Page last updated at 13:52 GMT, Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Home alone mother admits neglect

A two-year-old boy was left naked on his own in a filthy flat with no fresh food when his mother ran away because she could not cope, a court has heard.

The toddler's cries were heard by a postwoman at flats in east Devon.

Exeter magistrates were told the flat was littered with dirty nappies, there was human waste on the carpets and disposable razors on the floor.

His 22-year-old mother, who cannot be named, has admitted wilful neglect, abandonment and other charges.

These include wilfully assaulting, ill treating or exposing the child to unnecessary suffering or injury to health following the incident in June.

'Mummy gone'

Prosecutor Karen Ball told the court the toddler was upset, crying and distressed.

The postwoman alerted the emergency services and a police officer looked through the letter box and saw the naked child "talking and sobbing" on the intercom phone.

When the officer asked the toddler if his mummy was in, he replied "mummy gone, mummy gone".

The policeman entered the flat and the child ran to a window stool overlooking a car park and said "mummy car gone". He then asked the officer for "dinner and jink (drink)".

The court was told there was no fresh food in the kitchen which stank of rotting, mouldy and congealed food.

A children's food bowl contained something the policeman could not recognise and when he went into the kitchen the smell made him "gasp for breath".

Ms Ball said: "The child hunted around in the rubbish for food, he was looking for something to eat.

Rent arrears

"There was no fresh food anywhere. The dairy food in the fridge was covered in mildew."

When the mother returned to the flat two and half hours after the boy was found, she immediately said: "I am sorry, I just cannot cope anymore."

Mr John Smith, defending, said: "It is a very tragic situation. She is extremely distressed hearing the circumstances which caused this particular situation to occur."

He said the defendant, who has no previous convictions, never admitted she was pregnant until she went into labour.

"She has a lack of self esteem and was overwhelmed with responsibility," Mr Smith told magistrates.

"Her parents were not aware of what was happening. She was in rent arrears and never told anybody.

"She found it impossible to cope and just ran."

Experts who examined the toddler said he appeared "well nourished, very sociable, happy and chatty".

He and his mother have been reunited and are now living with her parents in mid-Devon.

Magistrates asked for reports on the mother before sentencing, but said jailing her was "not appropriate".

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