Family criticise online adult film trade as webcam girl’s death ruled unlawful
The family of a webcam girl who was unlawfully killed during online sex-related role play have criticised the “terrible” adult internet film industry.
Hope Barden, described as “beautiful and intelligent” worked as a carer for people with learning disabilities but did camera work to earn extra money.
She was discovered dead by her flat-mate on March 15 last year, Staffordshire Police said.
Post-mortem tests revealed she died of asphyxiation.
Examination of her phone showed she had been performing online sex acts for regular service user Jerome Dangar, 45, from Cornwall.
Police inquiries showed Dangar had encouraged Miss Barden to engage in what her family called increasingly “degrading and dangerous” sexual acts, over three months.
Police said a charge of manslaughter, in what would have been a landmark case, was being considered against Dangar before his death earlier this year.
Miss Barden’s mother was highly critical of the “unregulated” online adult film industry, adding: “It serves no-one except those who wish to perpetrate violence against women.”
The family have now shared a report on the subject with every UK police force, to assist officers in dealing sensitively “should a dreadful situation like this arise again”.
Two months after Miss Barden was discovered unresponsive at home, Staffordshire Police arrested Dangar in connection with her death.
He was subsequently separately convicted of having extreme pornographic images in January and jailed for 15 months, while the investigation continued.
A file was then submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider a charge of manslaughter.
Detectives had discovered evidence showing Dangar was online while the mental health degree graduate died and that he made no attempt to raise the alarm.
But Dangar was found dead in his prison cell in HMP Dartmoor in April.
At an inquest on Wednesday into the death of Miss Barden at her flat in Wood Street, Burton-upon-Trent, senior coroner for Staffordshire Andrew Haigh concluded she was unlawfully killed, police said.
Following the hearing, Miss Barden’s mother Kate issued a statement issued through Staffordshire Police.
She said: “Hope was a beautiful, intelligent young woman.
“She had completed her foundation degree in adolescent mental health and had recently returned from working in Norway.
“Hope had paid work in the Burton area as a carer for people with learning disabilities.
“Hope had been earning extra money working in the online adult film industry.
“Unregulated, this industry serves no-one except those who wish to perpetrate violence against women.
“Hope became the subject of interest of a regular user of the site who paid her to perform sexual acts via the internet, which over three months of contact escalated into degrading and dangerous situations.
“We are sorely disappointed that this case can no longer bring any legal justice for Hope.
“Had this gone to court, this would be a landmark case, the first of its kind in the UK.
“As it is, we will be issuing our report and findings to every police force in the UK in the trust that should a dreadful situation like this arise again, there is a record of how we approached such a sensitive and difficult issue.
“Anyone with daughters or other relatives involved in this terrible industry must be aware of the risk of harm.
“A duty of care exists in any relationship.
“If someone is obviously in danger, one has a legal obligation to take steps to help.
“In this tragic case, Hope was left to die.
“Hope’s family and friends have been devastated.”
Miss Barden’s family thanked the Staffordshire force and Devon and Cornwall Police for their work on the investigation.
Detective Inspector John Quilty said: “The death of Dangar ultimately prevented prosecutors from charging him in connection with Hope’s death as a result of sexually-related role play.
“This type of online sexual activity is extremely dangerous and the repeated persuasion and dangerous requests that Dangar placed on Hope ultimately led to her death.
“The tragic death of Hope, and the potential consequences for Dangar, should send a strong deterrent message to those who engage in such dangerous sexual acts and make requests of others whilst online, anywhere in the UK.”