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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 November 2006, 15:34 GMT
Baby's parents under a microscope
Baby Brandon Webster

Nicky and Mark Webster have spent the last five months having to prove what most couples take for granted - that they should care for their own baby.

The couple, from Cromer, Norfolk, have been under 24/7 supervision in an assessment centre, where they even had to ask a social worker's permission to change baby Brandon's nappy.

"It was really weird having to pick up the phone and tell a member of staff that we were ready to feed or change or bath Brandon," said Mr Webster, 33.

The reason for such scrutiny is that Norfolk Social Services took their other three children into care alleging child abuse, but the couple have always protested their innocence.

They fear they will lose Brandon, who is at the centre of a legal tug-of-war and who also made legal history last week when a High Court judge ruled that the family's story could be reported freely.

BBC One's Real Story, backed by the Websters and The Mail On Sunday, applied to lift the strict anonymity of care proceedings, citing the public interest.

The couple brought Brandon home for the first time on Monday pending a final legal decision next June.

The Webster family
We don't want Brandon growing up and us having to tell him that his siblings were taken away from us because we were branded child abusers
Nicola and Mark Webster
Social workers have the right to call in at their home unannounced any time of the day and there is regular supervision.

The Websters, previously called Hardinghams in past BBC Real Story editions, were found by social services to have abused their toddler by violently twisting him, causing multiple fractures.

But members of Mrs Webster's family suffer Osteogenesis Imperfecta - brittle bone disease.

Medical Experts said Mrs Webster, 26, did not have the disease and therefore her son did not suffer from it.

It meant their children, who were all under five, were the subject of forcible adoptions.

However, fresh research in the US suggests it may be possible to have the OI gene without displaying any symptoms, and Mrs Webster could have passed it on to her son.

When she became pregnant earlier this year the couple fled to Ireland hoping they would be able to keep their baby if it was born abroad.

But Irish authorities ordered the baby to be kept in hospital and the couple agreed to return to the UK after social workers pursued them to Wexford.

They went straight to an assessment centre, with microphones used to sweep the house every seven seconds in case social workers needed to protect baby Brandon.

The Websters had two in-depth assessments by psychologists and psychiatrists.

Every child care task had to be reported to the assessors, who also observed it taking place.

"I think at the time it felt like some kind of offenders' institution because you're locked in," said Mrs Webster.

'Intensely anxious'

They left the centre after making an emotional farewell to staff.

The Websters had a celebration when they took Brandon home, but they still have a final legal hurdle in June to keep him.

One of the Webster's children was "intensely anxious and wary" and was fearful with its parents said Lisa Christensen, Director of Children's Services for Norfolk County Council, who also said the Webster's son has not suffered any more fractures since he was adopted.

But the couple argue that one expert, a health visitor who had known the family for 30 years and believed they were innocent, was ignored.

'Professional concern'

Ms Christensen said the couple did not take "professional concern" seriously but protested their innocence.

"We don't want Brandon growing up and us having to tell him that his siblings were taken away from us because we were branded child abusers," said Mrs Webster.

She added: "I keep worrying that he's going to get a little bruise or red mark and the finger is going to be pointed at us."

A court is expected to decide in June if Brandon can remain with his parents.

Real Story's report on the Webster family is on BBC1 on Wednesday 8 November at 19:30 GMT.

SEE ALSO
Couple allowed to take baby home
03 Nov 06 |  Norfolk
Judge lifts family reporting ban
02 Nov 06 |  Norfolk
My fight to be a mother
15 May 06 |  Real Story
'Please don't take my baby'
16 May 06 |  Health

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