St Columb mother took her own life after rape allegations — (Cornish Guardian)

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Cornish Guardian

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

A MOTHER of three from St Columb took her own life just weeks after making allegations to the police that she had been raped by her uncle.

Sarah Pettitt, 47, took an overdose of prescription drugs on Sunday, October 29, last year after “struggling with memories of the abuse”, an inquest heard on Wednesday.

She had alleged that her uncle, Paul Pettitt, 63, of Shirley, Solihull, raped and sexually assaulted her when she was younger and living in the Birmingham area.

The Cornish Guardian has learnt that West Midlands Police interviewed Mr Pettitt and compiled a report for the Crown Prosecution Service last October.

However, following Sarah’s death it was considered there was insufficient evidence to provide a “realistic prospect of conviction” in court and Mr Pettitt, who denied the allegations, was released without charge.

Sarah’s mother and father, David and Judith Pettitt, have said they hope publicity surrounding their daughter’s death could encourage victims of abuse to speak out.

They have been backed by the head of Cornwall’s Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, which offers support to victims.

David said: “As a family we feel that if the story entered the public domain other abused [women] might come forward.”

Judith added: “I’m convinced this [allegation] was the only reason she took her own life. She loved her family to bits and didn’t deserve any of this.”

Truro Coroner’s Court heard that Sarah, a phlebotomist who had worked at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, suffered with anxiety and stress, for which she took medication.

Her body and suicide notes to friends and family were discovered by her lodger, Joseph Butler, who became worried after noticing she hadn’t left her bedroom.

He told the court: “She made me aware that she was sexually abused by her uncle. She had shown me marks on her right wrist where she had previously tried to take her own life.”

Fears had been raised on September 30 when Sarah posted on Facebook that she wanted to “do herself in” and had “nothing to live for”.

Mr Butler said the process of reporting the abuse had taken its toll on his friend, although a specialist police officer had been visiting around twice a week.

Coroner Emma Carlyon said she was satisfied that the support offered to Sarah through the NHS and police had been sufficient.

Recording a verdict that Sarah took her own life, she said: “I am reassured that she was supported by her GP and the police through the processes.”

Paying tribute to Sarah, her sister Claire O’Reilly said: “She would do anything for a laugh and would do anything to help someone. She was a very caring person, always putting others above herself. It came as such a shock that she did what she did.”