Page last updated at 16:57 GMT, Thursday, 3 September 2009 17:57 UK

Left to spiral out of control?

By Sarah White
BBC News

Court drawing of the brothers
The boys pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm

The mother of the two young brothers who pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm threatened to commit suicide because their behaviour was so bad, a relative has told the BBC.

Just weeks later they tortured their nine and 11-year old victims almost to death, leaving one in a coma and the other one wandering the streets of Edlington, Doncaster, barefoot and covered in blood.

The boys' mother, who like the boys cannot be identified, had begged social workers for support for two years before the attack on 4 April.

She eventually told the authorities: "I don't want to be here any more. I feel like doing something to myself. I can't cope."

"The family didn't see this coming at all," said the anonymous relative. "Fair enough smash a few windows, pinch or wreck something. But it was never fighting with other kids before. This is tearing the family apart.

"I used to babysit them. They were lovely."

Out of control

As their gang grew, the brothers, who regularly skipped school, spiralled out of control.

"At first it was just cheekiness. Then when they started making more friends there were more of them to do more.

"Then they'd start pinching, breaking people's things or putting windows out. It was pathetic stuff like nicking sweets.

"They were always getting arrested but they were just brought home to their mum.

"I used to talk to them and they'd have a little cry and say they were off to apologise to their mum. Then they'd do it all again."

Their behaviour worsened when the boys' father moved out of their Doncaster three-bedroom house, which is now boarded up, last Christmas.

'Didn't help'

"It got the mother down a lot," the relative said. "She lost loads of weight. She was bad. She used to come to our house crying because there was nothing she could do.

"She was going to the social services but they didn't help at all. There were plenty of times that she cried and asked them for help. They didn't come out, not once."

We know what they've done is wrong but it could have been prevented
Anonymous relative

At the end of February this year the boys were finally put into care, but, against their mum's warnings, they were housed together.

"It was only when their mum persuaded the boys to agree to go that the authorities finally did anything.

"But when they are together they are worse. If they're on their own they're no trouble. That's why their mum didn't want them together at this foster home.

"They put them in Edlington where they grew up and knew people. And it was too close - [near enough] for them to come home. So they often did.

"She phoned social services and told them to move them or split them up but they wouldn't.

"She kept telling them that something would happen soon and it did.

"We're shocked and heartbroken as we didn't think it would go this far. It's a mess, isn't it? We know what they've done is wrong but it could have been prevented."

Doncaster Council said a serious case review was now under way to establish if there are lessons to be learned by any agency involved.

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