`Hostel was not locked' when girl was killed

THE MOTHER of a 13-year-old girl who was raped and murdered while staying at a French youth hostel yesterday accused an education authority of negligence in not ensuring the doors of the building were locked.

Sue Dickinson, from Launceston, Cornwall, is suing Cornwall County Council following the murder of her daughter, Caroline, who was asphyxiated while staying in Brittany in 1996 as part of a school trip. If Mrs Dickinson is successful in her claim she will receive pounds 22,578 in damages.

On the first day of the civil claim, the High Court in Plymouth was told that the two external doors to the hostel were unlocked on the night Caroline died.

Caroline was murdered in a bedroom, which she was sharing with other four girls, by an unidentified intruder while at the hostel in Pleine Fougeres on 18 July 1996. She was among a party of 40 pupils, aged between 10 and 14, supervised by teachers from Launceston Community College.

Stephen Killalea, representing Mrs Dickinson, told the court that the teenager's bedroom was on the first floor of the hostel, directly above the front door.

Speaking publicly for the first time about her daughter's murder, Mrs Dickinson said in a statement given to the court that she was "horrified" to hear about the lack of security.

Before the outing Mrs Dickinson met Liz Barker, a teacher who was responsible for the trip. "[Mrs Barker] said that it was small and friendly and she knew the people who ran the hostel from her previous visits," Mrs Dickinson said.

"Nothing was asked about the security or how the hostel had been chosen. I simply assumed, as I think most people did, that the accommodation would be suitable for school groups and secure."

Mrs Dickinson said that Caroline, who was studying French and was "very independent and bright", had paid for part of the holiday herself.

She left on a coach on 14 July and later that day telephoned home, describing the hostel as "crappy".

Mrs Dickinson said: "I feel that they [the school] failed to carry out any appropriate checks to ensure the suitability of the accommodation for a group of schoolchildren. As a direct result an intruder was able to walk into the accommodation without any challenge and murder my daughter.

"I cannot understand why young children were allowed to sleep in a totally unsecured and unlocked building with unlocked bedrooms.

"Even if the building could not be locked at night, which I do not accept, it beggars belief that the bedroom doors were not locked."

Mrs Barker, who fainted in court after giving evidence, described in a statement how Caroline's body was discovered on the morning of 18 July. Two girls knocked on her door and asked if she could go and see Caroline "as they couldn't wake her and she was a funny colour".

Mrs Barker said the intruder could have "easily" climbed the outside of the building and entered through the bedroom window.

Timothy Kerr, for Cornwall County Council, said every aspect of the arrangements for the trip had been completed competently and diligently.

Also in court was Mrs Dickinson's former husband, John, from Bodmin, Cornwall, who is not a party to the civil action.

The case continues.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence