The mother and stepfather of a 13-year-old girl who was found hanged after a family argument “lacked emotional warmth” towards her, a coroner has concluded.
Amber Peat’s body was found three days after she went missing from her home following a row with her mother over household chores.
The inquest had previously heard that the 13-year-old had told teachers she had to scrub the floor until 1.30am and that her stepfather had forced her to wear a “ridiculous” outfit to school.
Amber’s mother, Kelly Peat, and stepfather Danny Peat, insisted the accusations were lies, but were described as “not concerned in the slightest” about Amber’s welfare by coroner Laurinda Bower on Friday.
She also said professionals had “not asked the right questions” and was concerned at the 11 “missed opportunities” leading up to the youngster’s death.
Concluding with a narrative verdict at the inquest at Nottingham Coroner’s Court on Friday, Ms Bower said: “In evidence, both Mr and Mrs Peat sought to present as concerned parents.
“Mrs Peat said she repeatedly asked Amber what was wrong but she would not answer.
“Mrs Peat said that as soon as she heard the door slam, she went to look for Amber.
“Their behaviour in going to the supermarket and then the car wash, of leaving a missing Amber with no way of getting into the property, and of waiting some seven and a half hours before calling the police, in fact fits squarely with the picture that neither of them was concerned in the slightest when Amber left the house.”
She added: “Perhaps in light of the tragic outcome, both Mr and Mrs Peat would wish to believe that they demonstrated more care when Amber went missing.”
Turning to agencies involved in Amber’s welfare, the coroner said:
“Considering Amber’s age, her emotional immaturity and her undoubted vulnerability, and the absence of any professional ever having properly assessed Amber’s risk of self harm or suicide, I am not able to determine, on the balance of probabilities, Amber’s intention at the time of her death.
“My task has been hindered by the lack of information gathered by professionals as to Amber’s thoughts, wishes and feelings.
“If the right questions had been asked, the information may have presented itself but I cannot speculate as to what that information may have indicated.”
Mr and Mrs Peat admitted that neither of them were worried when Amber stormed out of her home in Bosworth Street, Mansfield, on May 30, 2015, because they believed she was “close by” and expected her to return.
Despite the youngster having a history of running away, Mrs Peat only called police to report her missing nearly eight hours later, at 12.56 am the following day.
She admitted she should have called sooner, when she gave evidence at the inquest.
The couple decided to go shopping, have the family car washed and have tea, during the time the youngster was missing.
Although up to 400 police staff were involved in the search for Amber, her body was only recovered on June 2.
Ms Bower concluded the medical cause of death was hanging.
Speaking on behalf of Mrs Peat outside Nottingham Coroner’s Court, solicitor Amy Robinson said: “Like all parents, Kelly knows she is not perfect, but she has done, and continues to be, the best parent she can for her children.
“While Kelly does not agree with all of the coroner’s findings, the coroner’s conclusion was that with the right assessment and support from the education, health and social care agencies involved with Amber and her family, it is possible that Amber’s life may not have ended the way it did and when it did.
“Kelly wonders whether things could have been different had Amber and her family received more support and advice for Amber’s behaviour.”
The statement continued: “She proactively sought help on numerous occasions with Amber, and tried to work with the agencies as much as possible.
“Kelly was always willing to engage with any support offered, but no-one got to the bottom of why Amber behaved the way that she did.
“While nothing will bring Amber back, Kelly is keen to ensure that the authorities learn from their mistakes, make the changes needed, and support families more in the future.
“Kelly will always wonder why Amber did what she did.
“She and her family find it impossible to believe that Amber purposely set out to take her own life.
“Kelly feels strongly that Amber would not have meant to deliberately harm herself or mean for this to happen.”
Ms Robinson added: “Now the inquest has concluded, Kelly would like to bring the focus back to Amber.
“She and her family will do all that they can to ensure Amber’s memory is kept alive, and they will forever remember her as a wonderful, loving, clever, kind, inquisitive and beautiful girl.
“A girl who loved reading, who was quick, clever and a true joker.
“Kelly will always miss her beautiful and thoughtful first-born daughter. She is always thinking about Amber, and what she would be doing now.
“She doubts the pain of having to live her life without her will ever go away.”