Page last updated at 21:04 GMT, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Inquiry over dead mother concerns

Catherine and Andre Genestin
Andre Genestin murdered his wife with a mallet

An inquiry is being held into the way social services handled reports of a distressed child whose murdered mother was later found hidden in her garden.

The body of Catherine Genestin was not discovered for five weeks after she was murdered by her husband Andre at their home in Brighton in May 2007.

However, a teacher had warned social workers the daughter was upset and claiming her mother was missing.

Brighton and Hove City Council is carrying out a "serious case review".

Genestin, 48, of Maresfield Road, Brighton was convicted of murder at Lewes Crown Court in May and given a life sentence.

The court heard he used a mallet to crush the skull of 38-year-old Mrs Genestin as she sat on their lounge sofa.

The body was hidden in a cupboard then moved to a locked car roof box in their garden.

Intervention requests

During the trial, a teacher said she asked social services to visit the house after the eight-year-old girl repeatedly said she was worried about her mother.

BBC South East has obtained a copy of a report which reveals she made several calls to social services asking them to intervene.

Initially, a trainee at the social services department phoned Genestin, who assured them there was not a problem.

Again, here we have [a teacher] raising grave concerns about a child who may have been in danger, yet no-one reacted
Victoria Climbie Foundation
The body was not found until a teacher persuaded a social worker to visit the house in June.

The local authority has confirmed it is carrying out the review into its handling of the case.

A report on the review's results, which is being written by independent consultants, is to be presented to the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) in December.

An executive summary containing the key issues arising from the case and the recommendations made to the authority will be made public.

Di Smith, Brighton and Hove City Council's director of children's services, said: "It is not appropriate at this stage therefore to share the findings of the review before the due process of reporting has been made."

Alex Knutson, a Brighton and Hove representative for Unison, spoke in defence of the city's social workers.

He said: "Someone has to make those decisions, and like everyone, social workers don't get it right every time, but I have say I've never known a social worker who isn't dedicated to getting it right every time."

However, campaigners for improved child protection policies said the case highlighted poor communication between professionals working with children.

A spokesperson for the Victoria Climbie Foundation said: "It's shocking, quite shocking.

"Again, here we have [a teacher] raising grave concerns about a child who may have been in danger, yet no-one reacted."


The girl's mother's body was hidden in a box in the garden

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