A woman who died in a cupboard at the age of six was left to rot for two years before her family finally found her. Now, a charity set up in her name is helping other children avoid similar fates.
Vicky Cherry vanished about a week after she made plans to break up with her boyfriend (Pictures: Focus Features Ltd)
The family of a lady whose corpse was left to decay for almost a year under some bike parts in a closet has established a foundation in her honor for domestic violence sufferers.
Vicky Cherry, 44, was last seen alive in October 2015, and her corpse was not discovered until 15 months later, despite intensive searches, including of her apartment in Bolton.
While her boyfriend, Andrew Colin Reade, 43, claimed she had left him and moved out, it was concealed behind an airing cupboard.
He was charged with murder, but the bones of the mother of three were too decomposed to determine the cause of death.
In June 2017, Reade admitted to concealing the corpse and was sentenced to four years and four months in prison at Bolton Crown Court.
Donna Gregory, Ms Cherry’s cousin and closest friend, believes she was in an abusive relationship and has chosen to start a foundation called Stay Safe Survivors in her honor.
Reade, who did not appear at the inquest into Ms Cherry’s death in November 2017, was subsequently found to have cashed in three months of his ex-employment girlfriend’s benefits – worth £1,000 – while she was still alive.
Ms Cherry was a mother of three who battled a heroin addiction. (Photo courtesy of Focus Features Ltd.)
Ms Gregory, a Sheffield resident, thinks Reade’s alleged abuse of her cousin remained unnoticed by the authorities concerned.
Indeed, the Be Safe Strategic Partnership in Bolton looked at how authorities dealt with the pair and found a ‘general lack of knowledge of, and interest about, domestic violence across a variety of professional disciplines.’
‘I was the last known person to talk to Vicky before she died,’ Ms Gregory added. At her burial, I carried her casket, although we were informed she had very little left. It was revolting.
‘She died in such an inhumane and horrifying manner. A dignified funeral was the absolute least she deserved.
‘If there is any good that can come out of her death, it should be that lessons are learnt and that other women are better protected.’ I want to be able to assist other ladies via our charity. Vicky would be pleased of her accomplishments.’
About a week before she vanished, Ms Cherry had made arrangements to leave Reade and see her cousin.
When Ms Cherry did not respond, no one was concerned since she and Reade were both drug users who lived a “chaotic existence.”
Vicky Cherry and Donna Gregory grew up together as cousins and closest friends (Picture: Focus Features Ltd)
‘I phoned and texted her all the time, and she simply didn’t respond,’ Ms Gregory said. In the end, I became irritated with her. I assumed she had made up her mind to remain with Andrew and was just refusing to tell me.
‘I wrote her a message saying, ‘I assume you’ve changed your mind and will stay with him.’ At the very least, you could have informed me.” I was very enraged.’
Ms Gregory now blames herself for not doing more to persuade her cousin to leave Reade, who had a history of assaulting lovers.
‘I only met Andrew once, at our grandmother’s funeral, and I hated him right away,’ the mother of five stated. He and Vicky seemed to be extremely close, but I subsequently realized this was due to his possessiveness, as he would not allow her out of his sight.
‘She confided in me that they were always fighting, and I was concerned for her safety.’ She was very vulnerable, and in retrospect, I wish I had done more to persuade her to leave him right away.’
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Police and other services had not communicated about Ms Cherry’s vulnerabilities, according to a Domestic Homicide Review released at the end of June 2019.
Since then, the former Bolton Integrated Drug and Alcohol Service (BiDAS), GPs, Bolton at Home, the National Probation Service, and the Community Rehabilitation Company have received 42 suggestions on how to deal with possible misuse.
‘Perhaps I could have rescued her,’ Ms Gregory added. ‘Perhaps the authorities might have also rescued her.’
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