Page last updated at 21:51 GMT, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

How girl adopted in Brazil died because of bullies

By Peter Jackson
BBC News

Two girls have been locked up for causing the death of a vicar's daughter who leapt from a third floor window to escape their bullying. Hatice Can, 15, will be detained for eight years, while Kemi Ajose, 19, was detained without limit of time at a psychiatric hospital.

Rosimeiri Boxall
As was once said: 'Bullies are always cowards at heart and may be credited with a pretty sure instinct in scenting their prey'. Rosi was the quiet one, which no doubt is why you picked on her
Judge Peter Thornton

Rosimeiri Boxall was meant to be one of the lucky ones, but in the end her life ended as it began - in misery and pain.

Abandoned in a Brazilian children's home by her mother, a chronic alcoholic, she was adopted days before her third birthday by missionaries determined to give her a better life.

The Reverend Simon Boxall and his wife Rachel raised her as their own, alongside their four natural sons, in Botafogo - a suburb of Rio de Janeiro.

The British couple had been missionaries in various parts of Brazil for more than 20 years, but in January 2005 decided to return to the UK.

Mr Boxall was to become the vicar at Open Gateway Community Church in Thamesmead, south-east London.

It was meant to be a fresh start for the whole family, not least for 16-year-old Rosi, as she had become known.

Struggled to adapt

But while her brothers Josh, Luke, Nathan and Alex, settled into new lives and jobs, Rosi struggled to adapt.

She studied for two NVQs at nearby Plumstead Manor School but by March 2007 was asked to leave because she was not doing any work.

Mr Boxall said her behaviour "deteriorated", she objected to helping around the house and "just wanted to do her own thing".

Kemi Ajose
Ajose bullied other inmates while on remand in prison

Two months later she ran away for two weeks and started staying out with friends without telling her parents where she was.

It was a path that led, ultimately, to her fateful friendship with Ajose.

In August she was a bridesmaid at her brother's wedding, but left home the next day saying she had found somewhere to live with friends.

Contact with her family became "sporadic" after that, and was mainly through e-mail and telephone.

It is unclear when Rosi met Ajose and her friend Can, but all three were staying at Ajose's third-floor bedsit at the time of the death.

The Victorian house in Blackheath, south-east London is a halfway house for young homeless people, split into eight flats by the local authority.

'Best friends'

Donna Honeyman, who was a friend of the younger girl, told the Old Bailey Rosi and Ajose were "best friends" - but her description was not borne out by the prosecution evidence.

In the hours before her death in May 2008, Ajose and Can, then aged 17 and 13, punched, slapped and pulled Rosi's hair while shouting abuse, the court heard.

Prosecutors say Can and Rosi had been rowing over some boys they all met the day before and who had come back to Ajose's flat. Ajose and Can had been drinking vodka.

Jurors were shown mobile phone footage taken by another resident of the house showing Ajose slapping Rosi and pulling her hair while Can laughed.

The court heard Ajose also sprayed air freshener in Rosi's face and punched her around the head while she sat passively on the bed.

The hostel in Greenwich where Roseimieri Boxall fell to her death
Rosi leapt from the third floor window "in fear of further violence"

There were more attacks, with Can ripping her T-shirt while Ajose, of Charlton, south-east London, punched her and called her names, prosecutors told the court.

Can, who told the court she had moved to south London from north London after her mother became a victim of domestic violence, claimed Ajose threatened to pour bleach down Rosi's throat.

Roger Smart, prosecuting, said: "Rosi fell to her death having, in fear of further violence... clambered out of a third floor window.

"Rosi leapt to her death from the kitchen window of Kemi's flat to escape from a prolonged period of physical and verbal abuse."

Even as she lay dying, soaked in blood on the floor outside, Can continued to jeer and swear at her, shouting "serves you right, bitch," the court heard.

'Cruel bullying'

At first police thought Rosi may have been pushed, and arrested the girls on suspicion of murder, but later reduced the charge to manslaughter.

Judge Peter Thornton told them: "This was cruel, abject bullying. It was ugly, vicious and repeated.

"As was once said: 'Bullies are always cowards at heart and may be credited with a pretty sure instinct in scenting their prey'. Rosi was the quiet one, which no doubt is why you picked on her."

Rev Simon Boxall and his wife at the Old Bailey
More than just a daughter and sister, she was also a great friend who will always be missed
The Reverend Simon Boxall

Judge Thornton said Can had been the leader and Ajose had joined in. He told Can that if she had been older, her eight-year youth custody order would have been higher.

The court heard Ajose had continued to bully vulnerable women in custody at Holloway prison in north London.

"You tried to get several of them to hang themselves with their bedding," the judge said.

He said neither of the girls had shown "a flicker of remorse".

No-one will ever know exactly how Rosi felt when she leapt, or her wider state of mind.

She had threatened to jump out of a window a few months earlier after an argument with her boyfriend, although she told doctors she would not have gone through with it.

Sounded 'upbeat'

But just three days before her death, Mr Boxall said she sounded "upbeat", "hopeful" and "positive" when she called for clothes and bedding because the council had given her and some friends a flat.

In a family statement soon after the death, Mr Boxall and his wife said: "She was a loving, caring person who brought frequently-remembered times of fun and laughter to the family.

"More than just a daughter and sister, she was also a great friend who will always be missed."

If they weren't adopted, many would have lived their lives in abysmal circumstances, so there's always that ethical issue 'what would have happened if they had not been adopted
John Simmonds

The British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) said inter-country adoptions were less common in the UK than elsewhere in Europe, but came with issues.

Director John Simmonds told the BBC: "Taking children from overseas countries does disrupt them from their country, community, language, religion as well as family of origin.

"If they weren't adopted, many would have lived their lives in abysmal circumstances, so there's always that ethical issue 'what would have happened if they had not been adopted'?

"It's about what they lose and what they have to adjust to... for some it clearly is something they never come to terms with."



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SEE ALSO
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Girl denies blame for fall death
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Dead woman's bully 'was a friend'
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'Bullied' woman fell to her death
27 Oct 09 |  London

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