The tragic kids killed by parents - & the authorities who turned a blind eye (2023)

ALMOST 50 years ago, a seven-year-old girl was rushed to hospital with horrific injuries after being battered by her stepdad.

Maria Colwell's stomach was empty, her eyes black, ribs fractured and she had suffered damage to her brain.


Tragically, she couldn't be saved and was declared dead on January 7, 1973.

Maria's death became a watershed moment for child safety in the UK- triggering major changes to how the authorities tackle child abuse.

It emerged in her final 15 months, neighbours and teachers had repeatedly shared their concerns at Marie's wellbeing to social services.

At the time of her death, she was under the supervision of the local authority in Brighton, who had visited her home on more than 50 separate occasions.

A public inquiry was launched to change the laws surrounding child protection and grim-faced officials repeated the mantra: "It must never happen again".

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Despite the promises made after Maria was killed, social workers, teachers, doctors and the police are still failing to notice the signs of abuse until it is sadly too late.

Just last month, two step-parents were caged for life for murdering a child after inflicting months of torture.

And in a chilling echo of Maria, Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was starved and beaten before his short life was brutally ended.

Savannah Brockhill was also jailed in December for killing 16-month-old Star Hobson after waging a campaign of cruelty.

Boris Johnson has vowed to bring in a new "Arthur's Law" so twisted child killers will die behind bars but campaigners believe "more needs to be done".

Joanna Barrett, NSPCC Associate Head of Policy, told The Sun Online: “These horrific deaths of children, like Arthur and Star, are rare but each one is uniquely tragic and many are preventable.

“There have been crucial learnings from previous cases but it’s clear much more needs to be done to ensure the frontline of child protection is better supported to prevent and respond to abuse.

“At a local level, safeguarding agencies must work together to intervene earlier and at a national level, there must be significant investment in children’s services and health visitors. Children’s safety must be our top priority.

“In the meantime, it’s absolutely vital anyone and everyone continues to come forward if they have concerns for the wellbeing for a child because it can mean the difference of life and death in the most serious cases.”

Here are just some of the children failed by the very system put in place to protect them...

Maria Colwell

Maria had been looked after lovingly by her paternal aunt Doris Cooper and husband after her dad died when she was just four months old.

She enjoyed a happy childhood filled with trips to the seaside but was ripped from the family home in 1971 and made to live with her mother Pauline Colwell.

Pauline had fought to regain custody and was granted an order by social services to look after Maria full time under her rights as her birth mum.

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The youngster was subjected to 15 brutal months of abuse at the hands of Pauline and her stepfather William Kepple.

She became a "walking skeleton" after being denied food and was forced to watch as Kepple's own children were given treats such as ice cream.

While the family ate together, Maria was locked in her bedroom and was seen rummaging through bins.

Neighbours and teachers voiced their concerns to various agencies, who visited the home 50 times over the months of torture.

On January 6, 1973, Kepple repeatedly kicked Maria and left her with severe internal and external injuries before taking her to the hospital the following morning.

She died shortly after arrival with one pathologist describing her injuries as "the worst he had ever seen".

Kepple was convicted of Maria’s murder in April 1973 but the charge was later reduced to manslaughter on appeal and his sentence cut to four years.

A formal inquiry launched into her death found there was a breakdown in communication from multiple agencies.

It also emerged East Sussex County Council had insufficient evidence to return Maria to her mother and used inexperienced social workers in the case.

All agencies - including health visitors, police, housing officers and social workers - were slammed for their involvement.

The probe was the first major attempt to protect children from abuse.

Victoria Climbié

Victoria was born in the Ivory Coast but moved to the UK with her great aunt, Marie-Therese Kouao, to give her a better life.

Just 18 months later, the eight-year-old was murdered by Kouao and her boyfriend Carl Manning.


She was tied up for 24 hours a day and forced to sleep in a bin liner filled with her own excrement in a bath tub after the severity of her injuries rendered her incontinent.

