Holbrook tragedy: Family’s hope that ‘lessons are learned’

Auden Slack
Auden Slack
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The family of a mother and toddler son who died in the triple stabbings tragedy have said they hope lessons can be learned to protect those at risk of domestic violence.

The jury in the stabbings inquest decided that pregnant mum Rachael Slack and her toddler son, Auden, were unlawfully killed and her ex-partner, Andrew Cairns, who was found with them, took his own life.

Ms Slack, 38, her former partner Mr Cairns, 44, and their 23-month-old son, died from multiple stab wounds.

They were found at a cottage in Well Yard in Holbrook on June 2, 2010, where Rachael lived with Auden.

After the hearing at Derby and South Derbyshire Coroner’s CourtMs Slack’s family said on Tuesday that they felt ‘failings’ by the police were in part to blame for the pair’s deaths.

Sarah Ricca, speaking on behalf the family, said: “We have spent the last six weeks at the coroner’s court in Derby hearing of the failures of Derbyshire police after they assessed both Rachael and Auden as being at high risk of homicide.

“We have also heard concerning evidence about the police and mental health to share information.”

The family stated they were grateful to the coroner and the jury for their work ‘in ensuring that these failings are brought to light’.

Ms Ricca went on to say: “The space that has been left in our lives by the tragic loss of Rachael and Auden will never be re-filled and never should be.

“Rachael was a devoted mother, a beautiful and truly caring person with a positive outlook on life. We hope that the jury’s finding that police failings contributed to the deaths of both Rachael and Auden and also various reports to be made by the coroner will ensure lessons are learned that will protect the lives of other women and children threatened by domestic violence - a problem the coroner described today as an epidemic.

“We would also add our voice to the calls that Refuge and other families such as the family of Maria Stubbings for a public inquiry into state failings in response to domestic violence.”

Answering questions after the verdicts, Rachael’s partner at the time Robert Barlow said they wanted to call their unborn baby George.

He hoped that the jury’s decision would play an important role in supporting parents at risk of domestic violence.

He said: “I believe that now the coroner’s court has reached its conclusion that this is the point at which changes are made to safeguard the everyday family or single parent.

“These changes could provide a safety blanket of support for the Rachael’s and Audens of the future and give the police better direction of which course of action to put in place for future potential victims.

“The work that has been done by the coroner’s court over the last six weeks must now make a difference.”

Rachel Adamson, a partner at the solicitors which represented the Cairns family, said afterwards he was ‘totally let down’ by the mental health trust.

“Andrew had mental health issues and was arrested under the Mental Health Act only days before,” she said.

“Specifically, the family is disappointed that the mental health trust failed to verify background information with family members which it was, as the coroner pointed out, common practice in psychiatric medicine to do so.

“They also failed to make an adequate record of the Mental Health Act assessment on Andrew against common protocol, and failed to adequately co-ordinate the care of Andrew which included a failure to maintain a co-ordinated set of healthcare records.

“They feel strongly that more could have been done and ultimately Rachael, Andrew and Auden would all still be here today if all of the concerns raised had been listened to and acted appropriately upon at the time.”

Coroner Dr Robert Hunter is to write to the Home Office with details of the finding from the inquest.

Professor Steve Trenchard, chief executive of Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said in a statement: “We would like to extend our sympathies to the family and friends of Rachael, Auden and Andrew for their loss of a loved one in this tragedy.

“We welcome the coroner’s findings that there was no evidence presented over the past six weeks regarding Andrew’s care that a jury could properly consider was in breach of Article Two of the European Convention of Human Rights.

“We will assess the jury’s conclusions and coroner’s comments in more detail as part of our determination to be always changing, always improving, to meet the needs of the people of Derbyshire we serve.

“Immediately after this incident in 2010, we launched our own investigation into the full circumstances behind it.

“We developed and delivered a far-reaching action plan to improve the quality of our care and take it to new levels of best practice wherever possible.”