Death of tormented disabled man ‘was unlawful’

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A vulnerable man who died after suffering 30 years of torment by yobs was unlawfully killed, a coroner has ruled.

David Askew, 64, who had a mental age of 10, was plagued by gangs of youths for decades outside his house on a sprawling council estate in Hattersley, east Manchester.

Yesterday John Pollard, coroner for South Manchester, blamed “feral youths” for the victim’s torment and ruled that despite lawyers deciding no one could be charged with manslaughter, Mr Askew had been unlawfully killed.

Mr Askew lived with his brother, who also had learning difficulties, and elderly mother Rose, 90.

The coroner heard they called police 88 times between January 2004 and March last year before Mr Askew, who suffered from heart disease, collapsed and died on March 10 2010 after being pestered for cigarettes.

Youths had reportedly thrown a wheelie bin around and tampered with his mother’s mobility scooter.

Kial Cottingham, 19, who lived doors away, later pleaded guilty to harassing Mr Askew and was jailed for 16 months last year. Lawyers for the Crown Prosecution Service said there was no evidence to charge Cottingham with manslaughter.

Mr Pollard said the law precluded him from naming any individual or persons as responsible for causing the death but said the family had lived with “anti social behaviour directed against them in a way and at a level which is, and never was, acceptable.”

He said on the night Mr Askew died a youth was seen demanding cigarettes from Mr Askew, even patting him down to check.

Two youths were seen at the property again at 9.38pm and within eight to 10 minutes Mr Askew had collapsed and died.

The three-day inquest heard of a “multi-agency approach” with “partnership working” between a myriad of agencies including endless meetings between the police, Tameside Council and housing associations, among others.

But Mr Pollard said there was evidence of a quite staggering degree of inertia and complacency.

He said: “The fact that there is 38 separate offences reported against this family within a three-year period shows the appalling way in which this element of feral youths can bring misery to a decent, vulnerable family.”

Cottingham is currently serving a sentence for robbery.