Victoria was also branded "Satan", burned with cigarettes and a hot tap, made to eat food like a dog and hit with bike chains, hammers, coat hangers and shoes.

Concerns were first raised in July 1999 when her babysitter's daughter suspected she was suffering from non-accidental injuries.

She was taken to hospital but a doctor accepted Kouao's lies that Victoria was scratching at scabies sores.

Medics did alert child protection authorities as a precaution but social workers cancelled a home visit.

Eventually, Kouao stopped taking Victoria to hospital and instead turned to churches for her injuries - claiming the youngster had "demons" inside her.

During this time, she called Haringey social services and said Manning had been sexually abusing Victoria before withdrawing the claim the next day.

Social workers visited the home three times but after getting no answer, wrongly assumed Kouao had moved to France.

They closed the case on February 25, 2000 - the day Victoria died.

The girl was rushed to hospital suffering from hypothermia, weighing just three stone and 10 pounds and suffering 128 injuries.

She died soon after and Manning and Kouao were caged for life after being convicted of murder.

A public inquiry became the first in Britain to use special wide-ranging powers to look at everything from the role of social services to police child protection arrangements.

It found there 12 occasions when the system could have intervened and potentially saved Victoria's life.

Baby P

Arguably one of the notorious child abuse deaths, Peter Connelly died in London aged just 17 months old after suffering more than 50 injuries.

During an eight-month campaign of cruelty, he was seen 60 times by healthcare professionals and social workers.

His killing sparked outrage after it was revealed he lived in Haringey, North London, under the same child protection agencies as Victoria Climbie.

Peter's nightmare began when mum Tracey Connelly invited her new boyfriend Steven Barker to move in during November 2006.


Just months later, a GP noticed bruises on his face and chest and the youngster was placed in the care of a family friend.

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The brief break from his abusers ended in January 2007 when he returned home and was later admitted to hospital on two occasions.

Connelly was arrested after medics found Peter was suffering from injuries including two black eyes and swelling on the side of the head.

Despite her arrest, Peter's ordeal was worsened when Barker's brother, Jason Owen, moved into the home with a 15-year-old girl.


Social workers visited the house but his evil attackers smeared his face with chocolate to hide his bruises.

On August 3, 2007, Baby P was found dead in his bloodstained cot - just one day after police told Connelly she would not be prosecuted.

A post mortem later revealed he had swallowed a tooth after being punched, was missing fingernails and was suffering from a broken back.

Owen and Barker were convicted causing or allowing the death of a child, which Connelly had earlier pleaded guilty to.

Daniel Pelka

On March 3, 2012, four-year-old Daniel died after being severely battered by his mum Magdalena Łuczak and her partner Mariusz Krężołek.

The evil pair had starved and tortured the little boy at their Coventry home - with his weight plummeting to just 1st 9lbs at the time of his death.

Daniel had also suffered 22 different injuries - including ten to his head - and a fatal brain injury.


It later emerged the youngster was locked in a room and forbidden to use the toilet by his captors.

Daniel was also force-fed salt and made to perform squats as punishments.

Łuczak claimed she was forbidden from feeding her son by Krężołek, who had tried to drown Daniel in a bath of cold water.

A review into his death found police had been called 26 times to the family home following domestic violence and alcohol abuse incidents.

Social workers easily accepted Łuczak's excuses for his injuries and a probe launched after Daniel broke his arm was closed in June 2011.

Teachers began noticing the seriously underweight boy was stealing fruit from other pupils and eating food which had been thrown in the bin.


A school nurse also noticed lumps on his head and finger marks around his throat and he had stopped interacting with fellow pupils.

His weight by this point had dropped to under 2 stone and he had been force-fed salt by his evil captors.

In his final hours, Daniel was left to die alone in a filthy box room after being bludgeoned.

His mum finally called emergency crews two days later to say Daniel was no longer breathing and had been complaining of chest pains.

She was jailed for a minimum of 30 years alongside Krężołek in 2013.

