Seeing her mum shot dead by abusive stepdad at 14 spurred Georgia to take stand for women

By ITV News Central Journalist Rosie Dowsing

A teenager from Shropshire whose mother was killed by her stepdad believes if police had been better trained to spot the signs of domestic abuse, she might still be alive.

Georgia Gabriel-Hooper, who is now 18-years-old, witnessed her mum Cheryl being shot through the window of her car in Newport in January 2018.

Andrew Hooper was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 31 years for her murder.

The day before Cheryl died, West Mercia Police came to visit Cheryl and Georgia while investigating Hooper's behaviour.

The couple had split up three weeks beforehand, but for the last six weeks he had been stalking Cheryl, even fitting a tracker on to her car.

For years he had also been coercively controlling her. Cheryl was cut off from her friends and family while living on his rural farmhouse estate.

Farmer Andrew Hooper was found guilty of murdering his wife in a shotgun attack outside her home. Credit: Supplied

When the police came to visit, Cheryl and Georgia had moved into a new rented home in Newport, Shropshire, to start a new life away from Hooper.

The officer did not have with him a DASH Risk Checklist (Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Honour-based violence assessment), which is a tool used by all police forces to identify when someone might be at risk of domestic abuse.

It involves a series of questions based on research about the indicators of high-risk domestic abuse.

After Cheryl's death, West Mercia Police force referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

Speaking about the missed warning signs, Georgia said: "The IOPC declared that it was a lack of resources, but that the officer had asked questions to the best of his ability without having that piece of paper."

Georgia wants West Mercia police force, and every force across the country, to ensure all officers receive compulsory specialist domestic abuse training, and put it into action.

"They're walking into a situation where they don't know what's happened.

"It could be that the victim could end up looking like the perpetrator, because they've just snapped in that situation.

"Going into a coercive situation, it can look like it's a big misunderstanding. Perpetrators are very good at manipulating situations and making it look like there's nothing going on."

"So officers need to be able to read a situation well, understand the victim, and know whether it is physical abuse or coercive control."

West Mercia Police force said: "So far we have delivered five phases of DA Matters training (endorsed by the College of Policing) for officers and call takers in the force control room, developed an internal package which will be delivered to staff in the summer and completed DASH training for front line officers.

"All new students receive initial training and detectives have further training during their development."

Georgia Gabriel-Hooper with her mum, Cheryl. Credit: Supplied

'I wanted to look him in the eye and show him he hadn't broken me or my family'

Georgia was only 15 when she gave evidence against Andrew Hooper in her mother's murder trial.

Being the only witness to the murder, and an only child, the teenager felt it was the only way to get the justice her mother deserved.

Hooper got a minimum life sentence of 31 years in jail.

At the sentencing at Birmingham Crown Court in 2019, Judge Mark Wall QC said: "This was not a spur-of-the-moment killing, it was one that you [Hooper] had planned in the hours leading up to it. I am sure it was your intention to kill."

He added that Hooper showed no emotion at the unanimous guilty verdict, and did not express remorse when he fled the scene.

Reflecting on the trial, Georgia said: "Being only 15 at the time, and 14 when I witnessed the murder, I knew my statement was incredibly powerful, and could mean a harsher sentence."

"Also, I really wanted to stand in front of my stepfather and show him that he hadn't broken me, he hadn't broken my family, and we were going to get justice."

'It gets worse and worse, you can't see it coming'

Talking about the long periods of domestic abuse she witnessed when growing up, Georgia said: "It's like carbon monoxide poisoning."

"You can't see it, you can't smell it and you can't taste it, until it's too late."

The 18-year-old described her stepfather Andrew Hooper as "extremely manipulative," despite being "very charming at first".

"If you look at most cases, that's usually the way.

"People always say the perpetrator was charming, had lots of friends, and was very outgoing and social.

"And then over time it gets worse. It just gets worse and worse."

'There is hope and life after domestic abuse'

Living on the same estate in Newport where her mother was murdered, Georgia has to face the trauma of what happened every day when she walks past the spot on driveway.

Each time, she says, it gives her a renewed determination to raise more awareness of domestic abuse.

She has since shared her story on media platforms and bravely spoke at the Stand Up To Domestic Abuse conference in 2019 in front of hundreds of people.

She even started a petition at her own school in the years following her mother's death, to ensure pupils are taught about domestic abuse.

When asked by ITV Central what message she would give to current victims of coercive control or domestic violence, Georgia said:

"There is hope and there is life after domestic abuse.

"Just because that person may have made you feel that you are dependent on them, you're not. There will always be a way out.

"You can have a really happy and long life afterwards."

Help and support

If you need support or advice about anything visit our advice page.

Call the 24-hour National Domestic Abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247 for confidential, non-judgemental information and support.

Women's Aid - for information and support, email or use the instant messaging service.

Contact a local domestic abuse service by using the Domestic Abuse Directory.

If you are in immediate danger, call 999.