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EDITIONS
Friday, 12 January, 2001, 13:32 GMT
Inquiry into Climbie officials
Map of Victoria's injuries
Victoria had 128 injuries on her body
An inquiry will examine the actions of police and care workers who have admitted they failed to stop eight-year-old Victoria Climbie's murder.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn ordered a statutory inquiry after Victoria's great-aunt Marie Therese Kouao and her boyfriend Carl Manning were sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering the girl.

The system failed [Victoria] - and we are part of that system

Anne Bristow, Haringey Council
The inquiry - to be headed by Lord Laming - will look at issues of health, housing, social services and policing surrounding the case, described as one of the worst cases of child cruelty seen in the UK.

Commander Carole Howlett, in charge of Scotland Yard's child protection team said the police response to the case had been "inadequate" and said it was riddled with "failings and short-comings".

She said the Metropolitan Police accepted that a systematic review needed to be carried out so that a similar tragedy did not occur again.

Commander Howlett added that a new independent child protection unit had been set up since Victoria's death and the systems, training and guidelines had been overhauled.

Eight officers involved in the case are under internal investigation, with six of them still involved in child protection duties.

Home visit abandoned

During the trial, the court heard the Ivory Coast schoolgirl - known as Anna by her killers - had been abused and tortured by her guardians for months on end.

But when she did come into contact with the authorities, they failed to act.

The child protection agency which should have saved Victoria admitted it had failed her and expressed "deep regret".

Haringey Council, now placed under "special measures" by Mr Milburn, accepted responsibility for its failure.

Carl Manning
Carl Manning was sentenced to life imprisonment
On 14 July, 1999 Victoria was taken to Central Middlesex Hospital covered in scars and fresh bruises but sent home after a doctor said she was suffering scabies.

Ten days later she was taken to the North Middlesex hospital with her scalp severely scalded.

Police and social services were contacted and interviewed her carers but they decided the little girl's injuries were probably accidental and sent her home.

They did not make a follow up home visit for fear of catching scabies themselves.

In November 1999 Kouao alleged Victoria had been sexually abused in the flat, but later dropped the allegation.

Still no investigation was carried out by social services.

'We should have acted'

Anne Bristow, the council's director of housing and social services, said the council was part of the system that failed Victoria.

"The family had contact with three local authorities, police and child protection officers and two hospitals," she said.

"As the lead child protection agency in Haringey, we should have acted to protect this child and we accept responsibility for our failure."

Mr Milburn said all necessary steps would be put in place to ensure that wherever possible, such failures cannot be allowed to happen again.

'Blinding incompetence'

Haringey social worker Lisa Arthurworrey has been suspended and child protection officer Pc Karen Jones is one of eight police officers who are subject to a second inquiry by the Police Complaints Authority.

The children protection team investigating Victoria's case was described in court as "blindingly incompetent".

A separate review into the case will look at the roles of the health authority, Brent and Haringey social services and the Metropolitan Police.

The case has been referred to the Police Complaints Authority.

The results of internal inquiries will be sent to the Department of Health to see what lessons can be learned.

Detectives are also trying to trace two other children who may have been handed to Kouao so that she could bring them to Europe from the Ivory Coast.

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The BBC's Niall Dickson
"This is a story of shocking incompetence"
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