THE devastated parents of "beautiful and loving" schoolgirl Dana Baker - who was found hanged after 18 months in foster homes - believe she might still be alive if her care placements had been better managed.
Trevor Baker said in a statement read to the inquest into his 16-year-old daughter’s death that neither he nor his wife, Patricia, could understand why she had decided she did not want to live with or see them.
Dana, an A level student at Stourport High School and VIth Form College, was taken into foster care by Worcestershire County Council after she took an overdose at her family home in Wolverley in May, 2009.
She had disclosed to staff at Wolverley CE Secondary School, which she then attended, that she had been in a relationship with her karate instructor, Jaspal Riat, who was aged 49 when he was jailed for eight years in September, 2011 for sexually abusing her.
The sentence on Riat came six months after Dana was found hanging from a tree near the Worcester Road island in Kidderminster on March 3, 2011.
Mr and Mrs Baker sat before Senior Worcestershire Coroner Geraint Williams for all 11 days of the Stourport inquest - a photograph of their only daughter on the desk in front of them facing the witness box.
The hearing has now ended and Mr Williams will deliver his conclusions next Thursday.
In his statement, Mr Baker said he and his wife had not been aware that Dana was having difficulties until her school contacted them to say the youngster had been self-harming and they made an appointment for her to see their GP.
On May 6, 2009, Mr Baker found Dana after she took an overdose at their home and his wife resuscitated her before an ambulance crew took her to Worcestershire Royal Hospital.
She was later treated at the Darwin psychiatric unit in Stoke-on-Trent, where Mr and Mrs Baker visited her every week.
“We were devastated when she said she didn’t want to come home,” said the statement, which was endorsed by his wife.
“My wife and I loved Dana and were concerned about her wellbeing.”
He added that, in her first foster placement, he and his wife used to meet up with Dana and her carer for meals and the teenager also used to visit her grandmother’s.
They thought she would eventually want to come home but Dana then moved to new foster carers, Tara Kelly and Dan Hulbert, in Kidderminster and her real parents were "frantic" because social services had not told them where she was.
Mr Baker added that, when she was with Tara and Dan, Dana was "not allowed" to see her parents and they had to leave birthday presents outside for her.
They last saw their daughter at Christmas, 2009 at her grandmother’s home, when she gave them a "big hug" as though she knew she would not see them again.
When she turned 16 in August, 2010, Dana said she did not want to see her real parents. “We didn’t understand what was happening,” said Mr Baker. “We thought we had parental rights until 18.”
It was around four hours after Dana died before Mr and Mrs Baker were given the devastating news and it was not until later that they found that her placement with Tara and Dan had broken down.
“We understand that Dana left a note saying she wanted to go home to Mum and Dad and we are sure that she was referring to us in that note, rather than Tara and Dan,” said Mr Baker.
He ended his statement by saying: “If her placement had been better managed we wouldn’t be in this position today.”
In a brief statement of her own Mrs Baker said she was concerned that Tara and Dan had asked Dana to call them "mum and dad" and their children her "brothers".
The coroner also read a tribute from Mr and Mrs Baker, describing her as a "very loving girl", who loved animals, spent many hours cleaning out horses at the stables, was very good at art and showed leadership with the youth group, Who Cares We Care.
Her parents said Dana spoke five languages - English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish and had started to learn Mandarin.
She represented Britain in karate, was a kickboxing champion and could read before she went to school.
“Dana was well known for her milky cup of tea and her love for KFC,” added the tribute.
“Dana will be remembered for her politeness, great manners, loving and caring personality and her great sense of humour.
“Dana’s death has left a big hole in our hearts that can never be filled, a missing link in the family that can never be mended.
“Dana has always been loved. Dana was a beautiful daughter, the best anyone could have wished for.”