Families united in defiance

RELATIVES of tiny baby Luigi Askew have opened their hearts for the first time since he was brutally murdered by his father.

RELATIVES of tiny baby Luigi Askew have opened their hearts for the first time since he was brutally murdered by his father.

The tot's great aunt, Denise Askew, has spoken out ahead of a march she is organising in Ipswich next week to fight for more justice for victims and families of violent crime.

She has bravely gone public about the heartache and feelings of guilt that rippled through the family in the wake of the tragedy.

Luigi was killed in May 2007 when his father, Duncan Mills, erupted into a rage which also left his mother, Samantha Askew, with terrible injuries.

Samantha is still too traumatised to speak, but her aunt has revealed how the murder ripped through the whole family.

Miss Askew, 49, of Suffolk, said: “I understand more now I have seen what Duncan Mills did.

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“But what I feel can be multiplied by a 1,000 times for what my niece is going through.

“Many people's understanding doesn't touch the surface of domestic violence because it covers a wide range of abuses - psychological, sexual, physical and emotional.

“Once a victim is in a deep hole it will take a very strong, trusting, reassuring source to get her out.”

The shocking crime brought the role of protection agencies under the spotlight after it was revealed that Mills' violent past - in which he was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm to a previous partner - was not made available to social workers.

Despite a raft of changes and huge investment in Suffolk's social services, Miss Askew has echoed Lord Laming's report which demands further reform in the sector.

She has also called for all managers and directors within social services to have training in child protection measures and domestic violence.

And Miss Askew believes the family could have done more to prevent Luigi's death if social services had been more open to help from other relatives.

She said: “The 'what ifs' and the feelings of guilt are horrendous.

“We had to go through that cycle and search our conscience, but you have to come out the other side and realise that the guilt lies with the person who did it.”

The family marked the first anniversary of Luigi's burial earlier this month and the emotional milestone has prompted the baby's grandfather to break his silence.

Len Askew has renewed his grievance with the justice system which prevented Luigi from being laid to rest for nine months while legal proceedings took place.

He said the pain caused by that delay was “unimaginable” and backed his sister's campaign to swing the balance of justice towards the victims' families.

Are you a victim of domestic violence? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

FAMILIES will be uniting in a common goal for a march in Ipswich next week.

The campaign by Families Fighting for Justice hopes to bring about a quantum shift in the justice system to ensure families of violent crime are fully supported.

The group will be staging marches in several locations across the country on March 28 to call for life sentences to mean life, stiffer sentences for violent crime and murder, and improved aftercare for victims.

Denise Askew, who is organising the demonstration in Ipswich, said: “The needs and rights of the victims and families should be the main focus. We feel we have had enough.

“Duncan received just three years for attacking Samantha, which will run alongside his 18-year sentence, which is nothing.

“Luigi's right to life was taken away from him, but Duncan Mills had a right to confidentiality over his violent past. It is wrong.”

Mills was released part-way through a prison sentence for assaulting the mother of his oldest child in 2002.

Miss Askew, who lives with her partner, David Young, and their nine-year-old son, said: “The system let him get away with it and his violence escalated - prison, parole and probation are all responsible.”

In proposals launched earlier this month by home secretary Jacqui Smith, domestic violence offenders could be placed on a national register and police could be given powers to warn new partners if there is criminal record.

The peaceful protest will begin at Ipswich Crown Court at 2pm and proceed to the Wolsey Theatre where participants will have the chance to talk about their experiences.

For more information, please visit www.familiesfightingforjustice.com or contact Denise Askew on 07796 148 228 or at dva1@tesco.net if you would like to take part.

DAWN Walker's brutal murder at the hands of her depraved partner was the horrific epicentre of an earthquake that continues to shudder through her family.

Her sister, Sheena Wierzbicka, from Suffolk, condemned Kevin Nunn as a perverted criminal after he was jailed for 22 years in November 2006.

Today, as she prepares to join the march in Ipswich next week, she described how Nunn caused a “tsunami” of devastation for the family.

She also launched a stinging attack on the government for failing to provide dedicated support in the aftermath of serious crime.

She said: “We as a country run to help others at war when families here are crying out to be listened to and taken into account.

“I believe a government department should be made available to the families of victims to express concerns and request changes to the law.”

- Refuge 24-hour national domestic violence helpline - 0808 2000 247 or go to www.refuge.org.uk.

Women's Aid Federation of England - www.womensaid.org.uk.

- Samaritans - 08457 909 090 or visit www.samaritans.org.uk.

- Victim Support - 0845 303 0900 or go to www.victimsupport.org.

-You can also contact your local police station or social services, but in cases of emergency always ring 999.

DOMESTIC violence is caused by the abuser's desire to control their partner. The patterns of behaviour can be very complex and the abuser can use many different tactics.

But there are some warning signs that may alert you or family members sooner rather than later:

- Are you afraid of your partner?

- Do they cut you off from family and friends?

- Is he jealous and possessive?

- Does he constantly criticise you?

- Does he have sudden changes of mood which dominate the household?

- Is he charming one minute, abusive the next?

- Do you change your behaviour to avoid triggering an attack?

- Does he tell you what to wear or how to do your hair?