The Tragic Life of Baby P
The tangled family history of Baby P is a graphic warning of the horrors that generations of neglect and savage abuse can visit on children.
The semi-detached house in which Peter spent the last hours of his brief life is bland and unremarkable. A slightly shabby prewar slice of suburbia, with bay windows and a side door, it does not stand out in a nondescript street a few minutes from the Tottenham football ground. You would walk past without taking a second look. Which is exactly what the locals did.
Of the 12 inhabitants of nearby houses to whom I spoke, only one, a Polish man, had noticed the family living at the end of the street. He thought they had seemed like “good people”. Some of the other residents had only recently moved into the street and the rest could not recall their former neighbours.
Yet at one time the occupants of number 37 included an obese young woman, her four small children, a 6ft 4in muscular man, his brother and his brother’s three children and 15-year-old girlfriend, three large dogs and a couple of snakes. The family were also white and of Anglo-Irish origin, unlike their neighbours, who come from Africa, the subcontinent and eastern Europe.Advertisement
If that did not mark them out as conspicuous to those around them, no doubt the ethnic difference was noted by the two men, Steven Barker and his brother Jason Owen. Owen had been a member of the National Front; Barker was obsessed with Nazis.
Still, they were just one more set of strangers passing through a disconnected and transient community. That is the often vibrant story of London boroughs like Haringey, but it is also what makes such places ideal for those who want to escape attention. And Barker and Owen had a lot to escape from. Initially they hid from social services and their histories of crime, familial violence, arson and drug addiction, but by the time they fled Tottenham in August 2007, they were running away from the horrific death of 17-month-old Peter, the boy who would become known as Baby P.
Among the injuries the child suffered at the hands of his carers were a broken back, gashes to the head, a fractured shinbone, a ripped ear, blackened fingers and toes, with a missing fingernail, skin torn from the nose and mouth, cuts on the neck and a tooth knocked out.
The savagery was the culmination of generations of abuse and dysfunction, a dreadful violation that was far from inevitable but that had none the less been incubating for decades. The scene of the crime itself seemed to contain all the potent symbols and sordid realities of the feckless, desensitised version of contemporary life.
Hardcore pornography, internet chat sites, vodka bottles, attack dogs, animal faeces, fleas, lice, Nazi paraphernalia, knives and replica guns formed the harsh backdrop to Peter’s truncated life and brutal death.
Barker and Owen were found guilty of causing or allowing Peter’s death, a charge to which the boy’s mother, Tracey Connelly, made a last-minute plea of guilty. They were sentenced in May to indefinite detention, though it is possible that Connelly could be released within three years and Owen even sooner. Barker, who was also found guilty of raping a two-year old girl, was sentenced to a minimum of 12 years.
As disturbing as the boy’s death was, it was a long way from a unique crime. As many as 30 children have been killed in similar circumstances in this country since Peter, nearly all of them at the hands of a parent or carer. What made this case stand out was the failings of the local authority, Haringey, which had also been judged to have been negligent in its protection of Victoria Climbié seven years earlier. Peter had been admitted to hospital with injuries on several occasions and had been seen as many as 60 times by various professionals in the months before he was killed. Only two days before he died, Peter was examined by Sabah al-Zayyat, a locum consultant paediatrician, who did not notice the boy’s broken back and paraplegia.
Yet while grave and egregious mistakes were made, the story of Baby P raises some vital questions about what we have come to expect of state agencies. Is the state subsidising the destructive lives of people who are themselves the offspring of failed state intervention, thereby creating an accelerating cycle of dysfunction and dependence? Should more children be removed from their families, and if so at what stage?
Such decisions must take into account the fact that children in care come bottom of the league in almost every social indicator, including educational achievement, employment and drug abuse. And what incentives can galvanise negligent parents whose main ambition is to hoodwink the authorities? In the absence of strong communities and family support networks, local councils are shouldering a burden of social outcomes that grows more daunting with each new generation of damaged children. In too many cases, the damage is fatal.
