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I had no idea my Amber was reaching out for me when I was fighting to see her; SCANDAL OF THE MODERN-DAY CINDERELLA; AGONY OF DAD WHOSE DAUGHTER WAS FOUND DEAD; EXCLUSIVE.

Byline: GRACE MACASKILL

THE grieving dad of tragic 'Cinderella' schoolgirl Amber Peat has told of his heartbreak after finding she begged social services to let her live with him.

Adrian Cook's 13-year-old daughter was found hanged in a hedgerow in June, four days after fleeing home following a row with her mum and stepfather over her household chores.

Adrian says he was banned from seeing her for the last two years because of a family law loophole which exempted him from parental rights after he split from her mum.

Amber took her own life not knowing her dad, who did not know her whereabouts, was saving up to hire a lawyer to help him fight to get her back.

Only since her death have heartbreaking social services documents revealed concerns about Amber and her pleas to live with Adrian.

Speaking of his anguish for the first time, Adrian, 40, said: "I had no idea she was reaching out for me. All the while I'd been fighting to see her and she didn't know that either. It breaks my heart.

"She was my little girl. I never gave up hope I would get her back. I had no idea she was suffering so badly since I left and that kills me. It will be with me forever."

He says Amber's mum Kelly Pickford, 34, stopped him having contact with his daughter when she met Danny Peat, 31, after their 2012 split.

HELPLESS

Family law left Adrian without automatic parental rights because the pair were never married and Amber was born before the law change of 2003 which awards equal rights to both parents.

Adrian said: "I'm no angel and Amber's mum and I had a difficult relationship. But the good thing to come out it was our two children. Amber was such a special girl. She was obsessed with Disney princesses which makes it so sad she's been called a modern day Cinderella. When we split, Kelly moved house and changed her number so I couldn't in touch. I had no rights and I was helpless."

A social services probe has revealed how Amber begged them for help in the months leading up to her death. Paperwork detailed concerns over "extreme punishments, constant ridicule and lack of emotional warmth" from Kelly and Peat who has now been removed from the family home.

Today Adrian claims social workers in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire let his daughter down by failing to pass paperwork from one authority to another when the family moved. He says they did not contact him when Amber asked to be united with him in January 2014. Both social services departments said they were unable to comment yesterday.

Adrian also denies accusations on social media that he abandoned Amber and her young sister.

He said: "Relationships break down and that was what happened with me and Kelly. I loved my children and desperately wanted to stay in their lives.

"For the first few weeks I did, but she stopped that. The last time I saw Amber we'd been for lunch and I took her back and we said goodbye like I would see her the next week. I had no idea it would be goodbye for ever. Social workers knew what Amber was going through.

"She went to them last year and told them she was being treated terribly. She also told them she just wanted her dad. Hearing that broke me."

Instead Adrian, of Inverness, found out about his daughter's disappearance in Mansfield, Notts, on May 30 when his new wife Lynda spotted an appeal on Facebook. He said: "I tried to get in touch with Kelly and her family on Facebook but got no reply. I had to call Nottinghamshire police and tell them I was Amber's dad.

"I wanted to get involved in the search and was ready to drive down but the police said Amber knew I was in Scotland and might turn up. She went missing on the Saturday and early on Monday morning the police turned up to search my house to see if I was hiding her. I was furious. All the time I half expected her to knock on the door."

Instead Adrian received a call from police the next day saying her body had been found. He drove down to Leicester Royal Infirmary to see his dead daughter alongside her mum and Peat.

Describing the harrowing moment he saw Amber, only 4ft tall, lying on a mortuary slab, Adrian said: "The last time I'd seen her she was eating chocolate ice cream. All I could do was hold her and tell her she had been a silly girl. I told her Daddy would try to find out what happened." Soon allegations about Amber's treatment started to emerge from social workers. Neighbours are said to have noticed how often Amber used to put out the bins or clear up rubbish from the garden.

When Adrian learned of the claims he no longer wanted Danny to carry his daughter's coffin at the funeral. He said: "We were told part of Amber's statement was that Danny had got her up after 11pm on a school night to wash the dinner dishes again because she hadn't done them properly. He then told her to clean the kitchen cupboards.

"Why would I want that man to carry my little girl's coffin?"

In a fury, Adrian called Kelly. He says she insisted Peat should carry Amber. He says she told him: "What Amber told social workers was just an opinion." The pair had already clashed over Amber's cremation. "I wanted her buried so I could go and see her," says Adrian. "I didn't want my baby burned and I couldn't watch Danny play the doting dad carrying her coffin."

The day before the service Adrian says he got a call from police warning him not to cause trouble. Worried he would not be able to keep his temper, he and Lynda chose to stay away. Instead, they bought 12 roses in Amber's favourite colour pink and asked the funeral director to place them inside Amber's coffin. Adrian said: "People probably thought we didn't even send flowers but I don't care what they think."

On the day of the service, Adrian went to the chapel of rest where Amber's coffin had already been sealed. Aware Kelly had asked for four plaits to be made from her hair, he asked for one.

"At least Kelly was good enough to say yes," said Adrian. "It's all I have left of my daughter."

grace.macaskill@sundaymirror.co.uk

"She was my little girl. I never gave up hope that I would get her back. REAL DAD ADRIAN ON HIS FIGHT TO SEE HIS DAUGHTER

CAPTION(S):

SAD PLEA Amber wanted to live with her dad Adrian

Police search near where Amber's body was found

CINDERS ORDEAL Amber loved princesses

DEVASTATED Adrian with wife Lynda

REAL DAD Adrian Cook with Amber's sister

MUM & STEPDAD Kelly and Peat appeal for missing Amber to come home
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 6, 2015
Words:1171
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