Suffolk/Essex: Sex offenders should face court, grieving mum of abuse victim insists
The mother of a gifted academic who took her own life due to being sexually abused as a child has said police cautions should not be given for serious sex offences.
Following Dr Suzanne Dow’s death the national media blamed the torment she endured from the “neighbours from hell”.
But her mother Maureen Dow said in reality it was the abuse she suffered before the age of 10 - which led to the perpetrator receiving a Suffolk Constabulary caution - that eventually pushed Dr Dow into taking an overdose of prescription medication.
Last week the force revealed it had given out nearly 90 police cautions in five years to offenders for serious sexual offences.
Mrs Dow said an inquest in Nottingham earlier this year accepted a failed love affair and problems with her next door neighbours were only contributory factors in her 33-year-old daughter’s death in October 2011.
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Mrs Dow said: It always came back to the abuse.
“We as a family believed it was the sexual abuse that caused Suzie’s death. It affected her life.
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“Her fragility was based on the sex abuse.
“It just never went away for Suzanne. She was just a totally innocent child. He ruined her childhood.
“I just want people to understand what she went through and how the abuse affected her whole life.
“I cry every day for Suzie. She’s my first thought in the morning and my last thought at night.”
Six months before she died Dr Dow tried to get Suffolk police to re-open the 1991 case. The sexual abuse happened while she was in Suffolk.
However, the original paperwork could not be found.
Mrs Dow, 65, said she was only speaking out as she felt a duty to her daughter to ensure the truth was known. She also wanted to emphasise how important it was that abusers face the courts.
Mrs Dow, of Colchester, said: “I think children should be protected. People need to be protected and they need to be aware.
“The damage this causes to children lasts a lifetime
“If he (Suzanne’s abuser) was given a caution what would have stopped him abusing other children? It was never publicly acknowledged he was a danger.
“As the press have said now it is only when you make these things public that more victims come forward.”
Suzanne’s abuser admitted what he had done to her during his interview with Suffolk Police in 1991. However, Mrs Dow decided Suzanne could not go through the ordeal of a court case after an Essex officer who had worked on the case told her she would not want her child to have to give evidence in court.
Therefore the matter was dealt with by way of a caution. Mrs Dow now believes that was a mistake.
She said: “Standing up in court would have been horrendous. I said I had been advised not to put my daughter through a court case.
“I do regret that bitterly.”
Richard Jones, a spokesman for Suffolk Constabulary said: “We can confirm that in April 2011 Suffolk Police contacted the mother of a victim who claimed that a man had been arrested and cautioned in connection with a crime alleged to have taken place in the 1980s.
“We can also confirm that this approach to the mother was prompted by a call from Nottinghamshire Police to Suffolk Police the same month asking Suffolk to investigate.
“Following extensive enquiries, including searching archives and taped interview records held by Suffolk it was found that any relevant documentation relating to the initial investigation did not exist. It appears this would have been destroyed in accordance with policies regarding cautions that were in place at the time of the original enquiry.”
Last week it emerged that Suffolk Constabulary had issued 87 cautions to offenders for serious sexual offences between 2008 and 2013.
Mr Jones said: “Suffolk Police takes reports of sexual offences extremely seriously and they are all fully investigated. The sexual offences recording category includes a wide range of offences, ranging from the lower level to the more serious, such as a stranger rape.
“The circumstances in which a caution may be an appropriate outcome may be an inter-familial case, incidents where both the offender and victim are young children or consensual sexual activity between those who are underage.
“However, as with any reported crime the concerns of the victim are always at the forefront of our policing and any investigations that are concluded with a caution are only done so after careful consideration and if it is felt appropriate for all parties concerned.
“While policies were previously in place where records in relation to cases concluded with cautions were destroyed after three years, new guidelines mean that information is now retained by police.”