'I will kill you and I will take Auden': Mother suffered months of threats and violence from abusive ex-boyfriend before he stabbed her and her toddler son to death then killed himself
- Rachael Slack, 38, and her son Auden, 23 months, were killed by Andrew Cairns
- Andrew, who was suffering from depression, stabbed himself afterwards?
- IPCC reports, Serious Case Review, inquest and NHS report were launched
- Sister-in-law, Melony Slack, and former partner, Robert Barlow, pay tribute to her
'Rachael was wonderful. She was outgoing, bubbly, fun loving, confident, hilarious and intelligent. She was much loved. She had a huge circle of friends and was very caring, but to a fault.
'She was the last person you would've thought to have been subject to what came to light.'
Melony Slack's kind words are about her sister-in-law, Rachael, 38. A mother, loyal friend and greatly loved person. But behind her smile she was living in fear of her ex partner, Andrew Cairns, 44.
Rachael Slack and her son Auden were stabbed to death by Andrew Cairns in 2010
After their deaths, two IPCC reports, a Serious Case Review, an inquest and NHS investigation were conducted into their deaths
In 2010, Andrew, who was suffering from depression, stabbed their son Auden, 23 months, in front of Rachael. He then stabbed her to death before turning the knife on himself. To many the incident was a horrendous shock. However Melony, who is married to Rachael's brother Hayden, reveals signs of domestic abuse were there early on.
Andrew and Rachael’s relationship traces back to Ronda, Spain, in 2004, where Rachael was working as an artist and Andrew owned a gallery.
The relationship was positive at first but later on Rachael returned England to find a new job and called time on the romance.
'She was very fond of Andrew but she felt he didn't want to commit. She also found that what he wanted from life was not what she wanted,’ Melony said.
Two years later, in 2007, Andrew went to Rachael's birthday party. Despite the fact they were not together anymore, they were friendly towards each other.
In the December, Rachael announced she pregnant with his child.
The extent of domestic violence and its impact on women
According to Office for National Statistics and Refuge, the national domestic violence charity:
- One in four women experiences domestic violence in her lifetime
- Two women are killed each week by a current or former partner in England and Wales
- In the year ending March 2016, 1.2 million women reported experiences of domestic abuse in England and Wales
- In 2013-15, four times more women than men were killed by their partner/ex-partner?
Melony Slack says: 'Over the last seven years we have had to endure four reports into a number of state failures to respond to the domestic violence experienced by Rachael and Auden.?
'With each of those reports we have repeatedly been told that lessons have been learnt and that the state agencies have changed their practices.?
'But still two women are killed every week in England and Wales alone; women just like Rachael.?
'Every year there is a report into what improvements the 43 police forces across the country are making in the way they respond to domestic violence – and the progress is woeful. What has really changed??
'Hayden and I will continue to champion change and we will continue our work with Refuge to raise awareness of this insidious and pernicious issue that takes and ruins so many lives.?
'If our story can reach just one woman like Rachael and one child like Auden, and encourage them to access support from Refuge, then the last seven years of taking on the system will have been worth it.'
Melony said: 'Rach and Andrew still weren't in a relationship but she wanted to keep Andrew in the baby's life.'??
Much to Rachael's surprise, Andrew one day turned up at her house in Wessington, Derbyshire, saying he hadn't got anywhere to live,?so Rachael felt obligated to let him move in. When the lease ran out on that property, they moved in with Jean, Rachael's mother.
'There was a huge pressure on everybody. Andrew's depressed state worsened the more Rachael was involved with the baby. My mother-in-law said Andrew would often say he wanted to kill himself but never told the mental health services,' Melony said.
On July 15, 2008, Auden was born.
While Rachael was delighted with his arrival, Andrew continued to suffer with his mental health. She found him supported housing to live in and he moved out.
Melony said: 'We didn't realise how much it was affecting her. We thought she wanted to support him but she felt she had to. He was pulling the wool over her eyes about his illness. She found out he was lying about other things like not having food in his house, where he was born, previous jobs and qualifications.
'She didn't feel comfortable around him and was treading on eggshells. Ever since Andrew had come back into her life the light seemed to have gone out in Rach.'
'When Auden was tiny, she’d said “I’m scared, Mel. I’m scared of what Andrew’s capable of”. I felt so guilty I’d dismissed her fears, putting them down to her being a new mum.
