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Friday, 12 October, 2001, 18:30 GMT 19:30 UK
Climbie doctor diagnosed scabies
Victoria Climbie died after horrific abuse
A paediatrics expert who examined eight-year-old Victoria Climbie told the inquiry into her death she thought some of her abuse injuries were caused by a skin infection.

Dr Ruby Schwartz said she had suspected the child might have been abused and expected a full social services investigation to be carried out the next day.


I'm desperately sorry... and I wish we could have had our time again and I would have acted differently

Dr Ruby Schwartz
But it was not because social services said they were led by Dr Ruby Schwartz's diagnosis that Victoria was suffering from scabies.

Dr Schwartz said she was "stunned" and "puzzled" by the decision to drop a child protection investigation and lift police protection from Victoria the day after their consultation.

She told the BBC she was haunted by the thought that her diagnosis had "coloured subsequent events".

Consultation under guard

When Victoria died in February 2000, she had 128 separate injuries on her emaciated body after being kept bound and gagged in a bath and fed on scraps.

Her great aunt, Marie Therese Kouao, 44, and her boyfriend, Carl Manning, 28, were both jailed for life for Victoria's murder in January this year.

Dr Schwartz admitted she had made a mistake in not talking to Victoria alone about her injuries when she assessed her at London's Central Middlesex Hospital.

Dr Ruby Schwartz
Dr Schwartz: "Haunted by child's death"
She also said she had failed to ask Victoria to explain all the individual injuries on her body and how she had received them and had failed to ask the same of Kouao.

She told the inquiry: "Even though there was no evidence of physical abuse, I was expecting an investigation to follow.

"I do not feel that a doctor alone can make a diagnosis of a child protection issue, particularly in the presence of a medical problem which I believed she had after my examination."

Speaking exclusively to the BBC Dr Schwartz revealed Victoria's case continued to prey on her mind.

She said: "It haunts me because I feel that my diagnosis coloured a lot of the subsequent events.

"It haunts me because a child died.

"It haunts me because of the way I have been in a sense blamed for something that happened seven-and-a-half months before she died."

Child abuse

In her assessment the doctor said Victoria was affected by scabies, but without finding a mite, it was impossible to make a "100% diagnosis" of the illness.

She also concluded that because Victoria had come from abroad, the insect bites could have originated from her African homeland of Ivory Coast.

Victoria's parents, Francis and Berthe Climbie
Victoria's parents: accusations of 'lying'
Dr Schwartz found injuries that were less than a day old, but also discovered a series of old injuries, which were not consistent with scabies

But physical injuries could not be a definitive sign of child abuse, she said.

After hearing about the way in which the decision to lift a police protection order on Victoria was made, her parents said: "Nobody did their job. Somebody is lying."

In a statement released outside the hearing, Francis and Berthe Climbie said: "We are shocked and disappointed that professional agencies such as social services and doctors let down our daughter Victoria in this way.

"We feel that these agencies do not want to take responsibility for their failings.

"We have heard people blaming each other but nobody has taken responsibility for their actions.

Dr Schwartz told the BBC she wanted to make her feelings clear to the family.

She said: "I'm desperately sorry. I'm desolate and I wish we could have had our time again and I would have acted differently."

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The BBC's Alison Holt
"The doctor says the case preys on her"

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