In January 2014 our lovely daughter, Mary Stroman, took her own life by lying down in front of a train in Wiltshire. She had walked out of a therapeutic residential centre where she had been placed by our local authority, the London Borough of Haringey. Mary was 16.
Following the publication today of the Serious Case Review (SCR), we wish to honour Mary’s life by making public the circumstances which led to her death, in the hope that lessons will be learned and other families spared the suffering we have endured. The SCR speaks for itself, detailing a catalogue of errors, delays, bad practices, poor judgements and missed opportunities in dealing with Mary's complex case.
A bright, witty and popular girl, Mary was much loved by her parents and four siblings. She was apparently successful in school, socially and with her many activities. But we now know, starting when she was around 12 years old, Mary was groomed and sexually abused by men in the area of North London where we live.
She slowly declined in mental and physical health, evidently as a result of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Mary suffered more than four years of mental anguish, self-harm and illness, culminating in her tragic death.
We welcome the findings of the Serious Case Review commissioned by the Haringey Local Safeguarding Children Board. Our experience in trying to help our daughter was one of encountering earnest people lost in a sea of procedural confusion, bad communication and occasional disarray. The report clearly highlights these issues and we welcome its directness and honesty.
As the Review notes, on many occasions Mary said she had been sexually abused, but police failed to respond adequately or investigate the matter. The review identifies “serious failings” in services that should have helped Mary. Similar to the long delay in preparing today’s review, Haringey took far too long to arrange care for our daughter. That, the review believes, is the greatest cause of concern.
Despite all the failures, we blame no-one personally. Indeed, we would like to thank the many, many dedicated professionals who attempted to help Mary, and the army of friends and colleagues who have supported us through the most traumatic period of our lives. Our thanks also go to Kevin Harrington and the HLSB for a detailed and thoughtful report that addresses all of our principal areas of concern.
Sir Paul Ennals, the Chair of the HLSCB, expresses sincere regret for the shortcomings of agencies in Haringey and we are grateful for that. However, similar failings have been identified in previous Serious Case Reviews in the borough.
Our wish is that this time the lessons learned from our experience will make a real difference, supporting families in genuine need and potentially saving lives. If someone like Mary needed help today, given that we now understand so much more about the risks such children face, we earnestly hope the response and the outcome would be different.
Scott and Sue Stroman