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Monday, 1 October, 2001, 19:34 GMT 20:34 UK
Lauren inquiry demanded
Lauren Wright
Lauren Wright weighed just two stone when she died
The death of six-year-old Lauren Wright at the hands of her "vile and sadistic" stepmother has prompted calls for a public inquiry into the case.

Lauren died from a blow to the stomach after being starved and physically abused for months.

Her father and stepmother were convicted on Monday of manslaughter and wilful neglect, by a jury at Norwich Crown Court.

The local MP, the former education secretary Gillian Shephard, called for a "full public inquiry into social service provision across Norfolk".

The Department of Health said it was not appropriate to hold a public inquiry into every child death.

She died in agony after a final beating - emaciated, dehydrated and vomiting, with injuries akin to those of a road accident victim

Mary Marsh, NSPCC

Lauren's father Craig Wright, 38, and her stepmother Tracey Wright, 31, of Welney, Norfolk, had both denied the charges.

They are now in custody awaiting sentence.

Mrs Shephard, said the case was worse than the death of Victoria Climbie - which is the subject of an ongoing public inquiry - "because it all took place in full view of those people who should have been caring for Lauren".

She said the abuse and mistreatment of Lauren Wright should have been plain for doctors, school staff and social workers.

Tracey Wright
Tracey Wright beat, starved and tortured Lauren

"This case is a public disgrace," said Mrs Shephard. "The government has to grant a full public inquiry."

Craig Wright's sister Dawn Dos Santos also called for an inquiry.

In a written statement she said: "As a family we will be seeking a public inquiry into the catalogue of errors of all professional bodies concerned.

"There are many questions we need answered."

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "This is a very sad case but it would not be appropriate to hold a public inquiry into all of the child killings that happen each year.

'Woefully inadequate'

"We have already established a public inquiry into the killing of another little girl, Victoria Climbie.

"That inquiry is under way and is being held in public in London."

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said the public response to Lauren's torment was "woefully inadequate".

NSPCC director Mary Marsh said: "Child protection is everyone's responsibility.

Lauren Wright's grave
A simple wooden cross marks Lauren's grave

"It is not helpful to pin blame on individuals - effective child protection requires a good partnership between professionals and members of the public.

"Lauren Wright had no-one to turn to. No-one managed to help her escape from her torment of beatings, abuse and slow starvation.

"For months, she suffered in silence. She died in agony after a final beating - emaciated, dehydrated and vomiting, with injuries akin to those of a road accident victim."

Lauren moved from her mother's home in Hertfordshire to live with her father in 1997.

The jury was told the child was regularly seen with bruises and was so malnourished her hair was falling out.

Neighbours eventually alerted social services seven weeks before she died.

Sixty bruises

She died at her home in Welney in May last year from a blow that caused her digestive system to collapse.

Her father argued that he did not know she was being abused.

But the post mortem examination revealed 60 bruises on the child's body.

The officer who headed the police investigation said Lauren's stepmother, Tracey Wright, had mounted a "campaign of physical and emotional abuse against a defenceless child".

'System tightened'

Acting Chief Superintendent Martin Wright said: "Her behaviour can only be described as vile and sadistic."

He said: "There was never any suggestion that Craig had assaulted or ill-treated Lauren but at the end of the day he was her father, he had parental responsibility and he was in that house."

A Hertfordshire County Council spokesperson said there had been a case review after Lauren's death.

"When Lauren moved to Norfolk in May 1997, Norfolk Social Services were not told of her arrival and that she was still on Hertfordshire Social Services' child protection register.

"Correct procedures were not followed and the system has now been tightened to prevent this happening again," said the spokesperson.

The investigation by the Norfolk Area Child Protection Committee said co-ordination of the case was "ineffective" and social workers had not acted with "due urgency".

'Missed opportunities'

Contributions were made to the investigation by social workers, police and education staff.

"Staff of all agencies in Norfolk involved with Lauren Wright missed opportunities to make sense of and interpret her circumstances in the light of her current and previous experiences," said the report.

"At no time was a full social history of members of the household and extended family taken by any of the agencies.

"And the opportunity to fully assess Lauren Wright's situation was weakened by not acting with due urgency on referrals or calling a child protection conference."

See also:

01 Oct 01 | England
Couple guilty of killing Lauren
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