A social worker who had visited the home of the Mansfield teenager who took her own life said she felt there was ‘no immediate risk’ to her life – despite the young girl repeatedly running away from home.
Amber Peat, 13, was found hanged in a hedgerow in 2015 and an inquest into her tragic death examined the precautions taken by agencies to protect her.
The hearing was told Amber had run away three or four times, first in January 2014, before the visit by the family resource worker, Sarah Hart. The incidents had not been reported to the police.
Amber Peat (pictured above) hanged herself after fleeing home after a row with her stepfather
Family resource worker Sarah Hart gave evidence to Nottingham coroner’s court. As part of a multi-agency team she had been sent after police reported her missing.
Mrs Hart admitted there was no written action plan on what to do if Amber went missing again. She made the visit because a missing person referral had to be conducted within 72 hours.
She said: ‘Amber was well, there was no immediate risk and there was no need to go into full details. That would come later.’
Before the final time Amber went missing, Mrs Hart had been to the house to discuss her disappearance with her and her family.
She said: ‘I discussed with Amber the issues about not putting herself at risk and the worry she had caused. To find out why she had absconded would have been for a future visit. My priority was to build up trust with her.’
Daniel Peat (right) Amber’s stepfather, left Nottingham Coroner’s Court today after saying he had comforted Amber during a school meeting
Mrs Hart said she asked Amber why she ran away while her mother Kelly present.
She said: ‘She didn’t answer, her mother did. I asked if I could speak to Amber alone upstairs and she said “I don’t like putting children under too much pressure.”‘
The family’s GP referred them over conflict in the home and also for Daniel Peat, Amber’s stepfather, and his mental health issues.
But Mrs Hart said she had not asked the family to consent for her to share information with other agencies. She said: ‘If a mental health worker had concerns they would have referred that in.’
The inquest at Nottingham Coroner’s Court has previously been told Amber’s mother and stepfather didn’t report her missing for almost eight hours, and heard claims from teachers that she ‘didn’t get as much attention at home as would be considered normal’.
Yesterday, Joanne Robinson, a multi-agency team (MAT) manager at Derbyshire County Council also gave evidence, saying that Amber had been referred to have one-on-one meetings between with a youth worker.
The inquest heard that shortly after the sessions ended, in around April 2014, Amber ran away from home following an argument and eventually ended up at her school, Tibshelf Secondary, at 9pm at night. Her Head of Year, David Wallace, was contacted by a caretaker and called Amber’s family – but they couldn’t come to fetch her ‘because their dog was in labour’.
Mr Wallace caught up with Amber at school the next day, it was said, with the youngster claiming her parents had ‘grilled’ her over what she had told him. But they couldn’t come in to discuss the matter with staff because they had ‘been awake all night with the dog’.
Shortly afterwards, the MAT team received a ‘case note’ from the school regarding a number of concerns about Amber.
Amber’s mother Kelly Peat (pictured above)
The inquest heard these included a fear she would ‘slip through the net’ when the family moved house, the fact they had ‘stopped calling the police’ when she ran away, and the failure to collect her when she turned up at school at night.
It also referred to an occasion when she was ‘made to wash every pot in the house’ – and said Amber had claimed she ‘couldn’t celebrate her birthday this year because of her behaviour’.
Today contrasting images of Amber were revealed at an inquest into the 13-year-old’s death.
School support manager Emma Dunn described her as ‘pleasant, bubbly and enthusiastic girl, a lively character,’ although she ‘struggled to concentrate.’
She compared that with Amber’s behaviour when called into a meeting with her mother Kelly and stepfather Daniel Peat.
In a statement read at the hearing, Miss Dunn said that it ‘left her with an uneasy feeling.’ At the inquest at Nottingham Council House, Miss Dunn said that Amber was ‘quiet and withdrawn.’
She said: ‘Amber was very different with how she presented.’
Amber’s stepfather Daniel Peat told the hearing that he comforted Amber during the meeting in school.
‘I put my arms around her, saying that it’s going to be all right,’ said Mr Peat.
He told the inquest that a mentor was identified for Amber to ‘contact one to one.’
The school meeting took place a year before Amber was found hanged in bushes on June 2, 2015. She walked out of her home three days before.
