From Jean Calder
Tracy Shelvey (41) from Heywood, Greater Manchester, died on 2nd February 2014 after falling from a car park roof of a Shopping Centre in Rochdale. It was one of several apparent suicides by alleged victims that have followed investigation of reports of sexual assault.
Ms Shelvey died just three days after the acquittal of the man she alleged had raped her. Patrick Hall, a former soldier, had been accused of the rape of 7 different women.
Ms Shelvey gave evidence at two trials in Manchester. At the first trial in June 2013, Hall was acquitted of raping four out of seven women but the jury could not decide on whether he raped the other three. A retrial in January 2014 cleared him of the remaining charges.
Police officers spoke to her while she stood on the roof before she fell to her death.
She told police she was “angry and upset” at the man’s acquittal after she had had the ordeal of giving evidence a second time.
Kathy McGowan, her friend, said she felt she had been let down by the police and other authorities. She said she had told her about the alleged rape “because she was really frightened. She was very angry and she would say “I want him to go down”. But she felt like no one was helping her and that she was not getting help from anyone other than her friends.” She added “She was really scared about it all and she thought he would come after her if he got let off. She thought he would kill her.”
Anne-Marie Ellement (30), a Royal Military Police officer, was found hanged in October 2011 at Bulford Barracks near Salisbury. In November 2009, when posted in Germany, she had alleged she was raped by 2 colleagues. Her sister, Sharon Hardy said Anne-Marie had phoned her after the alleged attack and told her she’d been left to come home wearing nothing but a cardigan. She said her sister had been “absolutely traumatised” by the alleged rape.
According to Sharon Hardy, she was “devastated” when military investigators decided not to prosecute. She said “She was 110% certain what had happened to her. She said to me ,’they got away with it – they are trying to uphold the law but they have got away with it’.”
An inquest, held in February 2014, heard that fellow soldiers – including several female colleagues – started to bully her after she reported the alleged assaults, saying she had made a false allegation. One was the former girlfriend of one of the men accused. Another was a male friend of one of the two men.
Corporal Charlotte Berrill, a junior welfare officer, told the inquest that she had reprimanded Corporal Craig O’Grady, for gossiping about the rape allegations in a police station in April 2011. She said: “I heard him saying she was a bitch and she had ruined his best friend’s life by crying rape.” She said “I thought it was highly unprofessional for somebody to talk about something so sensitive to people who had nothing to do with it.” She confronted O’Grady at the time and later informed Anne-Marie, who “was very upset about it and angry”.
Cpl Berrill said that she herself was then reprimanded by the regimental sergeant major for informing Anne Marie Ellement about what had been said and relieved of her informal position of junior welfare officer. There was no investigation of the soldier who had made the original comments.
Cpl Berrill said the sergeant major told her she had been right to halt the conversation but “was unprofessional and had lost all the respect of my peers” because she “had told Anne-Marie what had happened.” She said: “I felt it was not fair”.
Cpl Berrill and Sharon Hardy said Anne Marie reported she had been bullied by female colleagues who accused her of “crying rape”. Anne-Marie told Cpl Berrill “she would get bangs on the door from the girls in the corridor” and a box of live crickets were set free in her room.
Sharon Hardy said one female soldier had made a statement to investigators supporting Cpl Ellement’s allegations, but changed it after befriending the girlfriend of one of the soldiers she had accused.
Sharon Hardy said “She kept a lot back because I think she was embarrassed about what happened. She was dreading going back to Germany. Anne-Marie was confident those soldiers would be charged.”
An inquest in March 2012 recorded a verdict of suicide, but last year the High Court ordered a new inquest. The original inquest had heard no evidence about the alleged rapes.
Tracey Shelvey’s death came a year after Frances Andrade, a musician and mother of 4 sons, died by her own hand after giving evidence at Manchester Crown Court against Michael Brewer the music teacher who, years earlier, had repeatedly abused her and other young girls. She killed herself while the trial was in progress, having been deeply upset by the brutal process of giving evidence. The jury was not informed.
In a statement, Ms Andrade’s son Oliver Andrade said: “Like all people she was not impervious. Being repeatedly called a liar and a fantasist about a horrific part of her life in front of a court challenged her personal integrity and was more than even she could bear.”
Greater Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd called for a “root and branch review” of how victims and witnesses in sex abuse cases are treated in the criminal justice system. He said “Witnesses are not where they should be – at the heart of the criminal justice system”.
Referring to both Tracey Shelvey and Frances Andrade, he said “The court process is a brutal one, and the fact that we have had at least two people in Greater Manchester alone who have taken their lives after going through this ordeal is of grave concern.’ He added “Many, many rape victims say that the court process is as traumatic as their original ordeal”. He stressed that witnesses and alleged victims need support regardless of the outcome of a trial.
Note: Information in this report was drawn from reports in the Daily Telegraph,Daily Mail and BBC.