Łuczak was found dead in her cell at HMP Foston Hall in Derbyshire in July 2015, while her monster partner died in January 2016 in jail.

Poppi Worthington

Just months after Daniel's death, 13-month-old Poppy died after being found with serious injuries at her home Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.

Poppi’s dad Paul Worthington has avoided prosecution for his daughter’s death three times - despite a coroner ruling he sexually assaulted her.


A sickening catalogue of abuse suffered by Poppi in her short life included horrific internal injuries, a broken leg, "significant" bleeding "caused by penetration and bruises to her throat.

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In January 2018, a coroner ruled that she was sexually assaulted before suffocating on a double bed.

The tot'sDNA was found on herdad'sgenitals, but aflawed police investigationfailed to place him under arrest for eight months.

Poppi's heartbroken mum wept as she revealed she heard her daughter scream out on the night of her death.

Moments later, Worthington ran down the stairs with the lifeless tot in his arms after shesuffered "significant" bleeding.


But key clues were chucked in the bin as a police investigation got underway - including the blood-soaked nappy Poppi was wearing.

Even the bed where the youngster spent her final minutes was not preserved by the cops, who had failed to find her pyjama bottoms and blanket.

The series of failures by Cumbria Police mean no one has ever been prosecuted over Poppi's sexual abuse or death.

High Court family judges ruled in both2014 and 2016 that Poppi was abused by her dad shortly before her death.

But the CPS said in 2018 that Worthington would not face any legal action and there would be no fourth review of the case.

During the inquest verdict, the court was told thatonly Poppi's dad knew what happened before her death but he had declined to shed light during questioning - refusing to answer 252 statements put to him.

Worthington denies any wrongdoing and is now living in hiding with the help of police protection.

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes

Tragic Arthur, six, was tortured to death by his dad Thomas Hughes and stepmum Emma Tustin after months of horrific abuse.

The evil couplewaged a sick "campaign of cruelty"againstArthurin his tragic final months.


He was segregated for 14 hours a day and forced to sleep on the floor in a brutal struggle that matched the “medical definition of child torture”.

Arthur was also poisoned with so much salt he was too weak to even put up a fight against his torturers' horrific abuse.

On June 16 last year, Tustin repeatedly smashed the youngster's head against a hard surface causing him to collapse.

He died in hospital the next day from a "head trauma inflicted on him by an adult" consistent with being "vigorously shaken and his head banged repeatedly against a hard surface".

Arthur's frail and skeletal body was covered with 130 bruises and he suffered 93 different areas of injury - including on his head, arms, legs, feet and torso.



Chillingly, Arthur's final months on earth were captured in harrowing audio clips and recordings made by Tustin and Hughes.

Arthur could be heard wailing in one 23-second recording "no one loves me" and "no one is going to feed me".

Shockingly, the couple's months of abuse slipped under the net after Hughes and Tustin used lockdown topull the wool over the eyes of the authorities.

Concerned family who raised their concerns with social workers and police were ignored and even threatened with arrest.

Tustin, 32, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 29 years last month, while Hughes was caged for 21 years for manslaughter.

Both sentences will be reviewed by the Court of Appeal to determine whether they were too low.

The series of missed opportunities by the authorities has now sparked a national inquiry in an effort to avoid a repeat of the tragedy.

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It will involve police, schools, social services and probation watchdogs and consider whether guidelines should be implemented to help protect youngsters during any future lockdowns.

Star Hobson

Savannah Brockhill, 28, caused Star Hobson "catastrophic" injuries after inflicting months of brutal abuse with the tot's mum Frankie Smith, 20.

Star died in hospital from blood loss in September last year after her inferior vena cava - the largest vein in the body - was torn.


Medics said her injuries were usually only seen in car crash victims and had been caused by either "punches, kicks or stamps".

The tragic tot had also suffered a severe skull fracture and several other fractures to her tibia and ribs leading up to the fatal attack in Keighley, West Yorks.

