Claire Throssell MBE, holds a picture of murdered sons Jack, 12, and Paul, 9, during an emotional speech about domestic violence.
A woman whose abusive ex-husband killed their two sons in a house fire said it’s “everyone’s business” to put an end to violence against women and girls.
Campaigner Claire Throssell MBE today made the emotional plea and gave her support as it was announced that agencies across Nottingham and Nottinghamshire are in the final stages of creating a new Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy.
The plan will set out how local partners will work together to create a fundamental shift in thinking over the next five years to ensure more perpetrators are brought to justice and no one is left to feel isolated or oppressed.
It is being co-created and co-owned by Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire, local authorities and domestic and sexual violence support practitioners across the city and county. Consultation is ongoing and people are being urged to have their say.
The announcement came as part of a joint launch event, as Nottinghamshire Women’s Aid also officially opened a brand-new Women’s and Children’s Centre in Mansfield today, on International Women’s Day.
Claire said no one should have to go through the emotional devastation that she endured when her two young sons, Jack and Paul, were killed in a fire their father Darren Sykes started in their family home in Penistone, South Yorkshire, in October 2014.
Sykes, who had lured the boys to the attic with a new train set before lighting 14 fires downstairs, also killed himself in the fire.
The horrific incident came after the family courts granted him unsupervised access despite Claire’s warning that he was dangerous after she endured years of physical and emotional abuse.
Claire, a Women’s Aid Ambassador, said the partnership work happening in Nottinghamshire, including the new strategy and the new Women’s and Children’s Centre, showed a commitment to positive change.
“It’s everyone’s business. Everybody can make a difference. It is encouraging people to have confidence to call it out among their friends and family,” she said.
“The more we talk about it the less power perpetrators have. Their biggest power is isolation.
“The worst thing for me is the boys were taken. He only took their lives to punish me. I have to live with that.
“I promised both my boys as I held them as they died that no child should have to die at the hands of their parents.”
Claire, 51, has been campaigning tirelessly ever since to stop unsafe child contact with dangerous perpetrators of domestic abuse.
She said she didn’t feel supported by the criminal justice system and that various agencies had missed chances to step in and help prevent the tragedy.
“All too often we don’t join up the dots. There’s not enough proactive thinking and preventative working,” she said.
“If this strategy can bring people together and unite them to fully support the victim instead of dealing with the needs of a narcissist perpetrator then it will help get the message out that absolutely nobody should have to live in fear and oppression.
“It needs joined up working, sharing of information and connecting up all the dots.
“You are investing in the future. These next generations are going to be leading the country. This is an opportunity to get it right.”
Claire added that she was proud to support the new Women’s and Children’s Centre.
“It is so important to have somewhere like this where people can talk about their fears and be among other women who have been through the same or similar situations and think ‘it isn’t just me that it has happened to – there are other people out there’.
“It is vital they don’t feel invisible. To have that space for them to feel valuable and supported it will give them that stepping stone to recovery.”
Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry said: “Claire’s story is absolutely heart-breaking and sadly she is not alone.
“Women and girls across the country are disproportionately affected by violence in its many forms and it’s time for it to stop.
“This strategy sets out our commitment, as partner agencies across Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, to ensure violence against women and girls will not be tolerated and that everyone can feel safe and supported.
“It is an issue I feel incredibly passionate about because it can have such a huge ripple effect on families and communities. We all need to stand up for our mothers, sisters and daughters and say enough is enough.”
Mandy Green, Head of Service for Nottinghamshire Women’s Aid, said the new Women’s and Children’s Centre would give much-needed additional support for people in the county area of Nottinghamshire.
“For many years we have wanted to give women and children in the local area the same opportunity as we have in Worksop,” she said.
“The drive comes from us knowing what we can deliver and what opportunities this will bring.
“There have been many people over the years that have looked into a women's centre and been unsuccessful.
“We feel that women and children need to have a safe, welcoming and empowering space to explore their own personal experiences.
“We look forward to meeting and supporting more women and children in our safe community setting.”
Nottinghamshire Women's Aid is looking to provide an array of free courses for women and children throughout the year, and will be consulting with the local community to ensure it is providing the right programmes.
Posted on Wednesday 8th March 2023