Tragedy mum faces homelessness

A mother whose daughter was killed in a sex attack and two sons died from disease is facing homelessness after fighting for four years to save her home.

Valeria Gaughan of Chells in Stevenage will be forced out of her home next Friday along with her two teenage daughters after a judge ordered her house to be sold at the end of a legal battle between her and a former partner.

The 56-year-old said: “When my son was dying in hospital my partner had an affair and we spilt up. After nearly four years of trying to keep the house in the courts the judge decided the house had to be sold and everything to be split fifty-fifty.

“After fighting in court all my funds were used up. The proceeds from the house will go on solicitors and barristers fees. The whole thing has left me penniless.”

The result of the legal battle is the latest in a series of tragedies for Mrs Gaughan. Her daughter Katrina, 12, was suffocated in a sexual assault in 1993, her son Jason, 28, died of TB in 2003 and a second son, Danny, died of leukaemia in 2007 aged 30.

Unable to bear the thought of Katrina’s killer, Keith Collard, being released by a parole board in 2009, Valerie’s former husband Lewis Poole-Warren hanged himself.

Stevenage Borough Council has offered Mrs Gaughan temporary accommodation in St Nicholas, but she is unwilling to move her daughters there because of the upheaval to their education.

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“All I want is a permanent house. My kids have lost everything. My daughter is doing her GCSEs. She is a high achiever - she got two As at 14. She said she can’t live out of boxes. She said how am I going to be a barrister if I can’t pass my exams? She was hysterical.

“There is no way I will live there. I left a message, but you can’t get through on the phone and nobody answers the emails.

“The moment my brother heard about it he said they are not going there - it’s a drugs den. I’ve never been involved in drugs and I don’t want my kids in that environment.”

She added: “What am I supposed to do with all my stuff? I’m going to have to get rid of stuff like Katrina’s things. But I can’t do that. Her bedroom has come round with me since 1993 and my son’s and husband’s things.

“They offered me a garage for 12 months that I would have to pay for – do you think that I would put in a garage all that stuff when it could be broken into? I just couldn’t risk all that stuff in a garage.”

She said her daughter’s killer is up for parole again and she wants to keep him in prison but has been unable to formulate an opposition to his release because of the situation.

“I’ve got the guy who killed my daughter going up for parole just after Christmas. I’ve been unable to concentrate on this yet with everything that’s been going on.

“I seem to spend most of my time crying. It’s affected my kids because they don’t know what’s happening. There are lots of properties standing empty that just need a bit of restoration. I said give me one of those and I’ll do the work. I just want somewhere permanent for the kids.”

A council spokesman said the authority is investigating Mrs Gaughan’s homelessness application and a range of housing options have been discussed.

She added: “The council is committed to providing temporary accommodation while her application is being assessed. However, the location of this accommodation is yet to be decided and her personal circumstances will be taken into account.”

Cllr Ann Webb, executive member for housing, said: “The team have been very considerate to the sensitive nature of Valerie Gaughan’s case and want to do everything possible to support her.

“We also work closely in partnership with the police to ensure that we provide a good standard of accommodation and our neighbourhoods are as safe as possible.”

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