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March 3 - 9 2010
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μComment PAGES 18-21
μObituaries PAGES 22-23
μExpat Life PAGES 29-32
Assisted suicide New prosecution guidelines for ‘crimes of compassion’
Falklands fever Argentina gets testy as oil prospectors arrive in Port Stanley
Alexander Haig US secretary of state and leader of NATO dies aged 85
Rebuilding Haiti The 600 Red Cross workers trying to bring order to quake chaos
EXPAT LIFE P30
Tax storm ahead Expats face huge payments as court clarifies residency rule
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Bonus Ball 34
Bonus Ball 47
There was one winner of Saturday’s £4.3m jackpot and three winners of Wednesday’s £2.2m prize
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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
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.”
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 telegraph.co.uk/expat
Your planet, your home For all the latest on the environment telegraph.co.uk/earth
March 3 - 9 2010
By Stephen Adams and Ben Leach AS CHALLENGES on Blue Peter go, it beats making a model tank out of detergent bottles.
One of the show’s presenters, Helen Skelton, 26, has finished a 2,010-mile journey paddling down the Amazon, a feat that many experts said she would find impossible. On her way, she passed alligators, anacondas and shoals of man-eating piranha fish.
None could stop the tenacious Skelton, who completed the odyssey less than six weeks after setting off from Nauta in Peru on January 20. She was greeted with cheers and celebratory gunshots as she crossed the finish line at Almeirim in
Brazil, where the river becomes tidal. In so doing, she became the first woman to paddle the Amazon and set two records: the longest documented solo kayak journey and the longest distance by a woman in a kayak in 24 hours (75 miles).
But Skelton, whose exploits will be broadcast in two Blue Peter specials on March 16 and 17, suffered for the trek, in aid of the Sport Relief charity.
She had two injections for heat exhaustion. She endured blisters, sores and seasickness and used about 150ft of medical tape to protect her hands.
“It’s been tough,” she said. “But I’ve had enough highs to make it more than worthwhile. My bottom is bruised and my shoulders are sore but to be honest I am proud of the war wounds. You shouldn’t shy away from things because they’re tough. Get stuck in and you never know where you might end up.”
Skelton, a Blue Peter presenter since August 2008, had never used a kayak before. But the Cumbrian farmer’s daughter never doubted her ability to complete the task.
Last April she became only the second woman to complete the 78-mile Namibia Ultra Marathon, doing three marathons in 23 hours and 50 minutes.
Before her latest escapade she asked James Cracknell, the double Olympic gold medal rower and adventurer, for advice. “You can’t do this,” he said. “You don’t know me,” she replied.
Helen Skelton takes a deep breath after paddling more than 2,000 miles down the Amazon
Daffodils in bloom in Ewenny, South Wales, in January last year (left) and the same field last week
By Andrew Hough SPRING will arrive a month later than usual, forecasters said this week, as the winter was officially declared the coldest in 30 years. For those celebrating St David’s Day on Monday, there was a noticeable absence of daffodils. Growers said that the flowers were five weeks behind schedule.
Flood alerts were in place across large parts of the country this week after Britain was clipped by a storm that left at least 50 people dead in western Europe.
Up to an inch of rain fell on saturated ground in the space of 24 hours.
In mainland Europe, hurricane-force winds, surging seas and driving rain from a storm named Xynthia left more than a million households without power.
Winds of up to 87mph caused chaos as they moved from Portugal up through the Bay of Biscay. In France, where at least 40 people were killed, the authorities warned that the toll could rise. Deaths were also reported in Spain and Portugal. Many were the result of drowning or people being struck by falling trees or branches.
At the weekend, Vanessa Robson, 53, from Beverley, East Yorkshire, died after her Land Rover was swept away at a ford on a swollen river on the North York Moors.
This winter has been the coldest since 1978-79, Charles Powell, a Met Office forecaster, confirmed. Temperatures were about 2C colder than average and Scotland experienced the coldest temperatures in almost 50 years.
While the wet weather was expected to ease up through the first half of this week, Mr Powell said that we could expect more “rain, sleet and snow” before the weekend.
Temperatures will remain cold for much of March, with warmer weather not likely until at least the end of the month, he added.
By David Harrison HILARY MANTEL, the prizewinning author, has claimed that girls are ready to have babies when they are 14 – opening up a public debate on teenage sex.
The 57-year-old novelist said society ran on a “male timetable” which dictated that women should have babies at an older age.
“Having sex and having babies is what young women are about, and their instincts are suppressed in the interests of society’s timetable,” she said. “I think it is that men’s lives have set the timetable. Men reach a sort of sexual peak at 20, a social peak at 40. There is this breed of women for whom society’s timetable is completely wrong.” Mantel, who won the Man Booker Prize last year for her novel Wolf Hall, said that society was “incredibly hypocritical” about teenage sex and teenagers having babies.
“I was perfectly capable of setting up and running a home when I was 14 and if, say, it had been ordered differently, I might have thought, ‘Now is the time to have a couple of children and when I am 30 I will go back and I’ll get my PhD.’ But society isn’t yet ordered with that kind of flexibility.
“We were being educated well into our twenties, an age when part of us wanted to become mothers… Some were more driven than others.”
Her views received a mixed response amid growing concern that Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in western Europe, despite a 10-year campaign to lower the figures.
Hilary Mantel, winner of last year’s Man Booker Prize, says girls as young as 14 may be ready for motherhood
Sue MacDonald, of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Having a baby is a lifechanging experience and 14 year-olds have enough to cope with just being 14.
“Girls of that age can be physically mature but not necessarily psychologically mature to cope with being a mother. It is much harder to be a parent if your own childhood is not complete.”
The latest figures showed more pregnancies among girls under 18 in England than there were in 2001, and that pregnancy rates among girls under 16 virtually unchanged for six years. Mantel was left unable to have children after suffering from a debilitating illness during her twenties. She said that women should be able to choose whether to have children when they are teenagers or pursue a career and have children later in life. “If there were some paradise for women, both of those models would be valid,” she said.
There was support for Mantel from Dr Claire Alexander, the editor of a study, Teenage Parenthood: What’s the Problem?, published last month.
Dr Alexander, of the London School of Economics, said teenage pregnancy could be a force for good since many young mothers were motivated to turn their lives around to provide for their children.