Connelly’s mother, Mary O’Connor, is known as Nula. She lives in a small council flat in Islington, north London, with the alsatian that once belonged to her daughter. It is sparsely furnished and, when I visited, the dog was chained to a radiator to stop her attacking me. “She was raped by that lump of lard’s [Barker’s] rottweiler,” O’Connor said, explaining the dog’s nervousness with an image that conjured a climate of abuse that transcended species.
A thin, hollowed-out woman, O’Connor is 59, but looks a decade older. She has led, as she says, “a hard, hard life”. Born in Ireland, she was four days old when her mother died. Her father remarried and her stepmother died when she was five. “My father and I never connected,” she says. “He was so frightening I used to wet myself. The only time we ever connected was when he was drunk.”
She says her father, who had been raised in an orphanage, was an army man who beat her regularly and that, when she was nine, she was sexually molested by a relative. She ran away from home at 13 and, after a fight in which she stabbed a girl with a pair of scissors, she was placed in a convent home. “I was a raw young kid, no sense of direction. All I knew was violence,” she recalls. “It was the convent or prostitution.”
She moved to England in her early 20s and quickly married a forklift truck driver. “If anyone suffered,” she says, “he did for me. I think I took my childhood out on him.” She soon left him and met her second husband, Garry Cox, a football pools salesman in Leicester. “I got a flat for us off the council – conned it.” The marriage was not a happy one. “Oh, he was a sadist,” she says. “He used to beat me up for nothing. I couldn’t go out without his permission. If I went shopping, he’d time me. I thought it was the norm. If you’re used to being battered by men, you think it’s normal. In the end, I took a knife to my husband, stuck it in his stomach. Just straight in, straight out. Self-defence, but I couldn’t prove it and I got two years’ probation for that. But it was worth it.”
She was pregnant 11 times, but only gave birth successfully twice. The first was a boy; four years later she had Tracey. The second child was from a different father. He told police that he had 16 children and has said that he fathered Tracey in a one-night drunken fling that took place while Cox was present in the house. O’Connor disputes this account.
“I had an affair with him, but it wasn’t one of those sleazy affairs, doesn’t matter what he says.” She says that she stopped having sex with her husband because he beat her up, but a short while later she contradicts herself by saying: “I told [Cox] one night, if he doesn’t make love to me sometime, I am going to find someone else. So I did. I made love to Pete … er … Steven … er … Richard.”
It’s a troubling sequence of mistaken names, Freudian slips of a most unfortunate nature. O’Connor says she wasn’t sure which man was the father, but that Cox took against the baby, calling her a “bastard”. When the girl was 18 months old, O’Connor left her husband and son and took her daughter with her to London. According to Connelly, she didn’t find out who her real father was until she was 12, at which point, she said in court, “it sent me wild for a while”.
It later emerged that Connelly’s real father was convicted of a sexual assault on a child in the 1970s. It could be said, therefore, that, in Connelly’s case, child abuse was both learnt and inherited.
Cox died five years later in his son’s arms. “He tried to give his father the kiss of life,” says O’Connor. “He went a bit haywire after that, which is normal.” The boy came to live with her, but it was a difficult reunion. “He tried to strangle me when he was 11. But that was frustration on his part.”
O’Connor speaks of her abhorrence of violence, yet almost all her anecdotes seem to feature at least one scene of brutality or abuse. She put her son in care, she says, because he made her life hell and “social services were on my back. I thought, sod the lot of you. So I took him down the social services. He didn’t know. He thought we were going to get a new pair of trainers. I just turned round and said: ‘See you.’ I said to the woman: ‘When you’re fed up with him you can bring him back.’
