Report says Becky Watts' voice was not heard by authorities
A REPORT into the murder of St George teenager Becky Watts has told agencies to ensure that “a child’s voice is heard” in future.
Becky, who was 16, was murdered in 2015 at her home in Crown Hill by her step-brother Nathan Matthews, in a sexually-motivated killing assisted by his girlfriend Shauna Hoare.
A Domestic Homicide Review, carried out by the Keeping Bristol Safe Partnership to learn lessons from what happened, found that seven agencies had contact with Becky and her family in the four years before she died, eight had been involved with Matthews and ten with Hoare.
However, none of them were aware of the family links between Matthews and Becky.
The review concluded that even if they had, it was “unlikely that Matthews and Hoare would have been seen as posing a threat to Becky to the extent that they would murder her”.
The report found that Becky had been in contact with various services – including the Family Intervention and Support Service, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), Bristol Hospital Education Service, Bristol City Council Early Help service, Creative Youth Network and Action for Children – since the age of 13, in 2011, when her step-mother contacted Children’s Social Care due to concerns over her non-attendance at school and behaviour at home.
But the agencies placed “an emphasis on the voices of the adults around Becky”, rather than talking to her directly – and at one point she said told CAMHS that “no adults listen to her”.
The report said: “This was a missed opportunity: CAMHS, or another service working with Becky at the time, could have explored this statement with her, ensuring that she was alone when this was done.”
Becky had told a friend Matthews had touched her inappropriately when she was eight, but neither of them had told anyone else. She also told a friend she thought Matthews was “weird” and in the months before she was killed, she told her mother and a friend that Matthews had threatened to kill her, although she did not give the impression she believed it.
Authorities had noticed the “controlling” behaviour of Matthews towards Hoare, that their relationship had started when he was 22 and she was just 15 and that Matthews had “difficulty managing anger...and often ends up in a conflict situation with others”.
But agencies they did not have any information that he posed a risk to Becky or anyone else, the report said.
It found that Matthews and Becky were registered with the same GP at the same home address, but this had not been flagged as Becky was not subject to “safeguarding concerns”.
Becky’s friend told the review Becky had been “very unhappy” at being frequently ‘cat-called’ in the street by men, which left her not wanting to go out alone and possibly affected her anxiety and anorexia.
The report made nine recommendations for various agencies, including ensuring that training about coercive and controlling behaviour is given, that professionals working with young people take into account their “full family history and wider social networks” and to ensure young people are asked if they would like to speak alone to professionals, without other family members present.
Keeping Bristol Safe Partnership independent chair Ivan Powell said: “The review highlighted the need for a child’s voice to be heard.
“Our hope is that the changes that have been introduced as a result of this case will help develop an improved response and reduce the risk of such tragic events happening in future.”
Responding to the report, Becky’s mum Tanya Watts said: “It is clear to me that there were missed opportunities to support Becky from individuals and agencies. Becky wasn’t able to have a voice and I hope that learning can be implemented to ensure another young victim can speak out in a way that my daughter couldn’t.
“I was horrified to read in the report that Becky had confided in a close friend that she had been sexually abused by her step brother at a young age. I had not known about this before and if I had known I would have done everything I could to support and protect her.”
Becky’s father, Darren Galsworthy, said: “Becky was the heart and soul of our family and the light at the end of our tunnel; without her there is only darkness left and an impatient desire to be reunited with her.”