Ayeeshia-Jayne Smith death: Social workers 'missed danger signs'

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Media captionAyeeshia-Jayne Smith death: The council has apologised to the family

Social workers missed signs of danger around a toddler who was stamped to death and focused too much on the condition of the mother who killed her, a serious case review has found.

Ayeeshia-Jayne Smith was murdered by her mother Kathryn Smith in May 2014.

The serious case review by the Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Board says professionals should have been more "inquisitive".

However, the report said the girl's death could not have been predicted.

Updates on this story and more from the East Midlands

"The birth father himself admitted to the review author that whilst he had many concerns about his ex-partner's behaviour, the people she associated with and her reliance on alcohol, at no time did he anticipate that she would fatally harm their daughter," the report stated.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Kathryn Smith was found guilty of murder and Matthew Rigby was found guilty of causing or allowing Ayeeshia-Jayne's death

Ayeeshia-Jayne, who was 21 months old, was attacked by her mother at her home in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, in May 2014.

The mother and child had previously lived in Derbyshire, and had been in continued contact with social services at Derbyshire County Council.

Smith was found guilty of murder, while her boyfriend Matthew Rigby - who was not Ayeeshia-Jayne's father - was found guilty of causing or allowing the child's death.

The report described the couple's relationship as "volatile" and noted that police were called to several domestic incidents between them.

One of the key findings said there was "little recognition" of the role that Rigby and Ayeeshia-Jayne's biological father played in the child's life, which resulted in "a lack of professional assessment of both the benefits and risks they posed" to the mother and child.

In her own words: Kathryn Smith's advice in the report

Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Ayeeshia-Jayne suffered a fatal heart laceration - a type of injury usually only found in crash victims
  • The author of the report noted that Kathryn Smith "clearly loved and was attached to" her child, and now has "a long time to consider what it was that caused her to inflict such cruelty".
  • Smith herself was asked if she had information to share that could help other "vulnerable" young mothers and the professionals working with them.
  • Her advice to young mothers was: "Make sure you work with professional people and social services, don't just think they want to take your child away, they are actually just trying to help you, it's just you might not see it at the time."
  • For professionals working with other young women, she said: "Make sure you see them alone, not with their partner all the time, it's not possible when in an abusive relationship to speak freely, ask the right questions, be really open about what your concerns are about, don't use written agreements to keep us away from abusive partners, as we can't control other people's actions."

Jane Parfrement, strategic director of children's services at the county council, said she "fully" accepted all of the findings of the report, but said "there was good practice highlighted as well".

"Clearly Ayeeshia-Jayne's death is an absolute tragedy and everyone that was involved with her is totally devastated," she said.

"I met with her family last night and her dad, and the impact on him has been totally and utterly devastating."

Sequence of events

Image copyright Google
Image caption Ayeeshia-Jayne was taken to hospital twice in the months before her death

May 2012 - Kathryn Smith is referred to Derbyshire Children's Services while pregnant because of concerns about her mental health and possible risk for the baby.

15 July 2012 - Ayeeshia-Jayne is born.

June 2013 - She is placed with foster parents because her mother was in an abusive relationship with a new boyfriend.

October 2013 - Ayeeshia-Jayne is returned to her mother, Kathryn Smith, who has started a relationship with another man, Matthew Rigby.

November 2013 - The infant is noted to be "progressing well" during a supervision network meeting with both birth parents.

3 February 2014 - Ayeeshia-Jayne collapses and is taken to Queen's Hospital in Burton. She is misdiagnosed with a seizure and discharged, but after her death a bleed to the brain is found.

March 2014 - Kathryn Smith, now living in Burton-on-Trent, is visited by police following an anonymous call reporting a domestic incident at her home. At the end of the month, she takes her child to Queen's Hospital in Burton with a cut lip, saying she has banged her mouth on the side of the bath.

April 2014 - Further incidents of domestic abuse are reported at the property. There is concern by professionals that Kathryn Smith might be minimising the level of violence and her child may be at risk.

1 May 2014 - Ayeeshia-Jayne is beaten in her own bedroom, resulting in a fatal laceration to her heart. She is taken to hospital, where she is pronounced dead.

Image copyright Ricky Booth
Image caption Ayeeshia's father Ricky Booth gave social services these photographs of his daughter's injuries weeks before her death

Another key finding criticised hospital staff, stating they "did not sufficiently consider whether child abuse or neglect was a possibility" when Ayeeshia-Jayne was treated for medical issues during the last few months of her life.

Magnus Harrison, medical director of Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, has apologised.

"This is an absolutely tragic event and to Ayeeshia-Jayne's family all I can say is absolute apologies from me, from the trust," he said.

"We didn't do what we could have done on two separate occasions and for that I'm sorry."

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