 30 years of torment by gangs was unlawfully killed

David Askew, 64, who had a mental age of 10, was plagued by gangs of youths for decades outside his house on a sprawling council estate in Hattersley, east Manchester.

Today John Pollard, coroner for South Manchester, blamed "feral youths'' for the victim's torment and ruled that despite lawyers deciding no one could be charged with manslaughter, Mr Askew had been unlawfully killed.

Mr Askew lived with his brother, who also had learning difficulties, and elderly mother Rose, 90, who told the inquest into her son's death of the constant harassment from youngsters.

They called police 88 times between January 2004 and March last year before Mr Askew, who suffered from heart disease, collapsed and died on March 10 2010 after being pestered for cigarettes. Youths had reportedly thrown a wheelie bin around and tampered with his mother's mobility scooter.

Kial Cottingham, 19, who lived doors away later pleaded guilty to harassing Mr Askew and was jailed for 16 months last year.

Lawyers for the Crown Prosecution Service said there was no evidence to charge Cottingham with manslaughter.

The three-day inquest heard of a "multi-agency approach'' with "partnership working'' between a myriad of agencies including endless meetings between the police, Tameside Council and housing associations, among others.

But Mr Pollard said there was an "awful lot of talking taking place and not a great deal of action'', and he was scathing about the work of some of the agencies involved.

He said: "I have noticed evidence of a quite staggering degree of inertia and complancy.

"The fact that there is 38 separate offences reported against this family within a three-year period shows the appalling way in which this element of feral youths can bring misery to a decent, vulnerable family.''

Mr Pollard said he would be making recommendations in writing to both the chief constable of Greater Manchester Police and the chief executive of Tameside Council.

The inquest heard that only "substantive'' incidents were reported to police by the family and many other "minor irritations'' went unreported.

There were also some ``ridiculous lengths'' in terms of police response times - sometimes officers not attending at the house for up to 12 hours later.

CCTV fitted outside the house by Tameside Council was "useless'' after dark.

Even on the day of Mr Askew's death, Cottingham had been at the house and his probation officer called to warn him he was breaking his community order after being seen there the day before, the inquest heard.

Cottingham, currently serving a sentence for robbery, apologised to the Askew family when he gave evidence to the inquest earlier this week.

The inquest heard Mr Askew's official cause of death was natural causes following heart disease and Cottingham could not be placed in the vicinity of the house when Mr Askew collapsed and died.

Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said: "Firstly, I want to again take this opportunity to extend our sympathies to Rose and the rest of David's family for their loss.

"Greater Manchester Police has always shared the very real anger and pain that Rose and Brian feel at the years of torment and abuse they suffered. It is completely unacceptable they were targeted for so many years.

"In the months prior to David's death we had already begun a major review of how we deal with anti-social behaviour, harassment and disability hate crime. We have learned our lessons and made significant improvements to the way we deal with these crimes. While in no way does this diminish what the Askews have been through, it is important to stress that due to the changes we have introduced, incidents of anti-social behaviour have not only reduced but so have people's perceptions of anti-social behaviour.

"I also want to praise those officers whom the coroner recognised showed great dedication and built up an excellent relationship with the Askew family, something I know Rose took a lot of comfort in, and it is important their diligent efforts to try and do everything in their power to help and support the family are recognised."

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