Alleged abuse of abducted 'miracle child' poses more questions for council that failed Baby P

Relates to:
Date: 2008-12-08
Source: The Guardian

• Police check claims boy, 5, was beaten after adoption
• Whistleblowers gave dossier to Haringey

Police are investigating allegations of serious abuse of a five-year-old victim of child trafficking while he was in the care of Haringey, the London council that failed to prevent the death of Baby P.

The Metropolitan police child abuse team launched the investigation last month after claims that the child was being beaten while in the care of his adoptive family. Concerns were raised by Dr Hamish Cameron, a consultant child psychiatrist, after the boy was taken to hospital.

The boy had been snatched from his home in Africa and presented to a follower of Gilbert Deya, a self-styled archbishop who claimed to be able to cure infertility through prayer. Once the child was in the UK, the follower adopted the boy - known as Child C - as a "miracle baby". He was seized by police and since 2003 has been passed between six different sets of carers. Deya faces extradition to Kenya, where he is wanted on child abduction charges.

The police investigation was launched after Sharon Shoesmith, the suspended director of Haringey's department of children's services, was presented with a dossier of evidence from whistleblowers claiming the toddler had been suffering abuse and physical harm. The NSPCC has also been asked to investigate, a spokesman for the council confirmed.

One uncorroborated report on Child C's welfare, seen by the Guardian, said that while in the couple's care his head was banged against a wall so hard he needed hospital treatment. Other reports claim he screams at night and pulls his hair. Nursery workers are said to have reported that his behaviour appears emotionally disturbed.

The police investigation will come as a fresh blow to Haringey, which was severely censured last week for its "inadequate" child protection measures following the death of Baby P, who died despite 50 visits from social workers and other public agencies. The children's minister, Ed Balls, described an Ofsted report into the department's child protection measures as "devastating".

Details of the borough's handling of Child C's case and his alleged suffering were considered in the joint area review published last week. The review did not contain details of particular cases, only broad conclusions. Council leader George Meehan and Liz Santry, cabinet member with responsibility for children's services, resigned. Shoesmith ordered the investigation into Child C's welfare in one of her last acts as director of children's services before she was suspended at Balls's insistence. Shoesmith was criticised in the joint area review for management failings.

A dossier of allegations of abuse against Child C, seen by the Guardian, warns that "a stream of information about his unhappiness and partial rejection by his adopters" flowed from numerous anonymous phone messages.

The documents track Child C's life with his latest adoptive parents, and suggest he may have been unwanted and abused.

The anonymous complainants warned that he was screaming and unhappy, tended to bang walls, and would not eat properly. The adoptive mother was said to have complained that Child C was "wrecking our marriage" and left the boy with a social worker.

It is alleged that she only took him back when the local authority had agreed to fulfil its agreement to pay the family £26,000 for their care. That summer, he displayed behaviour suggesting he was emotionally disturbed while at his nursery. Most recently it was alleged that he had been admitted to hospital after a head injury.

"The question is, once the local authority is in charge of the welfare of a child, who monitors the local authority?" said Cameron. "The answer is no one. There's no way of alerting anyone to the welfare of such a child until they are dead. The baby P joint area review opened the door for me to blow the whistle about this case on the basis that we need an investigation independent of Haringey into the welfare of this child."

A spokesman for Haringey council said: "We can confirm that we have asked the police and the NSPCC to investigate an allegation of abuse. Because of that investigation we cannot comment further."


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