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Mother of twin sisters who killed themselves says authorities missed opportunities to save them

The grieving mother of two teenage twin sisters who took their own lives after suffering sexual abuse and mental health problems has said opportunities to save them were missed.   

Sam and Chris Gould, from Fulbourn, Cambridgeshire, aged 16 and 17, died within four months of each other after struggling to cope with the consequences of the abuse that they suffered as children.  

Their mother Jane Cannon has now said ‘there were many opportunities early on’ to save her daughters, and that they were missed by the authorities.

It comes as two reports, published by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Safeguarding Children Partnership Board, came up with around 20 recommendations for improvements across the two cases.

Sam and Chris Gould, from Fulbourn, Cambridgeshire, died within four months of each other after suffering sexual abuse as children

Ms Cannon told ITV News Anglia: ‘If the issues that they had had been spotted earlier, treated earlier, if the professionals at an earlier stage had been more curious, we think there were many opportunities early on to help them.

‘Opportunities to stop the abuse happening at a much earlier stage and give them the care and therapy they needed. Clearly, the longer it went on the worse it got for the girls and for us and the harder it would have been to make a difference.

‘But there was never a point that anyone gave up. There were many opportunities that we believe that, had things happened differently, we would be in a completely different place.’ 

The sexual abuse of the twins began when they were around six-years-old, and living in Hampshire, and continued for several years, the coroner heard.

While their teachers saw worrying behaviour early on, including Sam pulling out her hair and eyelashes, it was only when Sam began self-harming at the age of 13 that support was offered, by which time the family had moved to Cambridgeshire.

Chris took an overdose for the first time at the age of 14 and while in hospital, admitted she too had been self-harming.

In May 2016, a police investigation was launched when Chris disclosed to a friend the sexual abuse she had suffered and Sam revealed she had also been abused. 

But because neither twin felt able to do a video interview the police closed the case just months later.     

On hearing that no action would be taken against their abuser, the twins’ parents told the report authors: ‘The girls felt completely invalidated’.

Sam died on September 2, 2018, after taking a medication overdose at the age of 16.

Chris died less than five months later, on January 26, 2019, at the age of 17, while she was an informal patient at a mental health unit.   

Earlier this year an inquest at Huntingdon Town Hall, heard that both Chris and Sam had felt 'invalidated' after learning that no prosecution would be brought against their alleged abuser

Earlier this year an inquest at Huntingdon Town Hall, heard that both Chris and Sam had felt ‘invalidated’ after learning that no prosecution would be brought against their alleged abuser

Earlier this year an inquest at Huntingdon Town Hall, Cambridgeshire, heard that both Chris and Sam had felt ‘invalidated’ after learning in December 2016 that no prosecution would be brought against their alleged abuser.

Chris’ inquest heard how she had made multiple suicide attempts and drafted a number of ‘suicide notes’, from May 2016 until her death in January 2019.

And coroner Nicholas Moss said that Chris’ death was ‘amplified’ by losing her sister – with Chris stating the day after Sam died: ‘I was supposed to be the one who died first, she was supposed to be trying to join me.’ 

Inquests have now concluded Sam died as a result of borderline personality disorder (BPD) related to her childhood sexual abuse, while Chris’s death was due to BPD linked to the abuse, and the loss of her sister.   

The coroner has raised serious concerns about how the two girls were treated, which he highlighted in a Prevention of Future Deaths report. 

Two reports, published by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Safeguarding Children Partnership Board, have also come up with around 20 recommendations for improvements across the two cases.

They include changes in the way police approach sexual abuse victims, the education provision for children with mental health issues, as well as procedures for mental health services, children’s services, and how all of those agencies work together on complex cases.

Despite that, the serious case reviews do ‘not conclude that, had these things been in place’ either of the sisters ‘would be with us today’. 

Detective Chief Inspector Liam Davies from Hampshire Police said: ‘This is a desperately sad case and our thoughts are with the family of Sam and Chris Gould.

‘As a force, it is right that we reflect on these findings and we will always work to improve our service to victims of serious sexual abuse.

‘We will review the recommendation made about working with other agencies, particularly where complainants live in another force area, and consider whether there are any further measures we can take.

‘During the investigation in 2016 into allegations of sexual abuse, we engaged directly with the family and our approach to this case took into account their views, as well as the strength and availability of evidence.

‘Our assessment was that there was insufficient evidence in this case to provide any realistic prospect of conviction, and the decision to take no further action took account of the wishes of the victims and the wider concerns of the family at the time.

‘Following the girls’ tragic deaths, we carried out an internal review of the investigation, and changes to some internal processes regarding how these cases are graded and allocated have already been made.

‘We have a child centred policing strategy at Hampshire Constabulary that commits to putting the protection of young people and children at the heart of everything we do.

‘We continue to work hard to improve and ensure that those most at risk in our communities are given the care and support they need.’ 

A spokesperson for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘Our sincere condolences remain with the family and friends of Sam and Chris Gould.

‘We welcome the findings of the serious case reviews published today, and we will continue the improvements already made to our services, working with partners to ensure all learnings from the reviews are acted upon.’  

For confidential help and support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a Samaritans branch 


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