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Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 03:33 GMT
Song for Victoria
Francis Climbie
Francis Climbie spoke eloquently about his daughter
Eight-year-old Victoria Climbie died after spending the last months of her life bound up in a bin bag of her own urine and faeces.

As a damning report into the little girl's death calls for root-and-branch reform of child protection in the UK, her parents gave their reaction.

For any parent, the process of grieving for a lost child is almost unbearable to imagine.

For Victoria's family, it has been carried out in the glare of courtrooms, police stations and the world's media.

Through each step, the eight year-old has been by their side.

Victoria's father Francis, speaking at a press conference, told BBC News Online: "Victoria is amongst us because right now we are all talking about her.

"The body will die but the spirit does not.

Berthe Climbie
We might have been poor, but we always had sufficient food to eat, we always had shelter

Berthe Climbie
"She is actually crying now and she will only keep quiet when we have assured this nation that another child will not have to go through what Victoria went through".

Her mother, Berthe, said there was "no doubt" Victoria's spirit was among them.

She added: "The reason I am saying this is that before we sat here I prayed a lot and as I sat down I felt a chill in my body.

"That tells me Victoria is among us."

Throughout, Victoria's parents, from the French-speaking Ivory Coast, spoke through a translator but their delivery still packed an emotional punch.

Open in new window : At-a-glance
12 missed chances to save Victoria

Victoria's mother, suddenly breaking out into a smile, described her daughter as "unique".

When they all lived together in the Ivory Coast, she said, their children would be asked: "Who would like to sing a song?"

"Victoria would always be the first to lift her hand up and say 'I would like to sing'".

Suddenly, in French, Mrs Climbie began singing the song her daughter used to love. Even the flashing cameras stopped momentarily.

With Francis whispering the words under his breath, this was a simple and elegant dedication to their daughter.

As the last note fell, Berthe bit her lip and the translator stepped in, describing the song as an ode to "joy and vigour".

High hopes

Victoria, Francis said, had always been well looked after.

"We might have been poor, but we always had sufficient food to eat, we always had shelter," he said.

Victoria Climbie
Too many inquiries have had to be held following terrible harm to a child.
"I and my colleagues hope that this will be last

Lord Laming
The couple had sent Victoria to stay with her great aunt Marie-Therese Kouao - now in jail for her murder - in the hope their daughter would have a European education.

It was something she was never to have.

Throughout the conference, a bright red banner was displayed behind the stage.

"Remember Victoria Climbie," it declared.

Both parents wore orange and green outfits - a welcome and fitting tribute to their daughter's vitality.

Speaking earlier, Lord Laming said: "Too many inquiries have had to be held following terrible harm to a child.

"I and my colleagues hope that this will be last."

Haringey social services, he said, had even closed Victoria's case - without acting - on the day she died.

Holding the report tightly, Francis Climbie addressed the audience with a steely determination.

If he, and his wife, possibly can they want the Laming report to be noticed - and to make a difference.

Unfortunately, their campaign - which includes the building of a school in the Ivory Coast - can only go part of the way.

Berthe conceded as much: "This is a call upon all mothers in the UK to make sure Victoria has not died in vain.

"This is a great opportunity for all of us to use the work produced by the inquiry team to ensure those in charge of protecting children assume their responsibilities and take care of their duties."


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THE TRIAL

TALKING POINT

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