Penistone mother awarded MBE for tireless campaigning after children were murdered by their abusive father in tragic house fire

A mother from South Yorkshire whose two sons were killed by their father has been made an MBE for her tireless campaigning on behalf of children subjected to domestic abuse.

Claire Throssell, 48, from Penistone, Barnsley, said she hoped the honour would help further highlight the need for reform of the way children are dealt with by family courts and other agencies dealing with domestic abuse.

Ms Throssell’s sons Jack, 12, and Paul, nine, were killed in a house fire started by their father, Darren Sykes, in October 2014, after a family court ruled he should have five hours of contact with them a week, despite his history of abuse towards Ms Throssell in their marriage.

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Penistone mother's fight for justice over Jack and Paul Sykes who were murdered ...
Pictured, domestic abuse survivor Claire Throssell pictured with a picture of her sons Paul and Jack who was murdered by abusive partner Darren Sykes, Penistone..24th November 2020..Picture by Simon Hulme

On the fatal day six years ago Sykes lured the boys up to the attic with the promise of a new £600 train set, then propped a chair under the door handle as a fire tore through the house.

Nine-year-old Paul and his father died at the scene, while Jack was taken to hospital with smoke inhalation and passed away six days later.

The day Jack died, he had been due to have an interview as part of a report into Darren Sykes' capability of looking after the boys as part of his parents' divorce, with both having repeatedly expressed their wishes not to see him.

Since the tragic events Ms Throssell, has thrown herself into campaigning and is currently lobbying the Government to amend the Domestic Abuse Bill so that children's voices are put at the heart of family court decisions.

Pictured, Claire Throssell, two years ago campaigning in London. Since the tragic events has thrown herself into campaigning and is currently lobbying the Government to amend the Domestic Abuse Bill so that children's voices are put at the heart of family court decisions. Photo credit: PA

She said: "It’s still not quite sunk in yet.

"Obviously it’s a huge honour but, at the heart of this, are two young boys who I made a promise to as they lay in my arms dying, that I wouldn’t let this happen to any other child."

Ms Throssell, who currently is an ambassador for Women's Aid, and featured in a documentary aired last month to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, added: "Although I’m accepting this award, it’s not just for me, it’s for the community.

“It’s for everybody who, after what happened, picked me up and did things that enabled me to do this fight. They rebuilt my house, they enabled me to carry on.

“I wish I could give an MBE to... all those who, pre-Covid, whenever I walked down the street, would just touch me on the shoulder or squeeze my hand.

"That’s not possible, but they’ll all be in my heart when I accept the award."

Ms Throssell continues to raise awareness of abusive relationships to ensure no other woman has to experience what she has gone through, attributing her fight to Jack and Paul.

She said she hopes the fact that the Government has approved her being made an MBE is a sign it is taking the issue of domestic abuse seriously, as she waits for the Domestic Abuse Bill to become law.

She said that progress had been made on issues such as preventing abuse victims being cross-examined by perpetrators in family courts, and giving children more of a voice in the process.

But she said much more needed to be done.

Ms Throssell said: “We’ve had some huge gains. For the first time children will be recognised as victims of domestic abuse within the Domestic Abuse Bill.

“For the first time children will have a law that protects them in their own home and that’s a first major step forward.”

“I am proud of that, but at the heart of all this are two young boys whose futures were taken away from them because a court told a perpetrator that he could.”

She added: "I wanted to get Jack’s voice heard. The only time his voice was heard was on the landing, cradled in the fireman’s arms."

Additional reporting from Susie Beever, the Crime Correspondent for The Yorkshire Post.

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