The family of a violin teacher, thought to have taken her life during the trial of a choirmaster who sexually abused her, last night accused the court system of letting her down.
Frances Andrade was found dead at her home less than a week after she gave evidence against Michael Brewer, 68, and his ex-wife Kay Brewer, also 68, at Manchester Crown Court.
A jury yesterday found Brewer, former director of music at the internationally-renowned Chet-ham’s School of Music in Manchester, guilty of sexually abusing the victim in his office when she was 14 and 15.
Mrs Brewer was also convicted of indecently assaulting Mrs Andrade when she was an adult at their then family home.
Brewer, also a former artistic director of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, was cleared of raping the victim when she was 18 and Mrs Brewer was cleared of aiding and abetting rape. Brewer was also cleared of indecently assaulting the victim as a child in his home.
Mrs Andrade had been visibly agitated on occasions as she gave her evidence from the dock over two days on January 16 and 17.
On January 24 it was revealed in court – while the jury was not there – that she had died and it was believed she had killed herself. The Crown Prosecution Service decided to continue and the judge ruled that news of Mrs Andrade’s death should be kept from jurors until after they reached their verdicts, as well as imposing a reporting ban.
After the case concluded, Mrs Andrade’s son Oliver said his mother had made other attempts on her life.
“She raised four children with her husband of 25 years and is sorely missed by all,” he added.
“Throughout her life she had many tragic events fall upon her and coped with most with a strength few people could manage. She was extremely resilient.
“However, 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.”
In a statement, the 48-year-old’s family called for better support for victims of sexual abuse.
Born in Hull in February 1964, Mrs Andrade, then known as Frances Shorney, had moved to Cheltenham with her adoptive parents when she was young.
A gifted violinist, she successfully auditioned to get into Chet-ham’s, becoming a boarder at the age of 13 after her adoptive father, a vicar, died. But, amid problems stemming from abuse when she was younger, she became increasingly disruptive and it was decided she should live with the Brewers and their four daughters for a short spell.
Mrs Andrade said she was sexually abused by Brewer in his office, practice rooms and camper van. She told the court she viewed them as “the family I always wanted” and considered the abuse as “a small price to pay” for the affection.
The police investigation was sparked by National Youth Choir teacher Jenavora Williams after Mrs Andrade, a friend, told her about her time at Chetham’s and Mrs Williams went to the police in 2011 without telling her.
Judge Martin Rudland told the defendants that a jail sentence for both of them was “inevitable” as he remanded the pair in custody.