“And almost to the day a year later, they brought him back to me. And they brought me a cooker. I said: ‘If you want me to take him back, get me a cooker.’ ”
It seems apparent that, to O’Connor, some external body – the council or social services – was ultimately responsible not only for housing and basic supplies, but also for the challenging job of child rearing. Although that does not explain Connelly’s own maternal neglect, it may point to one reason why she failed to develop an appropriate sense of personal responsibility. O’Connor’s son is now a reformed character, she says, with a wife and family and a settled life.
According to O’Connor, Connelly was bullied as a child. “But a lot of the bullying, to be quite honest with you, was her fault. She made herself the victim. I don’t know why. She was a strong girl.”
Social services placed Connelly in Farney Close, a boarding school in West Sussex that caters for children with social and emotional difficulties, “because I think they recognised how much love I had for her”, says O’Connor. She did reasonably well at school, where she was recalled as “moody and promiscuous”. O’Connor maintains that she kept a close watch on her daughter and discouraged her from having sex with boys. She acknowledges, however, that she herself sometimes “went off the rails”.
“I wasn’t an alcoholic or anything,” says O’Connor, who is a regular cannabis user and was described by one police officer involved in the case as a “park-bench drunk”, “but I liked a good drink when I used to get my money. I’d give Tracey some money to go to stay with a friend.”
At around this time, a close relative of Connelly was placed in care by Islington council. According to reports, this relative became involved in the alleged paedophile rings that operated in the authority’s care system in the 1990s, as a victim, procurer and abuser. One of the reporters who exposed the rings attributed the problem to “5% corruption, 95% political correctness”. The net result was a damaging embarrassment for the Labour-run council in the short term but, argues the reporter, there was a more disturbing legacy: “Baby P is the evil fruit of that behaviour.”
Almost everywhere you look in this bleak tale, there is evidence or suggestion of child abuse that multiplies into an ever-expanding matrix of dysfunction. “Man hands misery to man,” wrote Philip Larkin. “It deepens like a coastal shelf.” And to examine the subterranean world of the people around Peter Connelly is to gain a vertiginous sense of unfathomable suffering.
Larkin’s mournful advice was to “Get out as early as you can/ And don’t have any kids yourself.” Connelly did have kids, five of them (she was pregnant with Barker’s child when she was arrested). At 16, she met her husband-to-be and the father of her first four children. He was 17 years her senior.
“I didn’t think much of him,” says O’Connor, “and I still don’t. But he was a good provider. She had everything within reason. He did three shifts and he cooked, cleaned and washed her clothes. He even gave her a lovely home, even though she got it through the council. And he wasn’t violent or anything like that.”
For a while, they also took in a young girl who was having problems at home. She helped around the house and O’Connor claims that the girl referred to Connelly and her husband as “mum and dad”. The girl, now a young woman, has since become the partner of Connelly’s husband.
The marriage broke up when Connelly met Barker and he began hanging around the family home near Green Lanes in north London. “I mean,” says O’Connor, “can you imagine going home to your wife after a full day shift and finding a bloke lying on your settee as if he owned the house, waiting for dinner?”
The final straw came when Connelly took Barker, rather than her husband, to a school reunion party. The husband moved out and Barker moved in. At first, Barker appeared to enjoy a close relationship with Peter, taking him out to the park and playing with him. But after a while O’Connor says she noticed that her grandson became terrified of Barker, screaming and crawling away when he entered the room. She says she quizzed her daughter, who told her that the boy was just scared of Barker’s height. Witness reports in court told of Barker training the boy like a dog.
In December 2006, when he was nine months old, Peter was admitted to hospital with head injuries. Despite her concerns, O’Connor did not tell the authorities that Barker was living with her daughter. “They asked me if he lived here and I said I can’t answer, I don’t live here, but he’s here more often than I am. To me, that’s enough for you to see what I’m saying to you.” In the event, she and Connelly were arrested for assaulting Peter and the boy was placed in the care of a family friend for six weeks. The police told them they were not pursuing the case three days before Peter’s death.
