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Friday, 24 November, 2000, 17:21 GMT
Girl died after scabies scared off police
Victoria Climbie
Victoria Climbie, eight, died of malnutrition and `cruelty'
A fear of catching scabies stopped a police officer and a social worker from visiting a little girl just months before she died from alleged cruelty and neglect, the Old Bailey has heard.

The officials were called in by a north London hospital after eight-year-old Victoria Climbie was admitted with a scalded scalp, the jury was told.

Victoria died on 25 February from hypothermia and neglect, with 128 marks on her body, possibly caused by cigarette burns, the jury was told.

Her great-aunt Marie Therese Kouao, 44, and her boyfriend Carl Manning, 28, both from Tottenham, north London, deny murder.

My witchcraft makes me do that

Victoria tells pastor

The prosecution claims the decision to let the Victoria - known as Anna in the UK - go home from North Middlesex Hospital, in Edmonton, eventually led to her death.

Medics had called in PC Karen Jones and social worker Lisa Arthurworry to investigate the scalding and marks on Victoria's body.

But the two officials cancelled their 4 August home visit when they heard the schoolgirl was being treated for scabies.

Eight-year-old injured herself

Instead, the family visited a social services office the following day.

At the meeting Ms Kouao said Victoria had hurt herself with a wooden spoon and fork.

Speaking in English, not her native French, Victoria had given a similar reason in hospital,

Ms Kouao also explained she had poured hot water on Victoria's head because it was itchy.

Girl forgot how to smile

The trial also heard that a pastor from the Joy Baptist Church, in Harlesden, north London had seen a marked change in Victoria in the four months before she died.

Pat Mensah told the court Victoria had "forgotten how to smile".

Mrs Mensah said: "She was very different. She was quiet and, I would say, unfriendly or hostile."

Scales of justice
Sending Victoria home led to her death, Old Bailey hears

The pastor had visited the family after Ms Kouao told her Victoria was unwell and not eating.

She also said that a few months earlier when she asked the girl why she wet the bed, Victoria told her: "My witchcraft makes me do that".

Jobless Ms Kouao - who had been asked by Victoria's mother to take her from France to England in 1998 "for a better life" - also denies manslaughter and child cruelty.

The Crown has not accepted Mr Manning's admission of cruelty and manslaughter.

He told police Victoria had been made to sleep in an empty bath because she wet her bed.

The court heard Victoria had also been beaten, tied up, and made to eat food like a dog.

On the night of her death she was taken semi-conscious to a different church where a minicab was called to take her to hospital.

By the time she reached St Mary's Hospital, in Paddington, central London, it was too late to save her life.

The case continues.

See also:

22 Nov 00 | UK
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