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Young mum killed on A38 needed help to escape violent partner

A woman who died after getting out of a van and walking into the path of another vehicle on the A38 had needed help to escape domestic abuse, a review has concluded.

Veronika Pugaciova got out of her partner’s van and walked onto a stretch of the carriageway near Burton with a can of lager in her hand.

The driver of a Volkswagen Golf sounded her horn but Miss Pugaciova walked out onto the carriageway looking away from the traffic.

The mum-of-one started to run but the driver was unable to avoid hitting her and she died in July, 2017, at the age of 32.

A review into the death of Veronika Pugaciova has now been published which found a series of actions may have driven her back into the arms of her violent partner before the tragedy, Staffordshire Live reports.

Miss Pugaciova’s partner who was driving the van, Jonathan Allison, had previously been jailed for violence against her and was initially arrested on suspicion of her murder but was later released with the murder charge dropped.

She also had a restraining order against him. However, people who had spoken to them earlier in the day of her death had no concerns she was being held against her will, the report said.

The accident happened on the A38, between Branston and Clay Mills, near Burton, but it remains unclear why Miss Pugaciova got out of the car.

An inquest in 2018 was told Miss Pugaciova had had a “stormy” relationship with Mr Allison.

A full investigation was launched due to concerns over Mr Allison being in the company of the victim.

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Miss Pugaciova had moved to Hull from Lithuania with a former partner and started a relationship with Mr Allison in 2015. It was initially good but started to deteriorate.

Mr Allison had been jailed for 16 weeks for battery in April 2017 and had previously received a conditional discharge for the same offence in 2016.

They continued to see each other despite a restraining order against Mr Allison.

Coroner Margaret Jones ruled that Miss Pugaciova died as a result of a road traffic accident.

Despite her death being the result of an accident, the authorities decided a domestic homicide review should still be carried out on behalf of the Hull Community Safety Partnership, Hull Live reports.

The independent review was authored by Tony Blockley, who is a senior lecturer at the University of Derby, with a PhD in domestic violence and abuse. He has no connection with Hull Community Safety Partnership.

In investigating Miss Pugaciova’s death the review, which referred to her as ‘Maria’ and Mr Allison as ‘Steve’, considered:

– Whether the incident in which she died was an isolated event or whether there were any warning signs.

– Whether there were any barriers experienced by Maria or family/friends/colleagues in reporting any abuse in Hull or elsewhere.

– Whether Maria had experienced abuse in previous relationships in the Hull area or elsewhere and how this might have impacted on her seeking support in the months before she died.

– If there were opportunities for professionals to ‘routinely enquire’ as to any domestic abuse experienced by Maria that were missed

– Whether Steve had any previous history of abusive behaviour and whether this was known to any agencies

– If there were opportunities for agency intervention in relation to domestic abuse regarding Maria and Steve or to dependent children that were missed

– If there are any training or awareness raising requirements necessary to ensure a greater knowledge and understanding of domestic abuse processes and/or services in the region

– Whether there are any equality and diversity issues.

Mr Blockley concluded there were no major failings but believes Miss Pugaciova’s case was not viewed as a whole with agencies working independently of each other.

This, he felt, actually undermined the support and protection she received and may have isolated her which, in turn, drove her back to her abusive partner.

The report says: “There were key points within Maria’s life that increased her vulnerability and while all these points were managed according to legislative requirements and appropriately in their individual circumstances, their cumulative impact and effect on Maria may not have been fully recognised.

“There are some specific learning points for organisations but these were for isolated incidents and are not characteristic of any wider learning or organisational failings.

“However, agencies should be aware of the need to view the risks towards an individual from a multi-agency viewpoint, especially when the individual’s concerned have multiple complex needs so that a broader holistic view can therefore be developed.”

The report concedes Mr Allison was not directly responsible for Miss Pugaciova’s death but says he made her life hell.

It says: “There is no doubt this is a sad case and while Maria’s death could not be attributed to the direct actions of Steve, it is clear from this review that their relationship was based on violence and abuse.

“That Steve utilised coercive and controlling behaviours towards Maria, that he created isolation, adding to that manoeuvred Maria to a position whereby she was reliant on him.

Hull woman Veronika Pugaciova who died after being run over on the A38 near Burton-Upon-Trent
Veronika Pugaciova died after being run over on the A38 near Burton-Upon-Trent

“Agencies were often in contact with both Maria and Steve at points of crisis, where they acted according to their policies and processes to support her and ensure the safety for her child.

“Sadly, this could have increased her isolation and in turn have influenced her into returning to a relationship with Steve.

“There is nothing in the review that indicates any failings by any agency, but it does highlight the complexity of relationships, particularly for vulnerable people.”

In deciding the lessons to be learnt, the report suggests agencies needed to be mindful of the overall impact of the actions taken to help her.

It says: “The key lesson from this review is the consequential impact of actions towards individuals and while, in the first instance they may seem appropriate, the cumulative effect can increase the impact on the individual.

“On occasions the isolation created could be a continued barrier for the victim to move ahead with their life and provide further opportunity for the perpetrator to retain control and so continue with the cycle of abuse.”

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