A POPULAR school cook and mum-of-two hanged herself three days before she was due to appear in court – for a trial many believe should never have gone ahead.

Forty-seven-year-old Sarah Jane Hankins, 47, was found dead at home in Bulford on the morning of Monday, November 16.

Sarah, who worked at Grateley House School for children with autism and Asperger’s, was due at Salisbury Magistrates’ Court on November 19, charged with assaulting her father-in-law, Geoffrey Hankins.

She denied the charge and her husband of nine years Gary Hankins said she struggled with the pressure of going to court. He blamed the CPS for postponing the trial – originally planned for November 5.

Gary described Sarah as a “loving, caring person” who was used to dealing with complex and challenging children.

He said: “It got postponed and she just couldn’t deal with it. I found notes from her in her diary that said if she was found guilty what would people think of her. It should never have gone to court, she should never have been prosecuted.

“She had seen lots of things at work but she was just a beautiful person. I think the CPS are a shambles, they did not do their job properly.

“When she was charged it was like they didn’t even know what they were talking about.

“I will miss her forever. It is just a tragedy.”

Solicitor Richard Griffiths, whose firm represented Sarah, also criticised the CPS' decision to prosecute.

He said: “That decision had the incredibly sad outcome that the anxiety Sarah experienced as a result of being the subject of that prosecution led her to take her own life.

“WeRichard Griffiths & Co made numerous representations to the Crown Prosecution Service that they should reconsider their decision to prosecute Sarah Hankins.

“She was a lady who had had no previous involvement with the criminal justice system of any kind.

“I have years of experience in conducting defended cases in the Magistrates Court and without being too specific but with the benefit of detailed knowledge of Sarah’s defence, I would have been amazed had any court convicted her.”“The Crown Prosecution Service were given detailed evidence in support of Sarah’s defence which they chose either to ignore or disbelieve.

“To my mind it shows a failure to take responsibility and to stand up when there is overwhelming evidence that it is not in the public interest to continue with a prosecution.

“The attitude of sitting on your hands and “letting the court decide” is to ignore the trauma that innocent people, faced with the prospect of a trial, go through. Unfortunately, we are becoming all too familiar with the low standard of decision making within the Crown Prosecution Service.”

When Geoffrey Hankins, the alleged victim of assault, was approached by the Journal he described it as “terrible” and claimed he did not press charges, although he supported the CPS decision to prosecute.

“She was very nice,” he said. “I just can’t believe it.”

The alleged assault happened on March 28. Sarah’s colleagues were due to appear as character witnesses at her trial.

Her boss, James Cameron, said: “Sarah was a kind and caring person, who did not deserve to be driven to take her own life because the CPS would not let a failed case of alleged assault go.

“It’s been such a tremendous loss. Staff at school just can’t believe it. She will really be missed.”

Sarah was at the school the night she died, preparing food and playing board games with the students.

The CPS has defended its decision to take Mrs Hankins to court. A spokesman said: “We offer our sincere condolences to Sarah Hankins’ family and friends. As in all cases, the CPS reviewed the evidence to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction, and if a prosecution was in the public interest. Upon careful review, It was decided that the full code test of the code for crown prosecutors was met.”