After Peter was returned to his mother, Connelly got a new house in Tottenham, continuing to conceal the fact that she was living with Barker. By this time, O’Connor says, her daughter had grown apart from the boy. “She smothered them when they were babies, but as soon as they became toddlers they kind of had to fend for themselves. But I was brought up the same.”
Tottenham is in the borough of Haringey, the local authority at the centre of the Victoria Climbié case, in which an eight-year-old girl was tortured and murdered by her guardians. When details of the abuse emerged, there was outrage, followed by a public inquiry and Lord Laming’s report, leading to an overhaul of child protection practices in the UK.
The council itself came in for scathing criticism, which had a major impact on the culture and practice of the authority’s child protection unit. First, a large number of staff were quickly employed to cover the shortages that were exposed during the inquiry. Second, after all the negative attention, a kind of institutional defensiveness enshrouded the department. Both developments were to have a detrimental effect on the protection afforded Peter Connelly.
One senior child protection worker at Haringey recalls the atmosphere when she joined the borough shortly after the Climbié case. “Morale was extremely low. The quality of staff was very poor. People were depressed. To give you some idea of the mood, the café opposite wouldn’t serve social workers.”
Nor had the recruitment drive helped matters. “Post-Climbié, they desperately needed staff, so they went to South Africa and Zimbabwe and recruited people from different cultures. There was then a whole challenge of managing people with different cultural norms and expectations about raising children. They also had motivations other than protecting children – to wit, working in this country, saving money and sending it home.”
According to this social worker, a lot of time and energy was spent on managing staff and dealing with their problems, rather than focusing on the needs of children at risk. And once social workers were employed, the process of removing them from the job was so protracted and time-consuming that they were left in place. “And to be fair to them,” says the social worker, “they worked hard, but it wasn’t the level of expertise and insight required for the complexity of work. So what happens is that you allocate the work to the good workers and they become overloaded.”
As hard as it may be to accept, a number of the social workers involved in Peter Connelly’s case, who have since lost their jobs, may have been among the borough’s finest. Cecilia Hitchen, the deputy director for children and families who was sacked earlier this year, is rated by the senior child protection worker as “very, very good”. Maria Ward, the social worker allocated to the Connelly family, who was dismissed for gross misconduct, was well respected among professionals in the field. One child protection police officer told me that Ward was one of the best she had worked with. So how could she have repeatedly missed the signs of Peter’s abuse?
“I think she was in a fog,” says the social worker, “because it was like that sometimes. We used to call it ‘Nam’ – ‘Tott Nam’. Because it was just constant. You’d come out sometimes and you’d be absolutely exhausted. You’d think, ‘Oh, I’ve lived another day’.”
In most London boroughs, plenty of days pass without a child being referred for protection. But in Haringey, according to the social worker, there would be two or three child protection referrals each day, which severely drained resources. “It would take out the whole team of 20 social workers.”
The culture of defensiveness did little to aid inter-agency relations when assessing the risk that Peter was facing, particularly during his brief removal from his mother. And it got no better after he died, with Haringey dragging its feet in disclosing information relevant to the police inquiry.
“There is no doubt that purposeful social work was not occurring for Baby P,” says the senior child protection officer. “You can’t defend the practice. Things were definitely missed. But it’s about putting that in the context of an extremely pressurised borough, with difficult politics and overloaded social workers who are not able to evaluate on a regular basis. There is a massive overestimation of what social workers can achieve, given the resources and quality of staff.”
The child protection officer thinks that training needs to be improved, with much more emphasis on reality and practice-based learning, and lengthy placements in the sector. Better pay is a given, she says, but equally important, there needs to be personality testing.
“You have to have basic common sense, be culturally aware, intelligent but streetwise, and strong, because you have to challenge. You’re dealing with the absolute lows and highs of society, child abusers and consultant paediatricians, so you have to be able to manage both ends of that.”
She would also like it to be less difficult for authorities to sack underperforming staff. “We just haven’t got the time to go through the proceedings. It sounds harsh, but that for me is the reality of child protection work.”
