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VIDEO UPDATE: Spalding double murder - Hart brothers speak about domestic abuse

Courageous brothers have today spoken out about the years of abuse handed to their family by their "terrorist" father without realising he would one day turn killer.

Luke and Ryan Hart were present for the publication of the Safer Lincolnshire Partnership Domestic Homicide Review into the murders of their mother Claire and sister Charlotte.

The report ends with a series of recommendations aimed at preventing any such tragedy in the future.

Ryan Hart, Chief Supt Chris Davison, report author Dr Russell Wate and Luke Hart.
Ryan Hart, Chief Supt Chris Davison, report author Dr Russell Wate and Luke Hart.

Normally, official reviews like these are anonymised - but it was Luke and Ryan's request that it should be made public in order to save further innocent lives.

The brothers' lives were shattered on July 19, 2016 when their cruel and controlling father, Lance Hart, shot dead Claire and Charlotte in a Spalding car park before turning the gun on himself.

The tragedy was all the more profound because it was unforeseen.

The father, referred to in much of the report as "the perpetrator", had bent the family to his will over many years using a form of domestic abuse known as coercive control.

The family didn't recognise the treatment handed out to them as domestic abuse because there was no violence.

But, tragically, one of the hallmarks of coercive control is that the abuser will kill at the point where they look like losing their controlling grip on their victims.

Only a few days before they were murdered, Claire and Charlotte had left the family home in Moulton with the help of Luke and Ryan, who were living and working away.

Report author Dr Russell Wate says: "This was a tragedy that it appears nobody could foresee, yet Claire, Luke, Ryan and Charlotte had been suffering intense domestic abuse for many years and did not know this was what they were enduring, as there was no physical abuse.

"The behaviour by the perpetrator was endemic and was not known by professionals, nor sadly, did members of the family recognise it as such."

Reading by turns from a prepared statement, Luke (29) and Ryan (27) said: "Until we challenge coercive and controlling behaviours our society will continue to devastatingly fail to protect women and children within the family.

"Fifty per cent of murdered women are killed by a partner or ex-partner as opposed to only three per cent for men.

"While we do nothing, two women a week are killed by a partner or ex-partner and domestic homicides will continue to account for a third of all murders in our society.

"Over half of all homicides occur in the home. The home is not a sanctuary, but is an arena of abuse and death unlike any other within our society. The four walls of the home, for many, are more impenetrable than the most secure prison."

The brothers also explained: "We believed domestic abuse was about violence, so we looked for increasing violence to indicate the danger we were in, yet the violence came all at once."

Luke and Ryan also revealed their father had for some months been planning to murder the entire family.

Chief Supt Chris Davison, who chairs the Safer Lincolnshire Partnership Strategy Board, spent a number of years based at Spalding Police Station.

It was at the police station, following the murders of Claire and Charlotte, that Luke and Ryan spotted a poster on coercive control ... and realised it was describing their lives.

Chief Supt Davison believes everyone has a part to play in ending domestic abuse and says they should report it to the police whenever they suspect it is going on.

He said: "I would much rather people act on their suspicions and be proven wrong than don't act on their suspicions and be proven right."

Chief Supt Davison urges any woman suffering domestic abuse to contact the police.

He said: "Our primary goal is about keeping people safe."

* Luke and Ryan are already credited with saving lives through their public speaking and campaigning. In their book, Operation Lighthouse, a woman thanks the brothers for revealing their story and describes how it led her to involve police before leaving her controlling partner - police supervision meant she could leave safely without the risk of violence.

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