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Tuesday, 8 January, 2002, 05:06 GMT
Climbié killer to appear at inquiry
Marie Therese Kouao (left) abused Victoria (centre)
One of the killers of Victoria Climbié is due to give evidence in person at the inquiry into the eight-year-old's death.

Marie Therese Kouao, Victoria's great aunt, will appear at the tribunal in Elephant and Castle, south London, on Tuesday morning.

It is believed to be the first time a convicted killer has appeared at a public inquiry into their victim's death.

Victoria died at the hands of Kouao, 44, and her boyfriend Carl Manning, 28, in February 2000, after months of abuse.

More than 128 separate injuries were found on her body, and Kouao and Manning were convicted of her murder and jailed for life in January 2001.

Victoria and her great-aunt Kouao
Kouao systematically abused Victoria

Kouao was taken on Monday from Durham prison to stay overnight in an unnamed London jail, and will be returned to Durham after appearing at the inquiry.

The inquiry aims to find out why Britain's child protection system failed Victoria, who had ongoing contact with social workers, police and doctors.

It hopes to obtain evidence from Kouao about the services she sought from the government agencies involved in the case.

Unwilling witness

Kouao was ordered to appear at the inquiry after repeatedly refusing to help.

Inquiry chairman Lord Laming was advised by the inquiry's leading counsel Neil Garnham QC that a personal appearance could make her more co-operative.

"Kouao may feel rather more reluctant to refuse to cooperate with this inquiry and to answer our questions if such a refusal is to be made from the chair in front of you rather than from the relative comfort of a room in a prison," he said.

The inquiry, which began hearings in September, has already heard of failings by social workers and council staff.

Victoria's parents - who had allowed Kouao to take Victoria to Europe from their Ivory Coast home in the hope she would have a better life - have already appeared at the inquiry.

Manning is due to give evidence by videolink from Wakefield prison later this month.

The BBC's Alison Holt
"The 8-year-old lived a life of hell"
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