During a lengthy trial, jurors endured harrowing footage of Star looking badly bruised with a swollen cheek and marks to her forehead.

They also watched chilling clips of pub bouncer Brockhill punching and slapping Star with "considerable force" 21 times over a three-hour period.

The crying toddler could also be seen painfully climbing up a flight of stairs while suffering from a broken shin as both women forced her to walk.

Brockhill wascaged for lifewith a minimum of 25 years for murder on December 15.

Star's mum Smith was jailed for eight years after being convicted of causing or allowing the death of a child.

The Attorney General has confirmed they have received a request to consider the sentences under the Unduly Lenient Scheme.

A safeguarding practice review has been launched into Star's death, which came just weeks after the horrific murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.

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In a chilling echo of the six-year-old's death, there were five opportunities to save Star but the family's concerns were ignored by social workers and police.

Boris Johnson vowed that action will be taken to stop such "shocking and heartbreaking" tragedies in future.


(Video) Parents allow child to make life or death decision

Moment boy, 6, cries 'no one loves me, no one is going to feed me' before he was 'tortured to death by dad and stepmum'


What happened to Maria Colwell? ›

The following morning William Kepple wheeled Maria in a pram to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton with severe internal injuries including brain damage; she died shortly after arrival. Maria had an empty stomach when she died. Both her eyes were blackened, and she had a fractured rib. She was seven years old.

How many children are killed by their parents in the UK? ›

Child victims

There were 54 victims of homicide aged under 16 years in the year ending March 2022. As in previous years, the most common suspect was a parent or step-parent (26%, 14 offences).

What happened to the children in Killamarsh? ›

Killamarsh deaths: Damien Bendall who murdered pregnant woman and three children sentenced to whole life prison term. Damien Bendall pleaded guilty to the murders of Terri Harris, her 11-year-old daughter Lacey Bennett, her 13-year-old son John Paul Bennett and Lacey's 11-year-old friend Connie Gent.

What happened to the kids at Killamarsh? ›

Eleven-year-old Lacey Bennett and her brother John Paul Bennett, 13, were murdered by Damien Bendall – their mother's partner – at their home in Killamarsh, near Sheffield, in September 2021. Their pregnant mother Terri Harris, 35, and friend Connie Gent, 11, were also murdered.

How many children are killed by abusive parents? ›

In the United States, more children died due to abuse or maltreatment at the hands of their parents than other relationships. In 2021, around 311 children died due to abuse by two parents, and 408 children died due to abuse by their mother.

How many children were murdered last year? ›

The increase in child homicides is part of a decade-long trend. Rates have been rising slowly but steadily since 2013 after declining from 2007 to 2013. In 2020, the first year of the pandemic, the number spiked, and 2,058 children aged 17 and younger were homicide victims, up from 1,611 in 2019.

Where does the largest number of child deaths occur? ›

In fact, two regions, sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, account for more than 80% of the 5 million under-5 deaths in 2021. In addition, Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest neonatal mortality rate in 2021 at 27 deaths per 1 000 live births, followed by Central and Southern Asia with 22 deaths per 1 000 live births.

What happened to Esther Gough? ›

Esther Gough was found guilty of neglect and sentenced to six months' imprisonment. The jury deliberated for only twenty minutes.

Who is Maria Cauldwell? ›

Twenty years ago, little Maria Caldwell was beaten, half-starved and tortured to death. In the subsequent uproar of outrage and inquiry, a catalogue of incompetence and neglect from a variety of government agencies emerged.

What happened to Kennedy McFarlane? ›

In Scotland, Kennedy McFarlane was killed by her mother's partner. The report into the circumstances of her death identified deficiencies in clinical and professional practice, and in inter-agency communication. It concluded that the child's death had been avoidable.

What came out of the Victoria Climbie case? ›

Climbié's death was largely responsible for the formation of the Every Child Matters initiative; the introduction of the Children Act 2004; the creation of the ContactPoint project, a government database designed to hold information on all children in England; (now defunct after closure by the government of 2010), and ...


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