A despairing mother killed herself and her disabled daughter by setting her car on fire after enduring a relentless campaign of abuse from a gang of youths.
Unable to cope with the torment Fiona Pilkington, 38, drove with 18-year-old daughter Francecca Hardwick to a lay-by with a 10-litre can of petrol.
The single mother then doused old clothes in the back of the blue Austin Maestro before setting light to it with her daughter and herself still inside.
It is thought Mrs Pilkington, who also had a son, used her daughter's pet rabbit to ensure she would not try and get out of the vehicle.
Relatives today told an inquest that they believe she decided to kill her daughter out of fear that nobody else would be able to cope with her after her suicide.
The hearing, at Loughborough Town Hall, heard that she and her children had been targeted by a group of up to 16 youths.
The abuse started when the family moved into the house on Bardon Road in Barwell, Leicestershire, but it escalated after her severely dyslexic son, Anthony Hardwick, now 19, fell out with a friend who lived on the street.
The unnamed boy would taunt them at the front of their house by shouting: “We can do anything we like and you can’t do anything about it.”
Members of the gang would throw abuse at the family, pelt the house with stones, flour and eggs and would urinate on their property, the week before she died Mrs Pilkington taped up her letterbox to prevent the gang from pushing fireworks through it.
During one incident Fiona Pilkington’s son Anthony was put at knifepoint into a shed.
When the family made friends with the paperboy, the gang started abusing him so he stopped being friendly.
Despite dozens of calls to the police and Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council, little was done to help the family.
Mrs Pilkington's mother, Pam Cassell, told the hearing that at one point the council imposed a 300-yard exclusion zone for the youths around the family’s house but that it had failed to enforce it.
She said her daughter contacted the council four or five times and phoned police at least 10 times a year demanding help.
Mrs Cassell, 72, added: “Fiona couldn’t defend herself. She was very shy and she didn’t want any trouble so she tended to ignore them. She was very vulnerable.
“Fiona existed and they didn’t like it. I don’t think she was their sort and there was something that she did that they took exception to.”
Mrs Cassell said: “It was Halloween and firework night coming up and Fiona was dreading them because she knew that the children would start throwing things at the house and start putting fireworks through the letter box.
“They would start on Fiona and throw things and then go round the back and do things in the garden. It was always the same group of youths.
“They used to ring on the doorbell and say that she had been hitting her kids.
“Frankie was frustrated because she couldn’t go out in the garden without being tormented or teased. We used to take her to the park and take her out in the rain because she used to love jumping in puddles.
Frankie could be genuinely loveable but when she was frustrated she used to pull hair and bite and punch because she couldn’t do what she wanted to do.”
Mrs Cassell added: “On the day that they died, Fiona rang up the police and told them about the children who were walking on their hedge and she was told to just ignore them.
“The same girls that were walking on the hedge were taking the mickey out of Frankie and imitating the way she walked.
“On another day it was beautifully sunny and I asked her why she had the curtains drawn and she said the police had told them to do so, so they couldn’t see the children walking on the hedge.
“It was going on for so long I thought somebody would have done something. Fiona just gave up.”
She said that the family had never taken a holiday together and her daughter did not receive respite care because she did not know how to get it.
Mrs Cassell said: “She was in despair really, nobody did anything and she was just frustrated. She wanted them just to do something.
“Nobody was doing anything to help her, not the police, the council or the Neighbourhood Watch were doing anything.”
The blazing car was found in a lay-by on the A47 near Earl Shilton, Leicestershire on October 23, 2007..
The inquest heard that the petrol fumes inside the vehicle ignited and caused an explosion, blowing out the windows of the car.
Fire investigator Mark Speight said he believed the explosion to have caused Ms Pilkington, who was in the driver’s seat, next to her daughter, to jump with shock and slam her foot on the accelerator.
This caused the car to accelerate into a lorry in the lay-by.
Driver Stewart Bell was asleep in the cab of the lorry and was woken by the car bumping into a tractor which was attached to the back of it.
In a statement read to the court, Mr Bell said: “I could see the vehicle was on fire and I was afraid the vehicle would explode. The car was like an inferno.”
It really aggravates me that this woman didn't just feel so alone but she literally was left alone by the police, neighbourhood watch, etc who could have helped make life easier and more bearable for her. =[