Devon

Mother mourns Ten Tors victim Charlotte Shaw

Image caption Jennifer Wilkin-Shaw was making a welcoming meal for her daughter when police knocked on her door

An inquest has returned a narrative verdict after a Devon schoolgirl died while training for the Ten Tors trek on Dartmoor. The coroner has called for children in the challenge to be given more training before taking part.

The Ten Tors is designed to be a test of young people's stamina and determination.

Fourteen-year-old Charlotte Shaw was one of 10 friends from Edgehill College - now Kingsley School - in Devon, who were training for the annual event.

On 4 March 2007 she was helping a friend to cross the Walla Brook, a stream which had been swollen by torrential rain, when she fell.

Charlotte died the next day in hospital, with her mother Jennifer Wilkin-Shaw at her side.

Charlotte's death is believed to be the first fatality connected with the annual Ten Tors since it began in 1960.

Mrs Wilkin-Shaw, 46, told BBC News that an inquest, which began almost a year ago, had been a constant reminder of her "compassionate, beautiful daughter".

She said: "I feel the shower of arrows constantly at me, like Saint Sebastian.

"It's as if Charlotte has fallen again, Charlotte is in a swollen river again, that she is drowning again.

"I have heard it once, I've heard it many times and wonder when I'm going to get the hang of the fact that Charlotte Shaw isn't here any more.

Image caption Charlotte Shaw had intended to study law at Harvard

"That beautiful girl. When am I going to get the hang of it?"

Charlotte was Mrs Wilkin-Shaw's only daughter. Her husband died in 2000.

She said: "I'm broken, but within that there is a sort of linking, if you like, between me and other women around the world that have lost people.

"Somehow when this is over it would be very useful if I can put this to some use.

"To perhaps be an inspiration to those women who do not have what I have in terms of western justice, my legal team, my home, Charlotte's two cats, Crumble and Custard, and my great friends."

She remembers the police's knock on the door of her home in the village of Frithelstock, near the north Devon town of Torrington.

'Legs gave way'

She had been doing some ironing and cooking a stew - Charlotte's favourite - in preparation for her return from the training exercise.

"I saw a male and female police officer and I knew immediately something had happened."

The police told her that Charlotte had had an accident and was at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.

Image caption The Ten Tors is a test of endurance over two days on Dartmoor

"My legs gave way," she said.

"They said she is not dying at the moment.

"I felt something terrible was about to happen."

Charlotte had declared she wanted to study law at Harvard University in the US, with the goal of becoming a barrister.

Mrs Wilkin-Shaw said: "She was a compassionate, beautiful person even at her age.

"She was the most conscientious person I have met. She was precise, meticulous, hard-working and determined.

"She would have worked for people that were underprivileged, who were in need of support."

The sporty teenager had been looking forward to the Ten Tors where she would have been her college's team captain.

It can be a life-defining event for youngsters.

For three-and-a-half years Mrs Wilkin-Shaw has waited to find out why her daughter's life was ended as she trained for the challenge.

A series of witnesses from youngsters to the Army and teachers have given evidence.

Mrs Wilkin-Shaw said: "Every day I wake up about 3ft from her bedroom and every day I walk past her room expecting something magical to have taken place, some sort of time travel that she could possibly come out of her room.

"I know that's never going to occur and I wonder if in 45 or 50 years if I'm still here whether I'm going to have the same expectation."

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