Murder victim's mum says lessons must be learned
PUBLISHED: 16:58 26 November 2008 | UPDATED: 10:17 23 August 2010
Clare was beautiful inside and out, she came from a loving family, she was a trusting, caring girl and the last possible type of person you could imagine something like this happening to. She really thought the problem had been dealt with. These are th
Clare was beautiful inside and out, she came from a loving family, she was a trusting, caring girl and the last possible type of person you could imagine something like this happening to. She really thought the problem had been dealt with."
These are the words of Tricia Bernal, the mother of 22-year-old Clare Bernal who was shot dead by a former boyfriend at the Harvey Nichols department store in Knightsbridge, London, in 2005.
Miss Bernal, whose father Martin is from Orpington, died after former security guard Michael Pech, 30, shot her in the back of the head in broad daylight before turning the gun on himself.
He had been stalking her after a brief relationship they had earlier in the year. At the time of the murder he was on bail awaiting a sentence for harassment.
Tricia Bernal, who lives in Tunbridge Wells, told her heartbreaking story at a conference organised by the Kent and Medway Domestic Violence Strategy Group to raise awareness of domestic abuse.
Stalking is just one of many forms of domestic abuse, which includes psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse between adults who are intimate partners or family members.
Organised by the Kent and Medway Domestic Violence Strategy Group, the conference, which was held at the Kent Police College last Wednesday, was attended by 150 delegates and representatives from domestic violence forums, women's aid organisations and probation and children services.
Last year, there were 21,508 incidents of domestic abuse reported to Kent Police between April 2007 and March 2008.
In Bromley, reports of domestic violence has increased by 24.3 per cent in the last year with 1,264 between April 1 and November 9 this year compared to 1,017 recorded in the same period last year.
Mrs Bernal said: "Clare would never have seen herself as being affected by domestic violence. There are many, many types of domestic violence, mental harassment is as dangerous as physical harassment and has to be recognised as such.
"As far as Pech was concerned he had to gain control, even if it meant he had to take his own life. This should have been recognised early on that his mental state was such that he was still under the illusion that Clare still loved him and she would come round."
More needed to be done to stop domestic abuse, she said.
Since her daughter's murder, she has set up a charity to help victims of domestic abuse, and has campaigned for more family justice centres, with services for victims all under one roof.
She added: "Since my daughter's death there are a lot of things that can be learnt. There needs to be far better training, more emphasis on protecting the victim rather than just getting a conviction, listening to the victim, interviewing friends, work colleagues, and being aware that offenders on bail is a potentially very dangerous time.
"We must recognise that stalking is a specific crime, and the early symptoms can be identified and should be identified and acted upon.
"Conferences like this can help us raise awareness of the problem of domestic abuse, we must share our information and knowledge to help the victims of this problem."
Domestic abuse can also take the form of the much lesser reported issues of forced marriage and 'honour' based violence.
Shazia Qayum, 28, originally from Birmingham, is a team leader at Karma Nirvana, a charity which supports victims of forced marriages and honour based violence.
She herself was forced into marriage as a teenager.
When she came back from school one day, she was presented with a photograph of her first cousin and was told that was who she was getting married to, and no was not an option.
"I was taken out of school, was kept at home and was chaperoned wherever I went. I wasn't allowed to communicate with anyone. I was taken on a family holiday to Pakistan at the age of 17 and once we arrived I was told that if I didn't get married, my parents would leave me in Pakistan."
She was forced into the marriage, and was then told the only way she would be allowed back to England was if she sponsored her spouse for entrance into the UK.
"I was faced with two options, living the life of so-called honour for the sake of the family, the community and the extended family, or making the decision of leaving home, and my parents would disown me. I left home at the age of 18.
"I think things have improved since it happened to me, but I think the way forward is having the support of community leaders. They need to give out the message that this is wrong, they have the power and people will listen to them."
Alongside victims of domestic violence was an ex-offender, 43-year-old David.
A well educated city professional, he had an argument with this wife a year ago, and ended up hitting her.
He said: "You may think I am not the usual perpetrator of domestic violence. But it is much more common that anyone expects. This is not just a working class thing.
"Immediately afterwards I left the house without even looking at the damage I had caused. I was really in shock, because, I thought it just didn't match the conception of myself. I felt sorry immediately, wretched."
After the fight, he handed himself into the police station and was sentenced to three months probation and compulsory attendance on a 27-week Integrated Domestic Abuse Programme.
He added: "The course is so valuable, I think it should be taught in schools, I would recommend it to any man. It works with all relationships, not just sexual, but work as well.
"My life has been affected in every sense, now I only see my children once a week, I lost friends, I have moved, and my ex partner must be going through so much, she must feel angry, depressed and worthless.
"Be honest about it if you think you have a problem, acknowledge it, and be brutally honest with yourself. Don't try and deal with it with your partner, seek some sort of professional help. Just start starting. Look into support mechanisms available to you."
Chief Superintendent Lee Catling, chair of the Kent and Medway Domestic Violence Strategy Group and head of Kent Police's Public Protection Unit, says: "Domestic abuse is a serious issue. It is the leading cause of death for women aged between 19-44 years of age. It can happen in any home, regardless of race, sexuality, age, class or educational level.
"Domestic abuse has gone from being a silent crime to one that receives much attention from government, statutory bodies and the voluntary sector. While figures have increased, we continually encourage victims to come forward and report this horrendous crime."
The National Domestic Violence helpline is 0808 2000247 and the Kent Domestic Abuse Information Line is 0845 6036813.
The Karma Nirvana helpline number is 0800 5999 247. In an emergency, call 999.