If indeed the best staff have now lost their jobs, what does that say about those who remain at Haringey? In the rush to purge the borough of those involved in the Baby P case, has the level of child protection competence been lowered?
The child protection worker believes the sackings amounted to a “huge loss”. But if she has reservations about the quality of staff left behind, she has many more concerning the quality of families they have to deal with. “I’ve worked in child protection for a long time and things are definitely getting worse. When I started out, there was a stronger sense of community and a better ethic. If there was a problem, the extended family would sort it out, and often we wouldn’t even hear about it. Now society is so fragmented that we have a lot more isolated families who don’t have support. There is an increased expectation that the state looks after you.”
In Haringey, almost everywhere you go, even on the buses, there are adverts calling for foster parents. But, as far as the social worker is concerned, many of those who respond should be motivated by something deeper and older than money. “We now pay grandparents, aunts and uncles foster care allowances to look after their family, which is just crazy. It’s really sad when we have family members coming forward saying: ‘I’ll look after the child if you give me money.’ It’s tragic, but because of the obsession of keeping families together, we are pressurised into supporting these kinship placements, which often just continue the dysfunction.”
There remains an understandable reluctance to remove children from their families. After all, to do so is to break the fundamental social bond that is common to all societies. Many parents go through difficult periods from which they recover, and the plight of children in care is a national scandal. Yet there is a worrying paradox. The longer removal is delayed, the more a child’s chance of wellbeing is reduced.
“The sooner the child is removed,” says the child protection worker, “the better. For drug mums, it’s much clearer. Those children will come out much more quickly and be adopted. But for neglect, which is widespread for children under protection, it’s very hard to get evidence for removal. Because it’s all about people’s thresholds. What is a dirty house, what isn’t. How many appointments do they not attend. It just goes on and on.”
It was in this grey area that Connelly, a veteran in the field, was able to dissemble and mislead social workers. She even joined a Mellow Parenting group, because Peter was on the at-risk register, though she managed to skip some of the classes. In court, it was possible to see Connelly’s talent for manipulation. When the jury was out, she spent much of her time playing with her hair, looking bored and oblivious. But as soon as the jurors returned, she would wear a face of anxious concern, and dab her eyes as she wept.
By contrast, Barker maintained an expression of gormless detachment throughout the proceedings, as though he wasn’t able to grasp the moral gravity of child rape. His own family history is no great improvement on Connelly’s. His older brother, Jason, is said to have bullied and abused him as a child and his sister revealed that, as a boy, he liked to torture animals, skinning frogs alive and breaking their legs.
In 1995, the two young men moved into the Kent home of their grandmother, Hilda Barker. They waged a campaign of intimidation against the 82-year-old, terrorising her by wearing Halloween masks and stopping her from seeing her friends. She told police the brothers had locked her in a cupboard until she agreed to leave her money to them. They were charged with assault, but the charges were dropped after Hilda Barker died of pneumonia. Owen, who has five children from two different women, had convictions for arson and burglary. He was also accused of committing rape as a 13-year-old. As if to complete the portfolio of maladjustment, he was later investigated for victimising an Asian family.
Owen moved from south London into the house in Tottenham because he was fleeing the family of his 15-year-old girlfriend. He took three of his children with him. This is one of the many bewildering aspects of the events two years ago. If he was on the run with an underage partner, why would he take his children out of school and drag them along? It’s not as if space wasn’t already cramped in Tottenham, and they all had to be concealed from the authorities.
“To him,” explains a police officer in the case, “they were his property.” Children, in Owen’s mind, were possessions, something you had rather than nurtured. The ease with which people have children and the difficulty they have in looking after them is a recurring theme in stories of social breakdown. It is a symptom of a radically foreshortened perspective, in which future consequences seldom impinge on choices and actions in the present.
