The Crime

Crime Files

The Crime

Marie-Therese first takes Victoria to Paris, France. There she uses Victoria to fraudulently access child-benefit. Required to send her ‘daughter’ to school, Victoria only attends half the time. Marie-Therese has started abusing Victoria.But the authorities threaten action over Victoria’s non-attendance. So after five months, Marie-Therese flees with Victoria.

In April 1999 they arrive in Ealing, West London.Victoria speaks no English.Between 26 April and 7 July, Marie-Therese visits social workers 14 times trying to secure housing support. Victoria is with her on seven visits. One staff member thinks her dishevelled appearance is akin to a child on an ‘Action Aid poster’. But sometimes applicants present themselves as worse off than they are to secure sympathy and money.This is the first chance to save the life of Victoria. There will be eleven more.

That June, Esther, a distant relative of Marie-Therese’s, anonymously rings Brent social workers saying she fears Victoria’s being abused. She’d seen Victoria soon after her arrival and so later notices a new scar. Marie-Therese explains Victoria fell on an escalator. Esther’s suspicious. So she visits them and is shocked to see how much weight Victoria has lost. Esther makes another call to Brent to check on progress and is reassured. A non-professional, non- specialist member of the public has noticed abuse and raised the alarm. Nothing is done.

In early July, Marie-Therese moves them into the Tottenham, North London flat of her new boyfriend, Carl Manning, a bus driver in his late 20s. She secures work so leaves Victoria with a child minder and her children. One of them, Avril, becomes so concerned over Victoria’s mounting injuries, she takes her to hospital. Following a two hour examination the doctor points along Victoria’s thigh:

Doctor: Do you know what these marks are?’

Avril:    No

Doctor:  These are cigarette burns

But the following morning, a senior consultant diagnoses scabies, an infectious disease that causes rashes on the skin. It’s accepted that Victoria’s been scratching herself because of scabies and the injuries are self-inflicted.

Marie-Therese takes Victoria home. Later that month, she’s admitted to North Middlesex Hospital suffering from scalding to her head and face. Marie-Therese explains Victoria tried to get rid of the scabies by holding her head under scalding water. The injuries are horrific.One thing shines through the appalling facial disfigurement the photos record. Victoria is still smiling. And nurses take to her as she recuperates and give her a pair of pink wellies to play in. Her twirling figure down the wards entrances everyone.

But nurses note a change when Marie-Therese arrives. They record the relationship is more like ‘master and servant’ rather than ‘mother and daughter’. Other notes record a belt buckle mark on her body. Once, Victoria is so frightened when Marie-Therese arrives, she wets herself.And during her fortnight hospital stay, social services never once ask Victoria what happened. Marie-Therese takes her back. Doctors now believe Victoria is being abused but mistakenly think the police and social services are also aware of this. A Police Constable is assigned to check up on Victoria. But PC Karen Jones doesn’t visit because she fears catching scabies from the furniture. And no health visitor makes a follow up visit after Victoria’s hospital admission.As they’re now living with Carl, they’re considered the problem of his council, Haringey. Her assigned social worker is Lisa Arthurworrey. She’s just qualified with only 18 months experience. She needs to be closely supervised. She isn’t.

In August, Lisa makes her first of two visits to Carl Manning’s flat. The flat’s better than many she sees. It’s neat, clean and Victoria’s well presented. Lisa doesn’t speak to Victoria, however, or address the fact she’s not receiving education.

Lisa’s second visit, in October, is just days after Carl starts forcing Victoria to sleep in the bath every night. Fear and the beatings mean she’s become incontinent. She soaks the sofa on which she sleeps. So Carl makes her go to bed in a bin liner in the bath. Her hands are tied and then she’s tied into it. So she sleeps in her own excrement in a room without heat or light. It’s now winter.They place food on a plastic plate. But her hands are tied.“Victoria could only eat by pushing her face into the plate like a dog might, except of course, dogs aren’t normally tied up in black bin liners.

'Neil Garnham QC (Counsel to the Inquiry)In November, Marie-Therese rings Haringey social services hysterically alleging Carl’s sexually assaulted Victoria. Three days before, Lisa told her they’ll only get better housing if Victoria’s at risk. Marie-Therese turns up at social services with Victoria. And her alleged abuser, Carl. When it’s explained to Marie-Therese that before she’ll receive her new council flat, Victoria will need to be examined, and Carl arrested, she withdraws the allegations. Haringey decide to arrange another meeting rather than investigate. There are 15 actions that Lisa should next do and she does them. She rings, writes, leaves messages and even tries to visit after work, in her own time. All are ignored.For the remaining four months of her short life, Victoria is on her own. She is starved and tortured daily.

Marie-Therese takes her to church where she says Victoria’s condition has been caused by devils.

On 24 February, Marie-Therese takes Victoria to church again. A member of the congregation sees Victoria and insists she’s taken to hospital.

On 25 February 2000, with no successful contacts made with Victoria, Haringey close the Victoria Climbié case.“Complete Appropriate Paperwork. Then NFA”Management instructions to Lisa regarding Victoria. ‘NFA’ stands for No Further Action.That afternoon, at 3:30pm, in a London hospital, doctors declare an eight year old girl dead.