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Friday, 2 February, 2001, 00:05 GMT
Victoria's mother attacks UK authorities
Bethe Climbie and Victoria's brothers and sisters
Bethe Climbie says she trusted Marie Therese Kouao
The mother of Victoria Climbie says she is appalled that British authorities failed to prevent her daughter's death.

The eight-year-old was sent to the UK to escape the poverty of her Ivory Coast home and build a better life.

Within a year-and-a-half she was dead, murdered by her great aunt and her boyfriend in a north London flat.

Victoria and her great-aunt Kouao
Marie Therese Kouao used Victoria to get benefits
Marie Therese Kouao and Carl Manning were found guilty last month of torturing Victoria with belts and hammers and forcing her to sleep in a bin liner. She died of malnutrition.

Speaking for the first time since the trial, Victoria's mother, Bethe Climbie, told BBC One's Ten O'Clock News that she had trusted Ms Kouao.

"She was someone who had never done me any harm," she said.

"In European countries children progress very fast, so I liked what she said. She told me not to worry and my child would be fine. I had no reason to doubt it.

"I am crying in my heart and its is only God who can wipe away my tears."

Britain had represented hope of a life unachievable in Victoria's home town of in Adidjan, where poverty is rife and there is little opportunity.

Sick

Instead she died despite the involvement of three local authorities, police and two hospitals.

Victoria was seen by medics at the London hospitals, covered in scars and fresh bruises and in one visit, with her scalp severely scalded.

But after police and social services were contacted, it was decided Victoria suffered scabies and other injuries were accidental.

Bethe Climbie
Bethe Climbie says she is devastated by Victoria's death
She was then sent home to live with her torturers.

Her parents say they wonder what kind of country Britain is that it so failed to protect their child.

"They say several times she went to hospital, they could have saved her all those times," said her mother.

"But they didn't save her, they left her until she died."

The headteacher at Victoria's old school, Dominique Koffibrou, said he was shocked by Victoria's death.

"When I heard what happened I was shocked. She was a bright girl, who behaved in class and was good at her lessons.

"When I heard what had happened I felt sick in my heart."

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