Baby P News The Times
After 17 months of unimaginable cruelty, Baby P finally succumbed
When the infant known in court only as Baby P was brought home from hospital days after his birth in March 2006, it was as a bubbly, blue-eyed boy with the first signs of curly blond hair. He was, according to those who came into contact with him, a lively child with a ready smile.
After 17 months enduring abuse of an almost unimaginable cruelty, the boy had been reduced to a nervous wreck, his hair shaved to the scalp and his body covered in bruises and scabs. Physical injuries included eight broken ribs, a broken back and the missing top of a finger, while the emotional damage was almost incalculable. Despite it all, Baby P was said to have still attempted a smile.
The jury was told that details of the intervening months, leading to the baby’s death last August, would “fill [them] with revulsion”. But even this could not prepare jurors — one of whom could not hold back tears — for one of the worst cases of sadistic brutality and sordid child neglect to come before a British court.
Baby P’s life in a council flat in Haringey, North London, began with gradual and growing neglect at the hands of his mother, who would leave him unattended for hours in his cot. The overweight woman, who had never had a full-time job and spent hours trawling the internet for pornography, split from the boy’s natural father when he was 3 months old after affairs with two men.
* Review ordered after tragic life of Baby P
When the second lover moved in, Baby P’s suffering increased dramatically. The court heard that while his mother gossiped with friends in online chat rooms, her boyfriend took to beating the boy, swinging him around by the neck or legs and pinching him.
The Times has been told that the man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, forced Baby P to follow commands like a dog. At the click of a finger he would have to sit with his head bent between his legs; 20 minutes later a second click would be the signal that he could sit upright again.
A second man, Jason Owen, also subjected the boy to similar abuse. Owen, who stayed at the house for five weeks with his 15-year-old girlfriend, was found guilty with the boyfriend of causing or allowing the death of a child. The mother admitted her guilt at an earlier hearing.
Police were told that the boyfriend, a 32-year-old collector of Nazi memorabilia, wanted to “toughen him up”. Other routines included placing the baby on a stool and spinning it around until he fell off.
The authorities had first voiced concerns about possible abuse by October 2006, when a GP noticed marks on the boy. But his mother, in the first of many episodes of deception and false reassurances, insisted she had found that his skin “bruised easily”.
Two months later the GP sent the pair to the Whittington Hospital, North London, after inspecting a head injury. Insisting that her child was “a head-banger” fond of “rough and tumble play”, the mother claimed that fingermarks were merely the result of when he was caught after being lovingly held and thrown into the air.
Social services were informed and visited the flat, which was found to be dirty, untidy and smelling of urine. They learnt that it was shared with the boy’s grandmother and three dogs, including a rottweiler, but remained unaware that it also harboured a violent boyfriend. They decided to let the child stay with a family friend while police inquiries continued.
A month later, in January 2007, with no decision made on any charge against either woman, the boy was allowed back home. As he grew too old for milk and jars of baby food, Baby P scavenged bits of broken biscuits from older children and was even seen eating dirt in the garden. Detectives found that after the boyfriend moved in there was not one piece of the boy’s clothing that was not spattered with blood.
The court heard that the mother, 27, had been taught at a boarding school where she gained GCSEs including English and IT. She had sought treatment for postnatal depression in the past. But, from the outset, she had appeared more devoted to her dogs, a German shepherd called Lady and a Staffordshire bull terrier called Lucky.
Sources involved in the case said that when officers went into the house they found dead mice and chicks lying around — food for a snake that the boyfriend kept in his bedroom. The man was also said to enjoy torturing animals and would skin frogs alive before breaking their legs. Meanwhile, the mother, known to fear him leaving her, posted on her Bebo website: “My fella is nuts but being in love is great.”
Social workers tried to keep the family together, assuaged by the mother’s excuses. They were rehoused and allocated a social worker and health visitor. Yet the violence worsened, with A&E attendances for black eyes, swellings and bruises, “scalp rash” and “ear discharge”. One episode resulted in the mother’s rearrest.
Maria Ward, the case worker, said that she visited the house four days before Baby P’s death for a prearranged meeting. She found the boy in his pushchair, his bruises covered up with chocolate. “He had eaten a chocolate biscuit and there was chocolate over his face,” she told the court. “He had chocolate on his hands and face.” She said that she asked the mother to wipe his face before they went out and the mother started cleaning him. Miss Ward noted that the boy had an infected scalp, which was covered in white cream, and an ear infection.
But she added: “He appeared well. He smiled when I spoke to him.” The case worker said that she had been content to leave the boy with his mother because she appeared to be co-operative and properly supported.
Days later — and 48 hours before his death — Baby P was taken to St Ann’s Hospital amid further concerns for his wellbeing. During an examination by Dr Sabah Al-Zayyat, a paediatrician, his mother and her friend supported the child. Despite Baby P’s repeated cries of pain, the consultant missed both his broken back and ribs.
The next day his mother was called to the social services office. She was told by police that she would not be prosecuted after consideration by the Crown Prosecution Service.
On the very same evening, back at the family home, Baby P received a fatal blow to his mouth, knocking a tooth out. After 17 months of agony, the tiny child finally succumbed. The next day he was found dead in his cot.
The consultant paediatrician was the last doctor to see Baby P alive, two days before his death. Failed to identify broken back and ribs, recording that the examination could not be completed because the baby was “miserable and cranky”. She said she thought that Baby P had a cold. Dr Al-Zayyat, from Ilford, Essex, trained in Saudi Arabia and moved to Ireland in 1997 to study a master’s degree. Worked as a locum consultant paediatrician between 2002 and 2006 before moving to Great Ormond Street trust, based at St Ann’s Hospital. She has been banned from working unsupervised with children until the inquiry is complete and may face a GMC hearing
Appointed as the allocated social worker for Baby P on February 2, 2007, making her first visit to the child 20 days later. Baby P’s mother reassured her that she was “back on track” and insisted that the child should not be on the at-risk register. When Ms Ward spotted bruising on the child’s face the mother told her that he had squabbled with an older child. Four days before Baby P died Ms Ward, above, found the child sitting in his pushchair with chocolate all over his face and hands. The Old Bailey heard that the chocolate was to cover up the bruises. Ms Ward said she had been content to leave the boy with his mother because she appeared to be co-operative and properly supported. She is believed still to work at Haringey Council
Director of Haringey’s Children and Young People’s Service since April 2005 after two years as the director of education. She was previously one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors, inspecting both schools and education authorities. She has refused to apologise or resign over Baby P’s death, instead blaming legal advice received a week before the baby’s death for him not being taken into care. Ms Shoesmith, below, chaired the Serious Case Review. She claims that her role was as a “facilitator” and the report was independent
Health visitor who saw the boy only four times in six months because the mother cancelled four appointments with her. She completed a one-year check and reported “no concerns”
A team manager at Haringey Social Services, she reported in March that the baby “appears to have a high pain threshold”. She said: “It is concerning he does not seem to react to danger or pain. Only his mother can stop him, he does not seem to stop himself”