Brothers break the taboo on domestic abuse two years after their father murdered their mother and sister outside Spalding leisure centre

Luke and Ryan Hart wrote Operation Lighthouse about coercive control and domestic abuse after their

Luke and Ryan Hart wrote Operation Lighthouse about coercive control and domestic abuse after their dad murdered their mother Claire and sister Charlotte then turned the gun on himself. - Credit: Archant

Two brothers are raising awareness of the hidden secret of domestic abuse after their dad shot dead their mum and sister in the car park of Spalding leisure centre before turning the gun on himself.

Charlotte Hart and her mother Claire were shot outside Spalding leisure centre.

Charlotte Hart and her mother Claire were shot outside Spalding leisure centre. - Credit: Archant

On the two year anniversary of the murder, which hit national headlines and tore the boys worlds apart, Luke and Ryan Hart have self published a book to give a voice to hundreds of women who suffer, mostly in silence, at the hands of their partners.

Their parents, Lance and Clare Hart, grew up in March, but moved away to bring up their three children on a remote farm near Wisbech St Mary, then a small village on the outskirts of Spalding, where the father exerted his control over the entire family, until his jealous paranoia ended in tragedy in July 2016.

Now, the brothers have published Operation Lighthouse, named after the police murder inquiry, with a forward by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The story is taking the book charts by storm and, more importantly, is breaking the ice on talking about domestic violence with a powerful message that women and their children do not have to be hit to be abused.

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Luke said: “We didn’t want the two year anniversary to pass with sadness, we wanted it to be empowering, to help others, so within about a month, we put together the book and got it published ourselves.

“In the first year following the deaths, Ryan and I wrote our thoughts to each other to try to make sense of what had happened. We used that as the basis of the book then got advice from lots of different people like domestic abuse charities.

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“Jeremy Corbyn Tweeted to us his condolences at the time, so we fired off an email asking if he would write a forward. He instantly agreed. That was a big wow moment. It means a lot to have his support for what we are doing.

“It is a bitter irony that throughout our lives our dad tried to silence our voices. Now look.

“Everybody assumes domestic violence is about a progression of violence, but that is not always the case.

“The abusers don’t want to control you, they want you to control yourself. It is a subtle difference.”

The brothers moved from Spalding to Surrey after the murders where Luke works in technology and Ryan works on oil rigs.

In between, they both advocate for raising awareness of coercive control by giving training sessions to police forces, NHS staff and speaking at domestic abuse conferences.

Luke said: “If you have to change your behaviour in any way to try to please a person then you are being controlled. I learnt to switch off to massive trauma, so became desensitised. You lose a part of yourself to survive.

“As young men talking about this I feel we are breaking a huge taboo. Women feel embarrassed talking about it or can’t even verbalise what it is they are going through because it has become normalised for them to live a certain way.

“Or it is more about a series of lots of things that build up to a complete picture of abuse. It can be hard to verbalise domestic abuse because one single incident may not mean much.

“Also, we have found women are often given a hard time for speaking about it.

“Even as men we are told we are gender biased, there’s a huge problem with men thinking they know best, or with men thinking they can control women.

“Two women a week are killed by their partners. Men often play the perfect victim saying the women have pushed them, or blaming the women some how.

“Another thing we’ve found is women apologise they haven’t been beaten enough, or indeed at all, so they question how are they domestic violence victims, it goes so much deeper than that.

“If anybody thinks they are in a coercive control relationship I would advise them calling a domestic abuse hot line,

“A lot of women are afraid they will be wasting the hotline time, but the staff can help them to understand what it is they are going through.

“Trouble with abuse, is that women acclimatise slowly, you make changes to try to stop the bad behaviour. It is not always about violence to achieve control.”

The brothers started writing thoughts to each other about three months after their mum Claire and sister Charlotte were shot in July 19, 2016.

It was never intended to be a book, but after a year they realised they had a powerful testimony to support others going through the trauma of abusive relationships.

Luke said: “It was healing for us to put our thoughts on paper, to assimilate our past, our present and forge our new future.

“We realised when the story hit the media, our dad was almost eulogised. The media himpathised with our dad and treated it like a random act, out of character following his marriage break up. The blatant media sexism was frustrating.

“We knew it was a series of events over years leading up to this.

“We wanted to give a voice to our mum and sister, so that their memory lives on forever in a positive way to help others.”

• You can buy the book on Amazon.

• Visit Luke and Ryan’s Facebook page here.

• Visit their Coco Awareness website here.

• Fenland has a women’s refuge. For advice and support call the national domestic violence helpline

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