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February 12, 2019

13-year-old Amber Peat was keeping stepdad's secret before she killed herself, inquest heard

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Although there were many warning signs about the situation that the girl was living, the social services did not manage to protect her from the abuse that she lived.

At the school where Amber Peat was studying, they noticed many alarming things, but the mechanisms to protect children failed. Amber was found hanged behind some bushes after having fled the house, after an argument with her parents over the excess of domestic tasks imposed on her.

These warning signs were reported by the school's assistant director to the local child protection center, MASH (Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub), in Nottingham County. Amber's teachers began to worry after hearing her say she was forced to wash each pot and fret from her home.

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Karen Green, the deputy director, said in a hearing about the case that Amber's family was moving a lot and that each time they began to call the attention of social workers, they moved again.

When she referred Amber to MASH for the first time, she said: "this one sounds the alarms, it doesn’t feel good, my instinct tells me something is wrong, but I don’t know what it is".

Authorities were contacted twice for the case of Amber but never managed to reach the threshold required to begin a formal case, leading the forensic expert who handled the case, Laurinda Bower, to question the way the system operates.

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The teacher added that Amber had mentioned a "big secret" at home, which she did not have permission to discuss. The secret turned out to be the sentence of imprisonment of her stepfather for fraud to the treasury, and that she had been subjected to the punishment of washing the pots.

In 2014, Daniel Peat was arrested for 16 months, due to a tax fraud of £ 120,000. Peat and an accomplice admitted to introducing fraudulent refund requests for more than £ 200,000. Peat would have been the instigator of the fraud, earning more than £ 78,000 in the process.

Bower confirmed that there were two calls from the Queen Elizabeth School to MASH, where Amber was studying before the tragedy. One was in September 2014, and the other was six months later.

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On both occasions, an employee took the data from the callers (a key employee of the school, and then the assistant principal), and delivered the file to a qualified social worker. But the case did not reach the "threshold" required for a formal intervention of social services.

The second call that MASH received in March 2015, two months before Amber's death, was on behalf of Sharon Clay, an employee of the school. She reported that Amber had pants that were not her size. The investigation determined that she was forced by her mother to use them for not putting her normal pants on the washing machine.

She was also forced to use a cheap plastic bag to carry her things. Clay added that she thought Amber was "emotionally abused" by her stepfather, who forced her to wash the floors of the house at midnight.

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However, the teacher's concern was not enough to get social services involved, and sadly, the 13-year-old girl was found hanged. Initial reports revealed to the public that the girl was afraid to go home after losing the belt of her coat.

Teacher Joanne Holland commented that on one occasion she had to call Amber's mother because she was very scared to go home. "She was worried about going home because she had lost the belt of her coat," Holland told Nottinghamshire Coroner Court.

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Amber's body was discovered in June 2015, 3 days after leaving her home in Mansfield. The investigation of her death determined that her parents waited almost eight hours before reporting her disappearance past midnight.

Nearly four years after her death, British authorities are conducting an inquest into the circumstances surrounding her demise.

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