Mum of twins who killed themselves after sexual abuse says ‘they could have been saved’

Sam Gould, 16, and her twin Chris, 17, from Hampshire, died within months of each other between September 2018 and January 2019, after developing Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) related to the sexual abuse they were subjected to from the age of six

Sam Gould and her twin Chris died within months of each other in 2018 and 2019
Sam Gould and her twin Chris died within months of each other in 2018 and 2019

The heartbroken mum of twin teenage girls who took their own lives after being haunted by the sexual abuse they suffered as children says professionals had multiple chances to save them.

Sam Gould, 16, and her twin Chris, 17, died within five months of each other between 2018 and 2019 after being haunted by the consequences of the abuse they suffered as youngsters – which they kept secret for almost a decade.

As two reports were published today, urging improvements in the wake of their deaths, the girls’ mum Jane Cannon claimed professionals had several opportunities to save them.

Jane said: “If the issues that they had had been spotted earlier, treated earlier, if the professionals at an earlier stage had been more curious, we think there were many opportunities early on to help them.”

Speaking to ITV Anglia, she added: “Opportunities to stop the abuse happening at a much earlier stage and give them the care and therapy they needed.

“Clearly, the longer it went on the worse it got for the girls and for us and the harder it would have been to make a difference.”

Inquests into their deaths ruled both girls died as a result of their mental health condition, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

Inquests, like one held at Huntingdon Town Hall, ruled that both deaths were linked to the twins’ mental condition

The psychiatric illness was linked in both cases to the sexual abuse they suffered as children.

In Chris’s case, her suicide was also linked to the loss of her beloved sister.

Coroner Nicholas Moss raised serious concerns about the treatment both girls received – which he highlighted in a Prevention of Future Deaths report.

The abuse started when they were living in Hampshire and just six years old. It continued for several years, the coroner heard.

Both girls were displaying worrying behaviour as youngsters, including Sam pulling out her hair and eyelashes.

Though it raised concerns among teachers, it wasn’t until Sam started self-harming aged 13 that she was offered support.

By this time, the family had moved to Cambridgeshire.

Chris was hospitalised when she was 14 after an attempt to take her own life.

Weeks later Chris told a friend about the abuse. Sam revealed her experiences during a police investigation.

Neither twin felt comfortable doing a police interview so the case was closed after a few months.

After they were told no action would be taken against the person who abused them, the girls felt “completely invalidated”, their parents said.

Twenty recommendations for improvements relating to both cases have been made in two reports and published by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Safeguarding Children Partnership Board.

They include changes in the way police approach sexual abuse victims, the education provision for children with mental health issues, as well as procedures for mental health services, children’s services, and how all of those agencies work together on complex cases.

Despite that, the serious case reviews do “not conclude that, had these things been in place” either of the sisters “would be with us today”

The Samaritans is available 24/7 if you need to talk. You can contact them for free by calling 116 123, email [email protected] or head to the website to find your nearest branch. You matter.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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