The family of a woman whose body was left to rot in a cupboard for more than a year have launched a support group for survivors of domestic abuse.
Andrew Colin Reade, then 43, admitted to concealing the body of his partner, Vicky Cherry, 44, who had not been seen alive since October 2015.
Her body was hidden inside an airing cupboard for 15 months at his home in Bolton as Reade claimed to friends she had left him and moved out.
He was arrested on suspicion of murder, but told police he found her dead in bed next to her. The decomposition of her body left insufficient evidence to prosecute.
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Reade was later jailed for four years and four months in June 2017 after he admitted preventing a lawful burial and perverting justice.
Neighbours told an inquest that they recalled a strange odour inside the one-bedroom flat and revealed how Reade tried to cover it up with air-freshener when they were invited round.
Now Vicky's cousin, Donna Gregory, who was best pals with the tragic mum for many years, has revealed she is to start a charity, called 'Stay Safe Survivors' in her memory.
Donna, 42, says: "I was the last known person to speak to Vicky before her death. I carried her coffin at her funeral but we were told there was very little left of her. It was sickening.
"She had such an undignified, horrible death. The very least she deserved was a proper burial. It still infuriates me that Reade has got off so lightly.
"I blame myself, because she was supposed to come and live with me; she was days away from a new start. Maybe I could have saved her.
"And maybe the authorities could have saved her too; if anything good can come of her death it should be that lessons are learned and other women are better protected. I hope, through our charity, to be able to help other women. Vicky would be proud of her legacy."
Donna and Vicky grew up in Preston, Lancs, and their mothers were sisters.
Donna, from Sheffield, says: "Vicky was older than me, and she looked after me and mothered me. I really looked up to her. If she liked a band, I liked them too. If she dyed her hair, I'd do mine the same. I idolised her.
"As we got older, we'd go out together and we became such good friends.
"Vicky had a troubled up-bringing and she had her problems. But she had a heart of gold."
Vicky went on to have three children and Donna had five. They always stayed in touch, speaking daily on the phone.
In 2013, Vicky's husband, Steve Cherry, died from an epileptic fit and she was devastated.
Donna says: "She really struggled after Steve died, and she went through a tough time. She self-medicated with drugs."
The following year, Vicky began a relationship with Andrew Reade. The couple met at a New Year's Eve party.
Donna says: "I met Andrew just once, at our grandmother's funeral, and I disliked him immediately. He and Vicky appeared very close but I later realised it was because he was so possessive and he wouldn't let her out of his sight.
"She confided in me that they were arguing a lot and I was worried about her. She said he wasn't treating her very well. She was quite vulnerable and I wish now, looking back, I had done more to try to talk her into leaving him, there and then."
One week before she went missing, in October 2015, Vicky called Donna and asked if she could go and live with her.
Little did Donna know it was the last time she would ever speak to Vicky. She was the last known person to have any contact with her.
Donna says: "Vicky told me she'd had enough of Andrew. We made plans for her to come and live with me. I was looking forward to it, and I knew she'd be much happier if she was single again."
But over the next two weeks, Donna could not contact Vicky and she became concerned.
Donna says: "I called and texted her constantly and she just didn't reply. In the end, I was actually annoyed with her. I thought she had decided to stay with Andrew and she just didn't want to tell me.
"I sent her a message to say: 'I presume you've changed your mind and you're sticking with him. You could at least have let me know.'
"I was really angry.
"I called Vicky's mum and she hadn't hear from her either. But we knew Vicky had a chaotic lifestyle and we just expected her to turn up at some point."
But Vicky seemed to have disappeared.
Donna says: "I began to worry; I asked around and nobody knew where she was. I called the police but they didn't seem to take it seriously; they went to the house but couldn't find her."
Police eventually launched an appeal but the case seemed to make no progress.
Donna says: "Vicky had vanished into thin air. We couldn't work it out. I was so worried about her; as time went on, I knew she had to be dead. It was the only explanation."
In January 2017, Vicky's body was found in a cupboard at her home..
Donna says: "I was preparing myself that she was dead. But I could never have been prepared for what had happened to her.
"The police had found her body, stuffed in a cupboard, underneath old bike parts."
In June 2017 Reade pleaded guilty to concealing Vicky's body for 15 months and preventing her burial.
