South East Wales

Darren and Jack Williams: Rachel Williams says she feels 'let down'

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Media captionJack Williams, 16, was found dead six weeks after his mother, Rachel, was gunned down by her estranged husband, Darren.

A domestic violence victim whose son was found dead six weeks after she was shot by her estranged husband, has spoken of how badly let down he was.

Rachel Williams, who was recovering in hospital, said Jack, 16, "became a boy I didn't recognise".

In August 2011, Darren Williams had burst into her Newport hair salon and opened fire. Hours later he was found hanged in local woodland.

Six weeks later Jack's body was found hanged in the same area.

Mrs Williams said a serious case review into events leading up to the two deaths, told her what she had known all along - that the authorities had failed him.

Image caption Rachel Williams said her son Jack had been failed by the system

"Jack was failed, let down, the help wasn't there that he should have had," she told BBC Wales.

"None of the agencies communicated with each other, it was a disaster from start to finish. He was badly let down by the system."

On 19 August last year Mr Williams - who police later found had an arsenal of weapons stashed at his home - burst into the Malpas Road hairdressers where his estranged wife worked and attempted to murder her.

Mrs Williams was hit in the knee, while two customers - one in her 90s - were also injured.

A six-hour manhunt then followed before Mr Williams was found dead at the nearby Brynglas woods.

Jack was found hanged at the same spot six weeks later.

The shootings came weeks after police arrested Mr Williams for assaulting and threatening his estranged wife.

Mrs Williams said there had been difficulties getting counselling for Mr Williams.

"I believe he was having some sort of breakdown but that doesn't excuse Darren's violent behaviour towards me, the domestic abuse I received, physically and mentally, for all those years. But if we're looking at mental health, he too was let down by the system".

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said Gwent Police did not want Mr Williams to be bailed after he was arrested in August for assaulting his wife.

But he was granted bail and the IPCC concluded that his shotgun rampage might have been prevented if there had been better communication between officers.

A separate multi-agency report found that little was done by the authorities to support the couple's son Jack in the weeks following the shooting until the boy himself was found hanged.

Mrs Williams, 38, who was in hospital in Swansea for more than a month following the gun attack, said she had put her trust into the agencies and family members to look after her grieving son in Cwmbran.

"I phoned social services from hospital to voice my concerns that Jack was changing within two weeks from a loving, caring son who we had a very close relationship to a boy I didn't recognise," she said.

Because he was aged 16, she said social services told her Jack could choose to stay where he wanted to.

"The age limit needs to change. To say someone at 16 can make decisions for themselves is wrong. In my eyes, sometimes 18 is not appropriate to make decisions in some respects."

Remembering Jack, Mrs Williams said they had been really close.

"Wherever I went Jack wasn't far behind, he was like my shadow," she said.

"We'd go up to my mother's two or three times a week. He had a very good relationship with my mother and step-dad, they'd take him on holiday, to the park, the pictures, on trips. We've lost a massive part of the family with Jack."

Image caption Grieving students at Jack Williams' school are being supported

Mrs Williams said she was left with no choice but to walk away from their marriage to the former lorry driver after years of abuse.

She said the family later discovered that Mr Williams had numerous affairs while the couple were together and had fathered another child.

"I had supported him for 18 years," she added.

"I tried to help him, but it was becoming more impossible, due to the combination of anabolic steroids and anti-depressants he was taking.

"For my own sanity and welfare I could not live with him anymore.

"I believe he was having some sort of a breakdown. However, this does not excuse him for the mental and physical abuse I suffered from him for all those years."

Mrs Williams' survival of the shooting was described in the serious case review report as "an extraordinary story of determination, fighting off a partner who was more than twice her size and build".

Gwent Police say they have implemented recommendations from the IPCC report to improve the way they handle reports of domestic violence and communication between police departments.

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