But it is also a function of a welfare system that allocates subsidies and material security to those with children. The noble intention is to arrest economic deprivation at birth, yet too often it helps foster the very conditions it seeks to combat. The more the state intervenes, the more it is required to intervene and therefore the more chance that its intervention will, as in the case of Baby P, not be enough. Much has been written about the crime, mostly demonising the guilty, sometimes attempting to limit their culpability. One columnist suggested last week that it “was a crime against society’s idealised perception of motherhood”, as though expecting a mother not to torture her child was absurdly unrealistic. There is no easy solution to the societal malaise this case highlights, but the fact remains, as many social workers will testify, there is a growing class of state dependants who have gained few if any life skills other than an ability to work the system.
On Friday 27 July, 2007, a week before his death, Peter stayed the night with his father, who is reported to be planning to sue Haringey council for failing to protect his son. O’Connor also stayed. There was only one bedroom, which they all shared. She says that she tried to stop the child from crying and waking up his sleeping father. She finally woke the father, she claims, because she was so worried about the state of the boy. His hands were bandaged and there were bruises and cuts on his head. “I said: ‘Let’s take him to the hospital, there’s something wrong with him’.”
Whatever may or may not have been said, the boy was not taken to hospital. The father later explained that he had been reassured by Connelly that medical authorities were aware of the boy’s injuries, but they were not considered serious. The following morning, Peter was returned to his mother. It was the last time his father saw him alive. No one, except those involved, can be certain what happened during the final three days of Peter’s life. Each of the accused blamed the others, though it is likely they were all participants or complicit in a series of violent – ultimately lethal – attacks on the child.
The Connellys and the Barkers were two families that were always unlikely to heal each other’s brutalised psyches and self-inflicted wounds. When they came together, they instead turned a grim domestic drama into a social tragedy that reverberated far beyond the squalid confines of their semi-detached Tottenham home.
A teenager who lived in the same council house as the boy and his mother but was too terrified to raise the alarm at the time told how he was bitten all over to ‘train’ the family’s vicious dogs how to attack and dropped 6ft onto the floor.
The 15-year-old, who was a key prosecution witness at the trial over Baby P’s death, also said his fingernails were pulled out with pliers and fingertips cut off during the sickening torture in the eight months before he died.
He was grabbed by the throat and thrown into his cot, had his windpipe pressed so hard he turned blue and a bottle rammed into his mouth with such force that it cut his lips, she told the News of the World.
The teenager also recalled the horrific moment Baby P’s stepfather broke the toddler’s back in two as he was watching television, leaving the boy paralysed from the waist down.
Incredibly, the injury was overlooked by social workers and doctors who also failed to notice the child’s missing fingernails and his fractured ribs.
‘He sat smirking on the sofa, smoking cannabis and playing with Baby P like he was a rag doll. Then I suddenly heard a loud crack that echoed through the house as the baby’s little backbone snapped in half.
He let out a gut-wrenching scream. It was so loud I went into the garden and put my hands over my ears to block it out.’
Of the chilling moments before his death, she told how he would not stop crying because he had been left lying in his cot for days.
‘The step-dad came down and said “I’ll sort it”. He went into the room, slammed the door shut and suddenly the crying stopped.’
She revealed that she was the one who found the baby’s dead body, and claimed his mother had waited more than two hours before phoning for an ambulance.
It was later found that Baby P had been punched so hard in the face that he had swallowed a tooth.
The teenager was so terrified that she would be made a target as well that it took her months to summon up the courage to tell relatives of the abuse.
She claimed the mother’s lies about her child’s various injuries were ‘simply accepted’ by the social workers checking up on her.
‘I couldn’t believe these social workers kept falling for it.’
On the final visit by the welfare officer four days before he died, the mother actually said she would have to be an ‘idiot’ not to know there was something wrong, the girl revealed.
She told how Baby P was put in his buggy because he was too limp for a high chair and that melted chocolate was smeared on his face to cover up the injuries.
