TWO MORE tragic children murdered after being failed by the system: After Little Arthur, how one-year-old innocents Star and Ella-Rose are revealed to be the latest victims of social work and medical blunders
- Star Hobson, 16 months, was killed in care of her mother and violent girlfriend who will today be sentenced
- And another child, Ella Rose Clover, was murdered aged 22 months after doctors failed to raise alarm about abuse she suffered
- She was taken to hospital nine times in seven months before her death
- The cases came after failings by the authorities in the murder of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes caused outrage earlier this month
The shocking failure of social workers and doctors to spot the horrific abuse of two murdered toddlers was laid bare yesterday.
Worried relatives and friends alerted officials five times before 16-month-old Star Hobson was killed in the care of her mother and her violent girlfriend.
In another appalling case, Ella-Rose Clover was murdered aged 22 months after doctors failed to raise the alarm about abuse she had suffered.
She was taken to hospital nine times in the seven months before her death with bruising and internal injuries, in one case having emergency surgery to her bowel. Six doctors and surgeons apologised or admitted they should have acted differently.
In Star’s case no action was taken by social workers, who were convinced the complaints were ‘malicious’ due to disapproval of her mother’s same-sex relationship.
Her great-grandparents even warned social services: ‘We don’t want another Baby P on our hands.’
In another appalling case, Ella-Rose Clover (pictured) was murdered aged 22 months after doctors failed to raise the alarm about abuse she had suffered
The cases came after failings by the authorities in the murder of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes caused outrage earlier this month. In a chilling echo of Arthur’s killing, Star’s carers hoodwinked the authorities into believing there was no substance to concerns raised by friends and family.
Both murders occurred after periods of Covid lockdown. Experts have warned that vulnerable children were put at risk by lack of contact with the authorities during this period.
Savannah Brockhill, 28, was found guilty of Star’s murder by a jury at Bradford Crown Court yesterday.
Her partner and the child’s mother, Frankie Smith, 20, was cleared of murder and manslaughter but convicted of causing or allowing the death of a child. They will be sentenced today.
Ella-Rose Clover was subjected to a fatal attack by Michael Wild (pictured) who is serving a life sentence for her murder
Worried relatives and friends alerted officials five times before 16-month-old Star Hobson (pictured left and right) was killed in the care of her mother and her violent girlfriend
Savannah Brockhill, 28, (right) was found guilty of Star’s murder by a jury at Bradford Crown Court yesterday. Pictured: Brockhill and Star’s mother Frankie Smith (left)
The cases came after failings by the authorities in the murder of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes (pictured) caused outrage earlier this month
May 2019: Star Hobson is born.
November: Her mother Frankie Smith splits from Star’s father Jordan Hobson, a university student, and begins a relationship with Savannah Brockhill.
January 2020: First social services referral from babysitter Hollie Jones. Police and social services visit the family. Case is closed a month later.
February: Star goes to live with her great-grandmother Anita Smith for ten weeks and her health improves.
April: Smith takes Star with her and moves into a housing association flat in Keighley, West Yorkshire.
May: Days after Star leaves, Anita Smith makes the second referral to social services. Smith and Brockhill are visited by social workers, who accept claims that the report was ‘malicious’ due to the family’s dislike of their same-sex relationship.
June: Smith’s elder sister sends photos of the injured infant to police. Around the same time Star’s father makes a third referral to social services over a photo showing bruising. Police and social services take the child to hospital to be checked up and accept that her injuries are accidental. Toward the end of the month Rachel Whiteley, a family friend, makes the fourth social services referral over concerns for the health of Star.
September: Frank Smith, Star’s great-grandfather, makes the fifth social services referral over a video showing bruising. Social workers visit Smith and Brockhill with the child. They accept the accidental explanation for bruising and close the file on September 15. Brockhill is caught on camera repeatedly hitting Star while inside a car at a recycling plant where she worked. Star is beaten to death on September 22, the day a social worker was due to meet Smith before the latter postponed the appointment.
Star suffered ‘utterly catastrophic’ injuries when she was punched, kicked or stamped in the stomach by Brockhill at home in Keighley, west Yorkshire, in September last year.
The toddler, who had endured weeks of physical assaults in the women’s care, was dead by the time she reached hospital. When police and social workers visited, Smith and Brockhill put bruises on Star’s body down to accidents. Referrals from family members were blamed on prejudice against their relationship and Brockhill’s gipsy heritage.
Following the verdicts:
- Boris Johnson said Star’s murder was ‘shocking and heartbreaking’ and vowed to ‘protect children from these barbaric crimes’;
- Dame Rachel de Souza, the children’s commissioner for England, said the authorities must learn lessons from the Star and Arthur tragedies;
- Tory MP Robbie Moore said Bradford council bosses should ‘hang their heads in shame’ and resign;
- Protection agencies expressed ‘deep regret’ and promised a quick review;
- A family member described Bradford social services as ‘shambolic’.
Star’s fate was sealed when her single mother split from her student father and began a relationship with bouncer Brockhill. The court heard that over the months of their turbulent relationship Smith was assaulted by Brockhill, who regularly physically abused Star, causing a number of bone fractures that went untreated.
Star was regularly seen with bruising to her face and body, and photos were circulated by friends and family who tried to help.
Both women denied attacking Star but the jury heard they colluded in the aftermath of Star’s death to cover up the truth.
David Fawcett, 61, the former partner of Star’s great-grandmother Anita Smith, 70, said of Brockhill: ‘To me she was just pure evil. She ascended from the bowels of hell and just completely devastated and wrecked our family.’
They contacted social services because Brockhill was ‘slam-choking’ the toddler – lifting her by the throat and throwing her on the bed. Mr Fawcett said of Bradford council last night: ‘They had five chances to help Star and failed every time. It was shambolic. If social services had taken more notice Star would be alive today.’
David Fawcett, 61, (pictured) the former partner of Star’s great-grandmother Anita Smith, 70, said of Brockhill: ‘To me she was just pure evil. She ascended from the bowels of hell and just completely devastated and wrecked our family’
The file on the final of the five complaints was closed a week before Star was murdered.
Dame Rachel said: ‘We need to ask the hard questions about how this happened, and the even harder questions about how this is the second case in recent weeks.’
A joint statement from local social services, health and police chiefs in Bradford said: ‘We all deeply regret that not all the warning signs were seen that could have led to firmer statutory enforcement action.’
Mark Douglas, who was Bradford council’s £121,000-a-year children’s services director during Star’s short life, resigned days before the trial.
The file on the final of the five complaints was closed a week before Star (pictured) was murdered
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