Toddler left to feed baby who starved to death in St John’s Wood flat
11-month-old baby died of starvation two days before his HIV positive mother also died
A BABY boy starved to death in a “filthy” St John’s Wood flat after his three-year-old sister resorted to feeding him through the bars of his cot, a court has heard.
The 11-month-old was found dead in his cot on March 8 last year in a room described by paramedics as “very untidy and dirty with used nappies on the floor”.
The baby’s mother, who cannot be named, was immediately arrested but died in hospital two days later due to natural causes associated with HIV, Westminster Coroner’s Court heard.
A number of social workers and health professionals had been in touch with the family for a period of years and, just seven days before the baby’s death, a physio from an HIV clinic visiting the family described “concerns” over their situation.
The physio arranged a follow-up appointment at the clinic on March 4 but the family didn’t turn up and the baby died four days later.
Paramedics who found the baby’s body, after being alerted by a 999 call from the mother, said “it looked like somebody had emptied a bin liner on the floor” and the room smelt of dirty nappies.
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A dinner plate with what looked like crisps or cereal was found in the cot – a sign that one inspector took to show that the baby’s three-year-old sister had been trying to feed the baby boy through the bars of the cot.
Professor Anthony Risdon, forensic paediatric pathologist, said: “This was a tiny, thin, wasted infant who was significantly underweight for his age.
“He was off the scale for the measurement we normally use.”
When asked if there would have been evidence of malnutrition apparent to health professionals, he said: “I don’t think you could become this thin without there being a period of time of obvious weight loss.”
The 29-year-old mother had illegally arrived in the country in a lorry in 2005 and applied for asylum status, the court heard.
She was housed in Stoke-on-Trent before moving to Birmingham in 2007. Social services there were first made aware of the family after an allegation that the mother had been punched by her child’s father and the little girl thrown on the bed.
The girl was temporarily taken into care but returned to her mother nine days later and placed on the child protection register under the category of neglect.
The family then moved to Westminster in September 2009, six months after the baby boy’s birth. They were housed in St John’s Wood the following February, just a month before he died.
The mother had continually avoided contact with social services due to a fear that if an interpreter was used to help carers, her close-knit community would find out she had HIV, the court heard.
Coroner Dr Paul Knapman said: “This is a tragic case. Reference has been made to the hundreds and hundreds of people, almost entirely in the public sector, who have been involved in this story.
“I have no doubt that many, many hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent so far.”
But he added that, “with no enthusiasm whatsoever”, he was forced to adjourn the hearing into both the baby and mother’s deaths to conclude at a later date. This was after the father’s counsel argued that he had not had access to all the documents.