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2 |

March 3 - 9 2010

News

The Telegraph

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NEWS P6

Assisted suicide New prosecution guidelines for ‘crimes of compassion’

COMMENT P18

Falklands fever Argentina gets testy as oil prospectors arrive in Port Stanley

OBITUARIES P22

Alexander Haig US secretary of state and leader of NATO dies aged 85

FEATURES P24-25

Rebuilding Haiti The 600 Red Cross workers trying to bring order to quake chaos

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Tax storm ahead Expats face huge payments as court clarifies residency rule

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There was one winner of Saturday’s £4.3m jackpot and three winners of Wednesday’s £2.2m prize

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971

The Telegraph

By Caroline Gammell and Lucy Cockcroft A GIRL aged seven who was starved to death by her mother might still be alive had she not been failed by social services, a High Court judge said.

Khyra Ishaq would “in all probability” not have died, said the judge, had welfare officers intervened and taken her from her mother and her mother’s convict boyfriend.

The case echoes that of Baby P and came on the 10th anniversary of the killing of Victoria Climbié – raising a question of whether lessons were learnt from their deaths and subsequent official inquiries.

Khyra lived in Birmingham, where 18 vulnerable children have died over the past five years, according to the local MP, who described the death rate as “an epidemic”.

She suffered months of abuse by Angela Gordon and Junaid Abuhamza. Confined to a squalid room, she was deprived of food and beaten, dying in excruciating pain in May 2008, weighing 2st 9lb.

She was found to have more than 60 injuries. Khyra and five other children in the family home shared a single mattress and one small bowl of food a day. A doctor who examined her body had to rely on studies of concentration camp and famine victims because “people simply do not die of starvation in Europe”.

As Gordon and Abuhamza were convicted of manslaughter and child cruelty last Thursday, the failures of social services and welfare officers were laid bare.

Mrs Justice King said in a report: “Khyra’s death was caused by and is the responsibility of her mother and [Abuhamza], but on the evidence before the court I can only conclude that in all probability, had there been an adequate initial assessment and proper adherence by the educational welfare services to its guidance, Khyra would not have died.

“Merely looking at the photographs of the house and the conditions in which the children were living, confirms in my mind that had social services even seen the bedroom in which the children lived or the manner in which they were fed, they would undoubtedly have intervened.

“It is beyond belief that in 2008 in a bustling, energetic and modern city like Birmingham, a child of seven was withdrawn from school and thereafter kept in squalid conditions for a period of five months before finally dying of starvation… No professional person, whether teacher or social worker, saw the

PA

Khyra Ishaq and five other children shared one bowl of food a day children after February 2008 and no one tried to see them.”

The case follows that of Peter Connelly, Baby P, which caused national outrage. He was 17 months old when he died in August 2007 at the hands of his mother Tracey Connelly, her boyfriend Steven Barker and their lodger Jason Owen, after months of abuse and despite 60 visits from social workers and being on the “at risk” register.

Details of Khyra’s suffering emerged at the end of a criminal trial at Birmingham Crown Court. Gordon and Abuhamza had murder charges dropped after claiming diminished responsibility. Psychiatrists said Gordon, 35, had been suffering serious depression, while Abuhamza, 30, was a schizophrenic.

Mrs Justice King issued her damning verdict at the High Court in a ruling on care for the other five children in the house. It was released on the anniversary of the death of Victoria Climbié, the eight year-old starved to death by sadistic relations.

Tony Howell, strategic director for children, young people and families at Birmingham council, last week refused to resign, saying it would serve no purpose. “I would like to say how sorry I am that we were unable to save Khyra Ishaq,” he said. “It has caused a great deal of hard reflection among all the agencies in the city who have a responsibility to protect vulnerable children.”

A serious case review is expected within weeks..

Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Perry Bar, called for a wide-ranging inquiry into the city’s social services.

“We have had 18 deaths of vulnerable young people in Birmingham over the past five years, all of whom had come into contact somehow with social services – this is an epidemic,” he said.

Ed Balls, the Children’s Secretary, said the public would be “appalled” by Khyra’s death. “There are clearly serious questions to be answered about what local services and professionals were doing,” he said.

Ishaq Abuzaire, Khyra’s natural father, said: “These are classic social work failures. Every time I went there, the child was dying, every time I’ve been to the house, slowly and slowly that child was suffering.”

The couple

AS one of five children, Junaid Abuhamza grew up in an abusive, bullying household where he, too, was starved and beaten.

At the age of five he watched his three-year-old sister beaten to death by his tyrannical father. She had forgotten to flush the lavatory. Significantly, Abuhamza was also deprived of food as a child and was extremely underweight. In 1992 his school reported that he had been stealing food from classmates.

With his father in jail for the killing of his sister, Abuhamza’s mother continued to rule the house with a rod of iron and he left at 15 to lead an itinerant life.

Spells in prison followed for driving offences. Aged 23, he

Abuhamza, an avid believer in the evil Djinn spirits, moved in with Gordon converted to Islam and became an avid believer in Djinns, or evil spirits.

Married twice, but each time for only a matter of months, Abuhamza became a regular visitor to his local mosque. It was there that he met Ishaq Abuzaire, Angela Gordon’s husband, in 2001.

Gordon’s mother was just 16 when she gave birth and her daughter grew up with her maternal grandmother. Influenced by the older woman, Gordon, who has Jamaican heritage, adopted the Muslim faith in 1994.

A year later she met and married Mr Abuzaire, who was also from a Jamaican background, but their Islamic wedding was not registered in a civil ceremony.

Within six years he had taken another wife and continued to have relationships with both women before, in 2004, he divorced Gordon via declarations of Talaq, in which he pronounced “I divorce you” three times.

By this time she had ballooned to more than 20 stone and was using her Islamic dress to cover her obesity.

Mr Abuzaire moved to Spain and asked Abuhamza to help his former wife with the school run.

After getting out of prison at the end of 2007, he moved in with Gordon. It was this twist of fate that saw this couple thrown together and the beginning of the end for Khyra.

Gordon’s knowledge of the Koran was poor and so she bowed to Abuhamza’s interpretation of how the family should live as good Muslims. For instance, she dressed her children in full Islamic robes, although this was not a requirement at such a young age. Perversely, both recognised that living together as unmarried partners was considered “wholly improper”.

Caroline Gammell