Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mother guilty of deliberately starving daughter, 7, to death despite numerous visits from social workers

Mother guilty of deliberately starving daughter, 7, to death despite numerous visits from social workers
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 5:11 PM on 25th February 2010

Khyra Ishaq starved to death despite kitchen full of food
Girl's step-father believed she was 'possessed by evil spirit'
Family home was visited four times by five officials
Mother cleared of murder on grounds that she had depression
A seven-year-old girl was deliberately starved to death by her mother despite a well-stocked kitchen and numerous visits by social services.

Terrifyingly-thin Khyra Ishaq died when her fragile body succumbed to infection after months of being beaten with a bamboo cane whenever she ate too much food.

Her mother Angela Gordon was today cleared of murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility and convicted of the girl's manslaughter.
Scroll down to watch video reports
Angela Gordon, left, admitted manslaughter but was found not guilty of murdering her daughter Khyra Ishaq. Psychiatrists decided that she was suffering from severe depression at the time of the child's death

Junaid Abuhamza was the child's step-father. He suffered from schizophrenia and saw both the house and Khyra as being possessed by an evil spirit
Today the court heard that Khyra was starved to death as bowls of fresh fruit, tins of sweets and shelves of groceries filled the family kitchen.

But her agonising and drawn-out death occurred despite four visits to the family home by five officials - they were teachers, police, social workers and council home-schooling experts.
Five other children, who were also in the care of Gordon, 35, and her partner Junaid Abuhamza, 31, were 'similarly starved' and assaulted, Birmingham Crown Court heard.
Jurors were also told that the girl's Muslim-convert step-father Abuhamza, who pleaded guilty to child cruelty, suffered from schizophrenia and saw both the house and Khyra as being possessed by an evil spirit.
Birmingham City Council, which was aware of concerns about Khyra's welfare almost five months before her death, came under fire within days of the tragedy in May 2008.
It emerged during the trial that the council had been notified of concerns about the child's welfare when she was withdrawn from school in December 2007.
The deputy headteacher of Khyra's school made three phone calls to social services within the space of 24 hours to express concerns for her welfare.
Cruelty: Junaid Abuhamza, left, with Gordon in Birmingham Crown Court. The step-father believed Khyra was possessed by an evil spirit
This photo of a well-stocked fridge at Khyra's family home was shown to jurors as evidence that the child was deliberately starved to death. The kitchen was kept locked with a bolt 'out of reach by the children'
It is known that several visits were then made to Khyra's home, although she was seen by social workers on only one occasion - for around ten minutes on her mother's doorstep.
Among those who called at Gordon's terraced home in Handsworth, was social worker Ranjit Mann.
Ms Mann told Birmingham Crown Court she called at the property on January 28, 2008, but no-one was in.
Ms Mann, who never met Gordon or Khyra, had no power to compel the mother to arrange another visit and passed the matter on to colleague Sanya Scott before leaving the educational welfare department on February 1.

Ms Scott and another social worker, senior practitioner Anne Gondo, went to Leyton Road more than three weeks later, on February 21.
House of horrors: This terraced house in Birmingham where Khyra and five other children lived

Rubbish and food scraps at the rear of the property. At mealtimes the children were given one bowl containing carrots, beans, eggs and rice, or unsweetened porridge, to share between all of them
Disappointment: Khyra's natural father Ishaq Abuzaire believes the defendants should have been convicted of murder
On that occasion, Khyra and two other children were brought to the door by Gordon, but neither social worker saw any cause for concern.
Giving evidence during the re-trial of Gordon and Abuhamza, Ms Scott estimated that the visit had lasted 30 minutes and that she had seen Khyra for about 10 minutes.

Khyra had appeared to be well, Ms Scott said, adding that she had no concerns about her health or well-being.
Recalling the same visit, Ms Gondo told the court that a man she now presumed to be Abuhamza had answered the door and refused to identify himself.
She told the jury she had not believed that further visits were necessary.