The cause of death could not be ascertained due to decomposition, but a pathologist concluded she may have died as a result of strangulation as injuries to her neck were detected.
Reade claimed he had panicked after he woke to find his girlfriend dead after they had taken a cocktail of illicit drugs.
Samaritans (116 123) samaritans.org operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at [email protected] , write to Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, STIRLING, FK8 2SA and visit www.samaritans.org/branches to find your nearest branch.
For support for people feeling suicidal, if you are concerned about someone or if you are bereaved by suicide see http://shiningalightonsuicide.org.uk
CALM (0800 58 58 58) thecalmzone.net has a helpline is for men who are down or have hit a wall for any reason, who need to talk or find information and support. They're open 5pm to midnight, 365 days a year.
Greater Manchester Bereavement Service Greater Manchester Bereavement Service can help to find support for anyone in Greater Manchester that has been bereaved or affected by a death. No one needs to feel alone as they deal with their grief. www.greater-manchester-bereavement-service.org.uk
Childline (0800 1111 ) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won’t show up on your phone bill.
PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.
Beat Eating Disorders: Beat provides helplines for adults and young people offering support and information about eating disorders. These helplines are free to call from all phones. Adult Helpline: 0808 801 0677, Studentline: 0808 801 0811, Youthline: 0808 801 0711. www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk
Anorexia & Bulimia Care: ABC provide on-going care, emotional support and practical guidance for anyone affected by eating disorders, those struggling personally and parents, families and friends. Helpline: 03000 11 12 13. www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/
Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts. Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying studentsagainstdepression.org
For information and links to charities and organisations that can help with substance abuse, visit https://www.supportline.org.uk/problems/drugs/
He wrapped the body in a duvet and plastic sheeting and hidden it in a cupboard.
He admitted intending to pervert the course of justice by giving misleading and inaccurate information about the whereabouts of Victoria to police officers, pharmacists, and family members.
He had cashed in employment benefits totalling up to £1,000 sent to Vicky in the three months after her death.
He was jailed for four years and four months at Bolton Crown Court.
He didn't attend the inquest into her death in November that year and an open verdict was recorded.
A report, published at the end of June 2019, revealed that police and other agencies involved with Vicky and Andrew Reade did not consider the possibility of domestic abuse and did not communicate well enough with each other.
Four months after the discovery of Vicky's body Bolton's Be Safe Strategic Partnership decided to conduct a review into how organisations dealt with the couple in order to establish any lessons which can be learnt for the future.
It found that Reade's previous history as a domestic abuser was not sufficiently recognised or information shared between agencies such as the former Bolton Integrated Drug and Alcohol Service (BiDAS), GPs, Bolton at Home, the National Probation Service and the Community Rehabilitation Company.
His potential risk may have been "under estimated".
It stated: “This case indicates a general absence of awareness of, and curiosity about, domestic abuse within a range of professional disciplines."
The report offers an insight into Reade’s coercive and controlling behaviour towards Ms Cherry.
The couple were both drug users and moved to Bolton in April 2014.
Ms Cherry had fled violent relationships before while Reade had a ‘significant criminal history’, as well as a history of abuse of female partners, the report said.
While Ms Cherry went through periods of little or no contact with her family in Preston, her mum was concerned about Reade’s ‘hold over her'.
Bolton Integrated Drug and Alcohol Service (BiDAS), where the couple were both clients, and Ms Reade’s GP were criticised in the report for not sharing information.
“Both BiDAS and her GP recognised that [Reade] had vulnerabilities, but their focus was primarily on vulnerabilities associated with her mental health, including previous suicide attempts and her use of illicit and prescription drugs,” the report explained.
“There appeared to be no consideration of how a person with her vulnerabilities might be faring in her most intimate relationship.”
Reade and Vicky were both drug addicts and each had had involvement with a number of agencies over the years. But the review states that there was a culture of "silo working" where organisations did not share information.
"It is not known how widespread the silo working so evident in this case is," says the report, which added that one contributor suggests it is partly due to austerity, leading organisations to focus mainly on complying with internal policies and processes rather than looking at a wider picture.
A series of 42 recommendations are made in the report for improvements by nine of the agencies involved with Vicky and Reade and five multi-agency recommendations.
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