Letter: Council help and police support for a murder victim

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The Independent Online
Sir: The sad death of Edna Phillips of Penywaun deeply shocked the people of Cynon Valley ('Despair and death on an estate without hope', 10 March). It would be unfeeling indeed, not to experience deep sympathy for Miss Phillips, and anguish at the manner of her death. It is inevitable that we ask ourselves whether the council could have done more to have prevented Miss Phillips's untimely death, as suggested in your leading article (10 March).

An objective appraisal of Miss Phillips's request for assistance does not, however, support the view of an unresponsive bureaucracy. She was most certainly not ignored and appropriate assistance was offered.

Miss Phillips asked to move in late September 1988, because she could not get on with her neighbours. By January 1989 a one-bedroom flat was offered in a quiet neighbourhood of predominantly elderly people. Miss Phillips refused that dwelling, saying the flat was too small and she would prefer a two- or three-bedroom house instead. Apparently, she was concerned that her possessions would not fit into a smaller dwelling.

It was explained to Miss Phillips that, because of the many people on the waiting list, the larger dwellings would probably be allocated to families with children. She was strongly advised to accept that particular flat, or even one with two bedrooms, but she remained adamant that it was only a family house she would accept. Miss Phillips also expressed a very strong preference for a particular street, which, of course, compounded the problem of rehousing her.

Even though Miss Phillips had refused alternative accommodation, she still remained on the waiting list as wishing to move - albeit she did not pursue the request. In July 1991 a bungalow became available in the very street which Miss Phillips had earlier said she would like to live. But she refused that bungalow as well, for the same reasons as before. She wanted a house and only a house.

Since Miss Phillips would not accept the council's offer of alternative accommodation, why could we not have done something about her neighbours? This is easier said than done. Disagreements between neighbours are not uncommon and are most difficult to resolve. The council had a statutory obligation to Miss Phillips's neighbours, who were living in a dwelling suitable for their needs. We did not have sufficient, corroborated evidence to have forced an eviction, or even a transfer.

As Miss Phillips was so very discriminating about where she would live, it was understandable for housing officers to interpret her plight as less than desperate. If this judgement was wrong, it was only so with hindsight. I do not accept that the council failed Miss Phillips. Her requests were heeded. Appropriate and tangible help was offered. Sadly, Miss Phillips felt she could not accept that help.

The Judge, in passing sentence on the two girls who so savagely murdered Miss Phillips, said: 'You are evil products of the modern age.' Please do not lay the blame for this malaise in society at the door of a local housing authority. You must look elsewhere for a cause and, far more importantly, an effective and permanent cure.

Yours faithfully,

M. M. EVANS

Chairman

Housing Services Committee

Cynon Valley Borough Council

Aberdare, Mid Glamorgan

(Photograph omitted)

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