Another visit to the house had been made 13 days earlier by Irving Horne, a council education department adviser, and Richard Lewis, a senior educational social worker, with a view to helping Gordon to educate Khyra at home.
They were allowed into the home on the morning of February 8, but during the hour-long visit, no children were seen.
Mr Horne, who also gave evidence at the trial, said: 'I was told that the family had had a late night and the children were still in bed.'
He paid a second visit to the home on April 16, but after knocking on the door 'several times' there was no response.
Jurors were shown a series of pictures from inside the terrace house where Khyra lived, including photographs of the kitchen and a bamboo cane used as part of a 'punishment regime'.
Unfit mother: Gordon, pictured in a family video, resisted attempts by welfare workers to visit the home
These are the key dates in the months leading up to the death of Khyra Ishaq, who had lost about 40 per cent of her body weight by the time paramedics were called to her home in May 2008.

December 6, 2007: Khyra is withdrawn from her primary school - where she had a 100 per cent attendance record - by her mother Angela Gordon.

December 19: The deputy headteacher of Khyra's school contacts the children's services department at Birmingham City Council to raise concerns about her welfare. The teacher and a colleague later visited Khyra's home but are not allowed into the property.

January 28, 2008: Khyra's school again contacts social services to raise concerns about whether Gordon is able to meet her daughter's educational needs by teaching her at home. Social worker Ranjit Mann visits their home at 2pm on the same day, but it appears that no one is at the property and she leaves 10-15 minutes later.

January 29-30: Gordon contacts Ms Mann by phone, leaving a message but later refuses to arrange for the social worker to visit the home again.

February 8: Educational social worker Richard Lewis and council mentor Irving Horne visit the home to offer advice on home schooling. Neither official sees any children at the property.

February 21: Birmingham City Council social workers Sanya Scott and Anne Gondo pay a joint, pre-arranged visit to the family but are refused entry to the house. The women decide that they have no concerns for Khyra's well-being after she is brought to meet them at the front door.

March 8: Amandeep Kaur, who lived nearby, sees Khyra - dressed in just her underwear - in the back garden of her home. She was later to tell police that it was a cold morning and the 'abnormally thin' child was whimpering.

April 16: Mr Horne returns to Khyra's home, but there is no answer at the door and he leaves after posting a note through the letterbox.

May 10: According to evidence presented to the court, Khyra's condition would by now have been so severe that it must have been obvious she needed urgent medical attention.

May 17: Khyra is found dying or dead by paramedics called to her home shortly after 6am. She was so thin that her body mass index could not be measured on any available chart. Ambulance service worker Steven Hadlington later likened her emaciated frame to that of a famine victim or a concentration camp survivor.
Timothy Raggatt QC told jurors that the kitchen was kept locked by a bolt 'out of the reach of the children' to prevent them helping themselves to food.
At mealtimes they were given a bowl containing carrots, beans, eggs and rice, or unsweetened porridge, to share between them.

The meagre meal would be placed before them on the floor of the room in which they slept on bare mattresses.

Mr Raggatt said: 'The essence of it was this, what they got was a single bowl of food to share between the six of them.

'They didn't get the means to eat it separately. They didn't get separate meals.

'They were given a bowl of food and they, as it were, got what they could from the bowl of food.

'If a child ate too much, then they would be hit with the cane that I showed you a picture of.'
The prosecutor added: 'What they did over a period of months was a series of things which directly led to her death.

'What they did was a continuous course of conduct that was cruelty of an extreme kind and had at its heart the deliberate starvation of this child, who was to all intents and purposes, a prisoner in the home in which she was supposed to live and be protected.'
Gordon's plea of manslaughter was accepted in the sixth week of a retrial after she admitted five counts of child cruelty and psychiatrists agreed that she was suffering from severe depression at the time of Khyra's death.
Her counsel, Michael Burrows QC, said psychiatrists decided that Gordon's condition substantially impaired her ability to function effectively as a mother.
Abuhamza, who lived at Leyton Road in the months leading up to the death, also pleaded guilty to five counts of cruelty relating to five other children, who cannot be identified for legal reasons.
Speaking on the steps of the court building, Khyra's natural father, Ishaq Abuzaire, thanked his family and members of the Islamic community for their support since the death of his daughter.

He also thanked her school for its efforts to protect her and doctors at Birmingham Children's Hospital for their attempts to revive her.

Although he expressed disappointment that the defendants were not convicted of murder, Mr Abuzaire said: 'As far as the law is concerned, I am satisfied with the results.

'I think manslaughter was the right decision and the right outcome.'

Mr Abuzaire said he had not been able to bring himself to look at pictures of Khyra's injuries.

Gordon and Abuhamza will both be sentenced on Friday next week.

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