The pair broke up and Rachael moved to Holbrook as an opportunity to 'start again'. In 2009 she reconnected with her childhood sweetheart, Robert Barlow, on Facebook and the pair began dating. Rachael became pregnant again and was expecting a boy.
Robert said: ‘Andrew was manipulating her, but because she was such a big hearted person she was trying to do the right thing by being there for him.
‘The professional bodies didn’t see it. They didn’t support her and didn’t let her be his carer when she applied for it.'
Despite her new life, she continued to care for Andrew by taking him to his appointments and buying groceries for him.
Melony said: 'She prepared to tell Andrew about the pregnancy in May 2010 but he didn't take it well.'
On May 26, Rachael drove Andrew to a police station because he refused to get out of her car. Detectives arrested him and he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. A psychiatrist assessed him as being of no risk to others and low risk to himself. He was released. The next day, he rang her 21 times and turned up at her home, demanding to see Auden. During a trip to the park, he threatened her.
'You are a f***ing b**ch for abandoning me and getting together with someone else and getting pregnant,' Andrew said. 'I gave up everything to be with you. You have no idea what I am capable of – I will kill you and take Auden.'
Robert said: ‘After his threats to kill, she came and picked me up from work with him in the car. I realised she didn’t want to be in the car with him alone.
‘We dropped him off home and then rode around the block. She broke down in tears and told me what he said. We went to the police and he was arrested.’
Andrew (left) and Rachael’s relationship traces back to Ronda, Spain, in 2004, where Rachael was working as an artist and Andrew owned a gallery
Two years later, in 2007, Andrew went to Rachael's birthday party. Despite the fact they were not together anymore, they were friendly towards each other. In the December, Rachael announced she pregnant with his child, Auden (right is the last photograph taken of him in May 2010)
Officers called Rachael the next day to tell her Andrew was being bailed, but they did not tell her she and Auden were at high risk of being murdered.
On June 2, 2010, Andrew visited his GP. 'Today is going to be the most important day of your career,' he said. He then took a bus and hitchhiked to Rachel's house.
Screams were soon heard by a neighbour who saw Rachael at a window with the 'shadow of a man standing behind her.' Police arrived at the scene and found Andrew slumped on top of her with a knife lying between them. Auden was nearby.
He had a faint pulse and was airlifted to the Royal Derby Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. His parents died at the scene.
Robert arrived shortly afterwards and saw the bodies lying on the floor.
Melony and Hayden are pictured holding photographs of Auden and Rachael
Over the next seven years, he and Rachael's family would be dragged through two Independent Police Complaints Commission reports, a six week inquest and a Serious Case Review.
Melony said: 'It was very hard for the first month for Jean as she was being asked to repeat the story.
'I have huge admiration for people who are able to speak coherently in the aftermath because it’s just so hard. Robert was very good at that.'
The initial IPCC report in 2010 found 'no indications' any officers had breached professional standards.
But an inquest in 2013 found police failure 'more than minimally' contributed to the deaths. A Serious Case Review found authorities could not have predicted that he would kill them.
A subsequent IPCC report identified major failings. In September this year, an independent investigation by the NHS found a 'systemic missed opportunity' during Andrew’s treatment was that Rachael and Andrew's sister were not invited to provide 'valuable information and insights into his mental state'. The authors said this could have helped with an 'understanding of his personality and illness, as well as any potential safe-guarding issues'.
Melony said: 'When the Serious Case Review came out it was hard to hear. We tried arguing that surely a jury verdict of an inquest would provide enough information for the review.
'But rather than arguing what could have been done, we decided to look and see what we can do to help in the future.
What are the signs of domestic abuse??
According to Refuge, if a woman is forced to change her behaviour because she is frightened of her partner then she is being abused. If she is experiencing any of the following then it’s likely that she’s being abused:
· Is he jealous and possessive?
· Does he cut her off from family and friends and try to isolate her?
· Is he charming one minute and abusive the next? Does he have sudden changes of mood – like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?
· Does he control her life – for example, her money, who she should see, what she should wear?
· Does he monitor her movements?
· Does he blame her for the abuse?
· Does he humiliate or insult her in front of others?
· Does he verbally abuse her?
· Does he constantly criticise her?
· Does he use anger and intimidation to frighten her and make her comply with his demands?
· Does he tell her she’s useless and couldn’t cope without him?
· Has he threatened to hurt her or people close to her if she leaves?
· Does she change her behaviour to avoid making him angry?
