The family of a sex abuse victim who took her own life after giving evidence at her abuser’s trial have accused the police of warning her not to seek therapy for fear of damaging the prosecution case.
Frances Andrade, 48, a highly regarded violinist and mother of four, is thought to have taken an overdose, just days after a bruising cross-examination in the trial of her former music teacher Michael Brewer.
On Friday the 68-year-old was convicted sexually assaulting her when she was a teenage pupil at the prestigious Chetham’s School of Music.
During the trial Mrs Andrade, from Guildford, Surrey, who had not wanted to bring the case, was accused of being a liar and a fantasist by Brewer’s barrister Kate Blackwell QC.
But despite having attempted suicide twice in the two years before the trial, her family claim she was advised by the police not to seek any for of therapy until the court case was over, in case it triggered “false memory syndrome” and damaged her credibility as a witness.
Her husband Levine told the Mail on Sunday: “She went to the doctor as she was having trouble sleeping. He suggested she speak to someone and said he could refer her – but she said she’d been told not to by the police.
“I don’t know if it was Manchester or Surrey but they said psychiatric help might change her mind or it might confuse her. I hope this is something that will be looked during the inquest.”
Her son Olly, who is studying at Cambridge, has also confirmed that his mother was worried about seeking help after speaking to the police.
He said: “Having been heavily advised by the police not to receive any form of therapy until the end of the case (a process of almost two years) she was forced to cope on her own with only the support of her family and very close friends.”
Mrs Andrade, who lived in Guildford, was first interviewed about the allegations in 2010 by officers from Surrey Police.
The case was then passed onto GMP as the abuse had taken place in its area, before a decision was taken by the Crown Prosecution Case (CPS) to bring charges against Brewer and his wife.
A spokesman for the CPS insisted that they had not given Mrs Andrade such advice and had in fact communicated to her through GMP that help and support was available.
The spokesman said a dedicated witness care officer was assigned to explain the trial process to Mrs Andrade and she had restated her willingness to give evidence on several occasions.
The prosecutor (Peter Cadwallader) was selected for his skill in handling sensitive cases and the CPS also applied for special measures to shield the victim in court but she declined to use them so she could face the defendants, the CPS said.
A spokesman for GMP said: “It was Surrey Police that told Mrs Andrade not to seek help. At no point was she told by GMP not to seek therapy. That would have breached our policies on this type of situation.
“Det Chief Supt Mary Doyle from GMP added: “The advice to Frances not to seek support may have been given by another party but it was not the advice of Greater Manchester Police. Victims who have suffered sexual abuse have every right to seek whatever help they need.”
A spokesman for the Surrey force said: “The death of Frances Andrade is extremely saddening, and as one of a number of agencies, who had contact with her, we will review our involvement in her case.”
Mr Andrade said his wife had felt as though it were her on trial as she underwent cross-examination from Brewer’s barrister.
He said she was left feeling “inconsolable” afterwards.
“It was partly because it was a female barrister, partly because she was called a liar, partly because she couldn’t remember all the right dates,” he said.
“Fran said it was particularly awful because in a normal conversation you can defend yourself, but she got reprimanded so many times for fighting back.”
Mr Andrade said the hardest part for his wife was being called a liar by the defence barrister.
“I know it’s not personal, she [the barrister] has to do that, she has to attack, she has to defend her client. But Fran found it amazing that a woman could do a job like that” he said.
“I hope they can change the law. Fran felt as if she was on trial. She kept saying: ‘I can see why nobody comes forward. I can see how people crack under the pressure.”‘
Brewer, of Swarthmore Road, Selly Oak, Birmingham, – who was supported in court by his present wife, Sandra, – was cleared of raping Mrs Andrade when she was 18 at his then home in Chorlton, Manchester.
He was convicted of five counts of indecently assaulting her at the age of 14 and 15 when she was known as Frances Shorney. The abuse took place in his office and in his camper van where he would drive her out of the school grounds and get her to perform oral sex on him.
Kay Brewer, of Rossendale, Lancashire, was cleared of aiding and abetting the alleged rape but convicted of one count of indecent assault against the complainant – said to have taken place on the same night as the alleged rape.
Both defendants were remanded in custody ahead of pre-sentence reports and were told that a jail sentence was “inevitable”.
Sentencing will take place on a date to be fixed.