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Police and family statements following the inquest into the death of Hope Barden

Hope Barden

The death of Hope Barden, aged 21, in March 2018 was tragic and our thoughts and condolences remain with her parents and family.

At the inquest into to her death today (Wednesday 26 June), the Coroner, Mr Andrew Haigh, returned a conclusion of unlawful killing.

Hope's body was discovered by her flat mate at her address in Wood Street, Burton-upon-Trent on 15 March 2018. Staffordshire Police attended the scene.

A post mortem showed she died from asphyxiation. Examination of her phone showed she had been involved in an online relationship with a man, who had encouraged her to engage in dangerous acts of a sexual nature.

A comprehensive investigation was completed by Staffordshire Police's Criminal Investigation Department and, as a result Jerome Dangar, aged 45, from north Cornwall, was arrested in connection with her death in May 2018.

Dangar was separately convicted of possession of extreme pornographic images in January 2019 and jailed for 15 months. Meanwhile, detectives continued their investigation into the circumstances surrounding Hope's death.

Following consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, police submitted a file to consider potentially charging Dangar with manslaughter in connection with the death of Hope. This was after it was proved he had been online while she died and there was no attempt to raise any emergency response to the danger he had put her in.

However, Dangar was found dead in his prison cell in HMP Dartmoor in April 2019.

Detective Inspector John Quilty, from Staffordshire CID, said: "The death of Dangar ultimately prevented prosecutors from charging him in connection with Hope's death as a result of sexually-related role play. This type of online sexual activity is extremely dangerous and the repeated persuasion and dangerous requests that Dangar placed on Hope ultimately led to her death.

"Hope was a 21-year-old woman and her death was tragic. Throughout the investigation our officers have remained in contact with Hope's family and have updated them with details. Our thoughts remain with them. We are also grateful for the support from Hope's friends, as well as her family."

DI Quilty added: "Staffordshire Police continues to investigate with a view to understanding the behaviours of those who use the internet to engage in such dangerous acts. The tragic death of Hope, and the potential consequences for Dangar, should send a strong deterrent message to those who engage in such dangerous sexual acts and make requests of others whilst online, anywhere in the UK."

Kate Barden, mother of Hope, said: "Hope was a beautiful, intelligent young woman. She had completed her foundation degree in adolescent mental health and had recently returned from working in Norway. Hope had paid work in the Burton area as a carer for people with learning disabilities.

"Hope had been earning extra money working in the online adult film industry. Unregulated, this industry serves no one except those who wish to perpetrate violence against women. Hope became the subject of interest of a regular user of the site who paid her to perform sexual acts via the internet, which over three months of contact escalated into degrading and dangerous situations.

"We are sorely disappointed that this case can no longer bring any legal justice for Hope. Had this gone to court, this would be a landmark case, the first of its kind in the UK. As it is, we will be issuing our report and findings to every police force in the UK in the trust that should a dreadful situation like this arise again, there is a record of how we approached such a sensitive and difficult issue.

"Anyone with daughters or other relatives involved in this terrible industry must be aware of the risk of harm. A duty of care exists in any relationship. If someone is obviously in danger, one has a legal obligation to take steps to help. In this tragic case, Hope was left to die. Hope's family and friends have been devastated. They sincerely wish to thank Staffordshire Police and Devon and Cornwall Police for the enormous amount of time and work undergone during the investigation and for the ongoing support received."

26 Jun 2019 12:09:19 BST
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