· Does he force her to have sex when she doesn’t want to?
There are many different ways of being abusive. Here are a few examples:
· Damaging a woman’s possessions
· Smashing up the furniture
· Threatening to harm or kill the pets
· Threatening to kidnap or get custody of the children if she leaves
· Locking her out of the house during an argument
· Terrorising her by driving fast or through red lights at high speed because he knows it frightens her?
Sandra Horley, Refuge chief executive, said: 'It is essential that women receive the right education and information so they can understand the techniques of control frequently used by abusive men.?
'It’s all too easy for women to excuse their partner’s possessive and jealous behaviour – but in so doing they run the risk of the abuse increasing in frequency and severity over time.?
'By understanding the signs early a woman is forewarned and forearmed.'?
'Each time something happened, an IPCC report, the inquest, the Serious Case Review...we were being asked to comment. We didn't know anything about this sort of stuff, this is where Refuge has been so helpful.'
After Rachael and Auden’s deaths, Sandra Horley, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, wrote them a letter and said they may be able to help. The charity, which supports 6,000 victims each day, and the family are working together to raise awareness of domestic violence.
Melony said: 'We don’t feel bitter towards him and we don't want to defame his character as he was going through a lot. At the same time, Rachael didn’t recognise she was a victim of domestic abuse.
'I didn’t recognise the warning signs Rachael was putting across to me. I could’ve helped her out – we could’ve made a plan. Afterwards you think – how could I have not have picked this up?'
Robert said: ‘I went away for a weekend with the?support after murder and manslaughter??group, which is a charity that supports families bereaved by murder and manslaughter.
‘We did an open session and I realised I was sat in this room surrounded by just a handful of people who were all victims of domestic violence, just like me.
‘Everyone spoke about their pain and the really horrendous situations they encountered. I said I felt the pain of everyone in the room, but I’ve decided choose life and seize it.
‘I’ve had some dark times but that shouldn’t amount to your own beauty and how you look at life.
‘Everyone can grieve in their own way but I just think of life. I saw my dad die when I was 15 and I saw life end again when Rachael died.?
‘At the end of the weekend we all were given a balloon, which represented our loved ones, and let them off into the sky. I thought “Those are all people floating into the sky. We have got a real problem with mental health and the support for it.”
‘A lot of changes are being made but that doesn’t stop those balloons coming back down.
'Domestic abuse is rising and it won't stop until it become apparent to all that something more than lip service needs to be done. The correlation between the increase in mental illness and domestic violence isn’t just coincidental.?
'How many more Rachaels and Audens have to be wiped off the face of the planet before something of great significance is put into place to protect them?'
Every year, on Rachael's birthday, her friends and family celebrate her life - it is known as Red Lippy Day.
Melony said: 'It comes from when she was having a bad day - she would pull herself together, put red lipstick on, go and pick others up and say "let’s get out there and have fun."
'She is definitely remembered as a lovely, fun loving person who had a strong bond with her son. It's really evident from her friends about how wonderful she is - there are hundreds of them out there.
‘Rachael had a book, which we treasure, where she wrote inspirational quotes. Inside it says, “Be a lighthouse, not a searchlight.” That is what she was.’
- ?If you are experiencing domestic violence or need support please contact Refuge?
'She had beauty and kindness for ten lifetimes': Robert Barlow pays tribute to Rachael
Robert Barlow, her partner when she died, has paid a moving tribute to Rachael
‘Rachael represented life and laughter. She could light up a room when walked in – not many people can do that, but she could. She had this energy about her and a real thirst for life and knowledge, which is one of the many reasons why I live life today.
‘She had beauty and kindness for ten lifetimes. Someone so genuine and honest as Rachael should not have killed by something as ugly as mental health and a selfish guy. I kissed her goodbye that morning and then I saw her and Auden’s bodies dead on the floor. In that moment I realised the fragility of life.?
'Even though Andrew committed the most atrocious of acts, he was let down by the professional bodies. He needed more help than he got. His own sister tried to provide insight into his depreciating condition and wasn’t listened to.?
‘But through the sadness I met my new wife, Hayley, who is my rock. She has been amazing and has given me strength. She helped me get through so many difficult aspects of life I was facing.
‘When we first started dating, I didn’t leave her alone the house without locking it and I couldn’t be in busy places.
‘She helped me through that and helped me to love again, and for that I will always be grateful.’?
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