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Dana Baker tragedy - background
7:00am Friday 30th May 2014 in News
Super bright, witty, a beautiful, sporty, artistic and musical all-rounder, Dana Baker should have had the world at her feet.
Instead, at the age of 13, her innocence was taken by her depraved karate instructor, who was eventually jailed for eight years, at the age of 49, for sexually abusing her.
Her abuse sparked a catastrophic downward spiral into self-harm and dangerous cries for help by Dana in apparent suicide attempts over the next three years.
Amid fears that her own parents, Trevor and Patricia Baker, were not up to the task of protecting her at their home in Wolverley, near Kidderminster, she was taken into foster care at the age of 14 after taking an overdose.
But, despite being under the wing of social workers and psychiatric experts, ultimately she hanged herself after her increasingly desperate pleas were lost in a system of overstretched social services and agencies not sharing information properly.
She was just 16 when she ended her life, on March 3 2011, after her second foster home – with a couple she had grown to call ‘mum and dad’ - broke down due to clashes over an extended member of the family to whom Dana had taken exception.
By then an A Level student at Stourport High School and VIth Form Centre, she impressed the professionals supporting her through her traumas with her intelligence and articulate conversation.
The harrowing story of Dana’s descent from a clever, bubbly girl, who represented Britain at karate, was a kickboxing champion and usually got ‘As’ or ‘Bs’ in her schoolwork, into the depths of despair unfolded during a 12-day inquest at Stourport Coroner’s Court.
In 2010, Dana was bracing herself to face down her abuser, Jaspal Riat, in court.
Billy-Ann Hambleton, then a community psychiatric nurse for South Worcestershire Child and Adolescent Service Mental Health Services (CAMHS), was giving therapy to Dana for post traumatic stress.
She told the inquest about Dana’s reaction to an incident when the case was postponed and a jury at Birmingham Crown Court discharged after it was revealed that the teenager had a meeting, with a social worker, at the home of the senior prosecuting barrister.
The pre-trial meeting had breached the professional code of conduct because the Crown Prosecution Service had not been notified and no police officer was present.
Miss Hambleton said: “I was astonished and delighted that she was really fed up rather than in despair.
“It was an age appropriate response to the ridiculous things that adults do sometimes.”
It was Dana herself who, when she was fed up about not having her own social worker due to a series of staff changes, approached Worcestershire’s head of children’s social care, Siobhan Williams, who arranged for a senior member of staff to take on the role.
In the end, though, Mrs Willliams’s staff, along with those from mental health services, were unable to protect the confident, though ‘extremely vulnerable’, young lady.
Dana’s heart-rending pleas as the pain of losing the foster carers she called ‘mum and dad’ tipped her over the edge were too much to bear for her real mother, wheelchair bound Patricia Baker, who wept frequently during the inquest.
Her devastated parents said in a statement they could not understand why she had decided she did not want to live with or see them after she moved to her second foster home, with Tara Kelly and Dan Hulbert.
Mr and Mrs Baker sat through all 11 days of evidence at the inquest - a photograph of Dana, their only child, in front of them facing the witness box.
Finally they brought to life their beautiful and talented daughter in a moving tribute read out by the coroner.
“Dana was well known for her milky cup of tea and her love for KFC,” they said.
“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.”
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