It is estimated that 1 to 2 children in the UK die each week from abuse or neglect. Some cases receive high profile national news coverage; many do not, but are no less shocking. Whenever a child dies in such circumstances, the case is reviewed to see what lessons can be learned.
Case study 1 Victoria Climbié
Case study 2 Holly and Jessica
Case study 3 A neglected family
Case study 1
When she died at the age of 9, Victoria Climbié had no fewer than 128 separate injuries. She had spent much of her last days in an unheated bathroom bound hand and foot inside a bin bag, lying in her own urine and faeces. In the space of just a few months, Victoria had been transformed from a healthy, lively, and happy little girl, into a wretched and broken wreck of a human being. The inquiry into her death was highly critical of health professionals who, despite numerous contacts, failed to protect Victoria and prevent her death at the hands of her carers.4
Case study 2
On a summer evening in 2002, 10-year-old friends Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman disappeared close to home. After an eleven day search their bodies were found, brutally murdered and dumped in a ditch. The man convicted of their murders was someone they knew, the school caretaker with a history of alleged sexual offences against children, who had managed to gain employment in a setting where he would have contact with children. The Bichard Inquiry that followed identified shortcomings in information sharing and errors in recruitment and vetting procedures.6
Case study 3
In 2004 an ambulance was called to a house to attend a lifeless 18-month-old twin boy. Paramedics found five starving children under the age of eight living in squalor, with urine soaked mattresses and dog excrement in their bedrooms. Meanwhile the living room and bedroom used by their parents were clean and stocked with high-tech entertainment equipment. The family were not known to social services and had apparently ‘slipped through the net’.
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