‘The social worker did not spot a thing. The mum couldn’t believe her luck when she just had a quick look at P in his buggy and said: “Hello little fella!”.
‘That was it. He was pushed into the kitchen, door slammed shut. That was the last time he was seen alive by anyone outside the house…
‘If she had just taken a second to look properly, to pick him up and look at him, she’d have realised there was something gravely wrong.’
Her horrific account of the trauma the toddler suffered came amid fresh scrutiny of officials at Haringey Council.
Its legal department told a meeting of officials on July 25 that the child could not be removed from his mother because evidence of abuse was too weak.
By August 3, the tragic 17-month-old boy would die of his injuries after eight months of unimaginable torture.
The blond, blue-eyed toddler had suffered more than 50 injuries despite 60 visits from social workers in the last months of his life.
Asked why it was not considered appropriate to take the child into care, Haringey’s legal chief John Suddaby said: ‘That’s obviously an area of concern and is one of the things that will be looked at.’
Members of Haringey’s Labour Party convened a closed doors emergency meeting this morning to discuss the case.A Labour spokesman said: ‘The purpose of the meeting was solely to ensure councillors were fully informed on all aspects of the case and the review commissioned by central government.’
At the time of the crucial meeting, Mr Suddaby was deputy chief of legal services at the council but acting up in the top job because his boss had left.
He was promoted to head of the department in March this year, several months after Baby P’s death, and awarded a salary of £120,000.
There were also claims today that Baby P’s sister was also seriously abused despite being on the council’s ‘at risk’ register.
Both the girl and Baby P had become subjects of child protection plans eight months before the toddler’s death, it was reported.
The latest revelations about the council’s treatment of Baby P’s case came as the social worker who blew the whistle on her employers told how they tried to ruin her life.
Nevres Kemal claimed Haringey led a ‘witch hunt’ against her after she expressed fears children were not being properly protected.
Child welfare services at Haringey, the same local authority heavily criticised for failing to prevent the murder of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie in 2000, are now the focus of an urgent inquiry.
The Government has also come under fire after it emerged Ms Kemal had warned four ministers children in Haringey were at risk months before Baby P died.
Inspectors ended up taking her complaint back to the Council and were satisfied with its explanation, prompting accusations from the Tories of ‘bureaucratic buck-passing’.
Children’s Secretary Ed Balls adopted a notably tougher tone on the case last night, expressing his anger at the lack of action taken by Haringey.
He said: ‘People are asking how these despicable acts of evil can happen in this day and age and in Haringey of all places. As a parent, I found reading the confidential serious case review and the details of the abuse deeply disturbing.
‘t is even more heartbreaking now that we have all seen the photographs of Baby P. Like everybody I am angry that crucial interventions to save this little boy were not made.
‘Professionals working with children in this country do a tough job in very difficult communities but I will not hesitate to act on the findings of the investigation into what went wrong in Haringey.’
However, more than 60 headteachers have voiced their support for the official at the centre of the row who has so far refused to resign her post.
In a joint letter, they insisted Haringey’s director of children’s services Sharon Shoesmith was an ‘outstanding public servant’ who should not be forced to quit.
A short and tragic life
1 March Baby Peter born.
13 October Peter taken to GP with bruises. Mother claims he fell down stairs.
11 December Peter placed on child protection register after GP spots a head injury and bruises. Mother arrested.
26 January Peter returned to his mother.
February Nevres Kemal, a former Haringey social worker, writes to the Department of Health with concerns.
22 March Paulette Thomas, a health visitor, reports “no concerns” after check.
7 April Peter admitted to hospital.
1 June Peter to be supervised by friend after unannounced social worker visit.
30 July Last social worker visit. Peter’s bruises covered in chocolate.
1 August Peter taken to hospital, but no full examination as he is “cranky”.
3 August Baby Peter dies.
11 November Owen and Barker found guilty of causing the death of Peter. Connelly pleads guilty.