Today’s sitting revealed:
– Amber had previously ran away but her parents had been too busy to look for her as their ‘dog was in labour’
– Amber had seen a doctor several times with her mother Kelly, in regards to her relationship with her stepfather Danny Peat
– It was also revealed that Mr Peat is said to have had mental health issues
– On the night that Amber vanished she had been arguing with her stepfather
– The family had previously visited Daniel Peat’s mother, and while at the house amber was made to sit in the corner and not speak to anyone
Amber (pictured above) was a pupil of Tibshelf Community School
The meeting at the school had been intended to start a formal assessment of the teenager because of concerns about her behaviour. This was not completed because her pregnant mother felt ill and had to leave.
Assistant Coroner Laurinda Bower asked whether this was ‘a missed opportunity to do something more for Amber.’
Miss Dunn said it was decided to ‘continue to monitor Amber while she was in school.’
At the time, Amber was a pupil of Tibshelf Community School. Soon after she moved to Queen Elizabeth School in Mansfield, making it the eleventh time the teenager had moved house in her life.
Miss Dunn said: ‘She didn’t want to move. I think she was settled, whether they were her words or not.’
The coroner asked: ‘Was there concern for Amber, to use the phrase, ‘falling through the cracks?’
Miss Dunn replied: ‘The changes were upsetting as it was. She did not say why she was going.’
The coroner asked: ‘During your time with Amber, was there a mention of self-harm, suicide, anything of that nature?’
Shaking her head, Miss Dunn said: ‘None at all.’
Ms Robinson also said that a team of professionals including education, health and children’s workers – became involved with Amber’s family in January 2014, 16 months before her death, following a referral from the teenager’s GP.
The family did not report Amber missing until they had ‘been to Tesco and had their tea’. Pictured above the missing poster which was put up once it had been reported that Amber was missing
Volunteers from the local community (pictured above) pitched in during the search for Amber
She’d been to see the doctor with her mother, Kelly Peat, about a number of concerns surrounding her behaviour and relationship with stepfather Danny.
The coroner, when asking Ms Robinson questions, summarised a list of issues that had been discussed at the GP appointment, including Amanda’s stepfather Danny having ‘mental health issues.’
MAT staff went to visit the family – but the inquest heard an assessment that could have provided a better picture of what was going on in the home wasn’t carried out, and information wasn’t sought from other agencies, including adult mental health services.
There was also no thought given to observing the ‘family dynamics’ at the address, something that was flagged up by the GP, with a ‘focus on housing needs’ instead.
And the only action taken was a series of one-to-one meetings between Amber and a youth worker, coroner Laurinda Bower was told.
On the second day of the inquest, there was evidence that Amber was twice thought to have run away from school. On one occasion, she was found in the school library.
A post mortem said there was no evidence to suggest anyone else was involved.
On the night Amber vanished from home, the family had returned from a holiday in Cornwall. She got into trouble for drinking Cherryade without permission. Later the door slammed and she left. Her family searched and alerted police officers five hours later.
Earlier this week, DC Gilfoyle said that while Amber was missing, police interviewed a ‘child witness’ who revealed how she had ‘been in trouble quite a lot’ during the half-term break.
Amber had also told teachers at her school she felt ‘very put upon’ and ‘had lots of jobs to do’ at home and that she felt her siblings had an easier life.
The officer told the hearing: ‘There had been arguments and Amber had been prevented from going to the beach.
‘Together with a cousin she had written a ‘runaway list’ on a laptop. It was quite a childish list with a wig, torch and rope. The cousin thought it was a joke.
‘There had been an apparent incident in the car on the way home where Amber had taken some Cherryade without asking and had been scowling at Danny Peat, and had been told to sit in the back of the Zafira.
‘Danny Peat said if she scowled at him again he was going to hit her.
‘She (the witness) said Amber was only allowed sandwiches and not nice things as a result of her behaviour, because she had been misbehaving and cheeky.
As a punishment when she got home she had to clean the car out, the family are then said to have gone about their daily businesses, picking up the pets and visiting the home of Danny Peat’s mother, where Amber was apparently told to sit on a chair in the corner and not talk to anyone.
‘They eventually go home and Amber is told to clean the cool box out that they had their sandwiches in. She was not happy about it and objected to it. ‘She is reported as complaining and trying to get her mum’s attention, and so her mum shuts the door, leaving Amber alone in the hallway. A short while later the door slams and Amber is gone.
‘They went intending to look for Amber but could not see her. They went to Tesco and did some shopping and had their tea.’
The inquest heard it was likely Amber died shortly after she was seen by a member of the public entering hedgerow at around 5.50pm that day. But her body wasn’t discovered for 72 hours.