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Health chiefs 'failed' tragic adopted twin


Health chiefs 'failed' tragic adopted twin

4 September, 2003

Thomas Harding

An inquiry into the death of an adopted Romanian baby who died months after entering Britain has severely criticised the "failures" of a health authority.

David Filipache was dead within three months of arriving. Two weeks later his twin brother was admitted to hospital with a skull fracture for which his adoptive father, Geoffrey Briggs, was later jailed for causing grievous bodily harm.

But it appears that no further action was taken despite a post mortem examination showing that David had suffered 16 fractures to his torso.

Detectives have questioned Briggs and his wife Gwen in relation to David's death and have submitted a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

An independent report was ordered and was highly critical of the authorities in Northern Ireland where the children were adopted.

The children were not properly monitored on arrival, there was confusion over responsibilities and a lack of leadership, the report concluded. It also criticised a health visitor and a social worker for failing to notice signs of stress in the family that led to the child abuse.

The assistant state pathologist, who carried out the examination on the dead child, has been referred to the General Medical Council.

David and Samuel Filipache were adopted in Romania when 11 months old and taken to live in Portadown, Co Armagh, by Briggs, a former overseas missionary, and his wife Gwen in 2000.

During the children's first year the Craigavon and Banbridge Health and Social Services Trust was responsible for monitoring them but the report said that there was a failure to properly visit or support the children.

Just three months after the twins' arrival in Northern Ireland, David was taken to the Craigavon Area Hospital and declared dead on arrival.

He was buried after a post mortem examination that failed to determine the cause of death.

Just 13 days after he died, his brother Samuel was taken to the same hospital suffering a fractured skull and other injuries.

Mr Briggs admitted punching Samuel and was subsequently charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm and sentenced to two years. Samuel was placed for adoption with another family.

Following the injuries to Samuel, the coroner ordered the exhumation of David's body and a study of original X-rays. They showed he had suffered multiple fractures to his ribs and body, which were not accidental. They were not recorded after the original post mortem examination.

Angela Smith, the Northern Ireland health minister, said: "There is no doubt that there were substantial failings on the part of health and social services.

"These young children were brought here to begin a new family life. It is distressing that what should have been a new beginning had such tragic consequences.

"I am determined to ensure that we learn the lessons and that all the recommendations contained in this report are fully implemented." The 45-page report also found a lack of communication, lack of team work and basic weak management in the health authorities.

It said: "These issues must be addressed to avoid similar tragic events in the future and to ensure that vulnerable children are safeguarded and their well-being is actively promoted." It criticised the trust for failing to monitor the well-being of the children after they arrived in the country. The Craigavon and Banbridge community health and social services trust management was singled out for specific criticism with its management arrangements found to be "significantly lacking".

It also failed to appreciate the special problems likely to be faced by children coming to this country from Romania, despite extensive media coverage of the issues.

2003 Sep 4