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Friday, 20 September, 2002, 18:18 GMT 19:18 UK
Parents guilty of killing daughter
Leanne Labonte and Dennis Henry
The couple blamed each other for Ainlee's injuries
A couple have been found guilty of torturing and neglecting their two-year-old daughter to death.

An Old Bailey jury found Dennis Henry, 39, and Leanne Labonte, 20, guilty of manslaughter and child cruelty.

Ainlee Walker's body was found on a table at the couple's flat in Plaistow, east London on 7 January this year.

Henry was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment and Labonte to 10 years' youth detention.

They had blamed each other for the 64 injuries found on the child's body, including cigarette burns, bruises and scratches.

Ainlee Walker
Ainlee was "grossly emaciated"

The court was told during the trial that Ainlee had been known to Newham social services.

There had been home visits and case meetings and she had been considered for placement on the child protection register when she was less than 12 months old.

The trial heard Labonte had begun to leave the child's care to Henry, an alcoholic and drug user who could become violent and abusive.

Ainlee had been so badly neglected, she looked like a famine victim.

In the last few weeks of her life she was hardly fed and was virtually abandoned.

Screams

Prosecutor Ann Curnow QC told the Old Bailey Ainlee, who weighed only 21lbs when she died, was "subjected to a sustained campaign of torture".

Her screams were heard by neighbours and she was malnourished, having not been fed for at least two days before she died.

Child specialist Professor Jonathan Sibert told the court: "It was a horrendous pattern of neglect. This was the most appalling neglect that I have ever had knowledge of."


In the end she lost the will to live

Mr Justice Leveson

It took two hours for pathologist Dr David Rouse to list all 64 of Ainlee's injuries - which included 10 cigarette burns and scalded feet where she had been made to stand in hot water.

As she was sentenced Labonte broke down in tears.

Judge Mr Justice Leveson told them there was "overwhelming evidence" of cruelty to Ainlee.

He added: "In the end she lost the will to live.

"Nobody that was not involved or who was not complicit in inflicting such terrible injuries could possibly have stood by and done nothing.

"The only possible conclusion is that you were in it together. It would be wrong to differentiate between you."

The couple's other two children are now in the care of Newham social services.


When you have families who are deliberately setting out to deceive you and manipulate the situation, it is very difficult to protect the child

Kathryn Hudson, Newham Social Services

A multi-agency review into the circumstances of Ainlee's death is now under way.

Labonte had been cautioned by police in 1999 after neglecting another child.

The family had initially been housed in a residential unit to help them cope with parenting, but left six days after Ainlee was born.

By 2001 the social services file was closed on the family because Labonte and Henry refused to co-operate.

They had been removed from two GP registers, and two home visits by doctors had been made under police escort.

Medical records 'stolen'

There were threats of violence to hospital staff and medical records had allegedly been stolen by Labonte on at least two occasions.

But there was no evidence of any ill-treatment towards the child up to the point when she was last seen in August 2001.

Kathryn Hudson, head of Newham Social Services and chair of the Child Protection Committee said they were "very sorry" about Ainlee's death.

She added: "When you have families who are deliberately setting out to deceive you and manipulate the situation, unless you concentrate on the child, it is very difficult to protect the child and sadly we did not maintain these standards in this case."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's George Eykyn
"Each blamed the other for Ainlee's death"
Kathryn Hudson, director of social services, Newham
"We expect a full report by the middle of November"

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