A teenage girl killed herself after her best friend was beaten to death by a mob outside a Tesco Express, an inquest has heard. Ciara Witt, 16, witnessed her close friend Jack Gudge, 17, get hit during a fight with a group of men outside a Tesco Express store and cradled him in her arms as he died.
An inquest heard she had taken his death very badly, with one friend describing it as the ‘last straw’ in her troubled life. Just days before her death she had attended Jack’s funeral and spent a lot of time at the cemetery by his graveside. Ciara disappeared on November 4 last year – the day after the funeral – and was later found dead in the garage of her home in Bournemouth, Dorset.
Police had been called at 11.30pm on the day she went missing and officers arrived at her house at about 4am on November 5 but failed to look in the garage at that time.
It wasn’t until 9.30pm that night that Caira’s body was found by a 15-year-old family friend. Today a police officer involved in the incident apologised for the mistake after the Dorset coroner raised concerns about the inadequate search. A message that a full search must be conducted had been disseminated across the force. The mistake was later compounded after investigating officers failed to remove specific items related to her suicide, leaving her already distressed family to do it.
Lesley Hartwell, Ciara’s grandmother, told the coroner she had to remove them. She said: ‘I had to go in to remove it and I want to know why that wasn’t done. It’s disgusting.’ The Dorset coroner Rachael Griffin said: ‘I am very sorry that you had to experience that. It is unacceptable. You should not have had to do that.’ Addressing the police officers at the inquest Mrs Griffin added: ‘That concerns me that you forgot to search the garage. How can you reassure me that won’t happen again?’ The hearing heard Ciara had some problems with her mood and had previously self-harmed and had been referred to CAMS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service). But she became very low following Jack’s death in July last year.
Jack died after falling to the ground and suffered brain injuries before going into cardiac arrest. Three men aged 27, 24 and 23 and a 15-year-old boy were initially arrested on suspicion of murder but police later confirmed no one will face criminal charges.
The inquest heard Ciara took an overdose of pills last August – a month after Jack’s death – and told her mum she ‘wanted to be with her friend’. Hundreds of mourners attended Jack’s funeral on November 3, where he was buried in a bright blue coffin designed to look like an Adidas shoebox. He had a flower arrangement spelling his favourite word ‘Chav’. Caira’s mother Melissa Witt last saw her on the morning of November 4 when she said her daughter seemed in ‘good spirits’ and there was nothing to indicate any concern.
Dean Diffey, 15, had been visiting Ciara’s brother and left the house to go to the shop when he heard a moped alarm going off in the garage at 9.30pm on November 5. He went to check it out and found Ciara’s body. The inquest heard Ciara’s body had fallen, which set the moped alarm. She was found unresponsive on the floor.
A statement by one of her best friends Carolanne Lowe said: ‘Ciara was best friends with Jack and his death had a huge impact – it was the final straw.. She was holding Jack in her arms when he died. ‘For the first month she found it really difficult and told me she didn’t want to be here anymore. ‘We talked about suicide but she said she couldn’t because of her mum, brother and sister. ‘As time passed she seemed stronger.’ PC Carpenter, of Dorset police, confirmed she had forgotten to search the garden and garage when she first arrived at Ciara’s house. She said she was ‘distracted’ when Miss Witt and her colleague PC Scott James entered the kitchen having been upstairs. She said: ‘Miss Witt appeared and seemed upset. I turned to have a conversation with her. ‘I didn’t realise until I returned to shift the next evening and had the sinking feeling that I hadn’t been outside. I am very sorry.’
This post first appeared at Metro online
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