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Gang that made mother kill 'still at large'

Inquest told how family was driven to despair by youths on their estate

A group of children who terrorised a family so badly that the mother took her own life and that of her disabled daughter are still causing trouble on the estate today, a council worker said yesterday.

Fiona Pilkington, 38, and her two children Francecca and Anthony Hardwick, were subjected to verbal and physical attacks from the gang at their home in Barwell, Leicestershire.

Ms Pilkington became so despairing at the response from the council and police that she took her 18-year-old daughter, known as Frankie, to a secluded lay-by on the A47 in nearby Earl Shilton in October 2007. The mother then set light to their blue Austin Maestro, while she and Frankie, who had her pet rabbit with her to keep her calm, sat inside.

Yesterday, Ron Grantham, community safety manager at Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council told an inquest at Loughborough Town Hall that despite seeking an injunction against one family the culprits still caused problems on Bardon Road, where Mrs Pilkington had lived.

"Throughout this tragic case this family still continue to cause trouble to this day," he said. "It's not just one, it's members of the family."

Mr Grantham said the parents who were unable to control their children were ultimately to blame.

"It comes down to parental control," he said. "With the best will in the world, and we have done an awful lot of work, if you cannot get a level of parental control, the problems will escalate.

"I dread to think what will happen to these children, criminality wise. If they don't stop they are going to end up in prison. It is a wicked cycle unless intervention is put in to place to stop it. That's my honest opinion."

Mr Grantham admitted that had Ms Pilkington complained to the council today, her family would have received greater assistance as they would have realised they were the victims of what could be termed as hate crimes.

He added: "As a partnership between the council and police, we have introduced a way of protecting public confidence and we have introduced an awful lot of ways to stop anti-social behaviour."

Earlier the inquest heard Ms Pilkington, her daughter and her son Anthony, now 19, had suffered years of abuse at the hands of a gang of youths.

The 16-strong gang would often pelt their house with flour, eggs and stones, while Anthony was attacked with an iron bar and locked in a shed at knifepoint. They also put fireworks through the letterbox of the semi-detached 1930s council house and jumped on the hedges outside its front door, while screaming abuse as the family cowered inside. The inquest heard Mr Grantham and two of his colleagues dealt with 2,476 incidents of anti-social behaviour between April and December 2007. Of those 313 were in Barwell.

Assistant deputy coroner for Leicestershire and Rutland, Olivia Davison, asked him whether this was "an inordinate amount of work".

Mr Grantham replied: "To a degree. Obviously anybody can say that they need more staff but with the resources we have got I think we did a good job."

Mr Grantham also said Ms Pilkington was given a diary to detail the abuse she suffered but this was found, untouched, at her home following her death. The inquest continues and is expected to conclude this week.