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Page last updated at 09:43 GMT, Monday, 13 December 2010
Videotaped clues from Baby P's mother were missed

Baby Peter's tragic first birthday

The mother of the little boy first known as Baby P labelled one of the people responsible for his death "every girl's dream".

In a videotaped interview obtained by Panorama, experts say Peter Connelly's mother, Tracey Connelly, provided vital clues into the dangers that lurked in the family home.

The footage of Peter's mother was filmed as part of a training course undertaken by a senior team manager in Haringey children's services in March 2007, four months before Peter died as a result of a horrific string of injuries. He was 17 months at the time of his death.

Peter had been on the child protection register for more than three months by the time the interview with Sue Gilmore, the senior team manager overseeing his case, took place.

Connelly, her boyfriend Steven Barker and his brother, their lodger Jason Owen, were convicted in 2008 of causing or allowing Peter's death in a case that put the entire child protection system under scrutiny.

FIND OUT MORE
Baby P: In His Mother's Words is on BBC One on Monday 13 December at 2030 GMT
Or watch it later via the BBC iPlayer.

The interview session was not part of the plan to protect Baby P but was part of Ms Gilmore's training course in a technique known as solution focused practice.

Opportunities missed

Andrew Turnell, an expert in the use of the technique in child protection cases, said while the aim is to urge parents to focus on changing their own lives for the better, the entire process needs to be about the child's safety.

He said the solution focused approach should help provide parents and social workers with "tools", but he added: "They have to be used in the context of a risk assessment framework where everybody knows we're talking about the safety of children."

In analysing the Tracey Connelly video for Panorama, Mr Turnell said her interview contains opportunities to find out what was going on in the home.

During the hour-long taped session Connelly talks about her friendship with "Steven", providing a clue that there was a new man in the little boy's life at a time when his previous injuries remained unexplained.

I am sorry if I've built up a dreamboat on him, but he is every girl's dream
Tracey Connelly on her friend 'Steven'

Police and social workers had been told that there was a boyfriend on the scene, but Connelly denied this. But it was she who brought him up in the interview, saying he was just a friend and they were not in a relationship.

"To be honest, I wish... he is six feet four, blond hair, green eyes and I am sorry if I've built up a dreamboat on him, but he is every girl's dream."

She is effusive in her admiration for him and reveals that he has been in her home when she describes a Valentine's Day dinner the pair shared. It later emerged that Steven Barker had already moved in to the house.

"And I remember dreaming about a boy like him when I was a kid. I am, like, if I ever end up with a guy like that, that would be my dream come true."

'Appalled'

Graham Badman, who chaired the official inquiry into Baby Peter's death, saw the videotape 18 months after the toddler died. He said it shows the misplaced optimism that underpinned the whole case.

Tracey Connelly - Baby P's mother
Connelly told the interviewer she wanted social services out of their lives

"To be frank, I was appalled... this was not a social worker trying to elicit information that would have protected the child," Mr Badman said. He said Connelly was "somebody who was...a manipulative person taking command, taking control of the situation and weaving the story that she wanted others to believe.

"And dare I say it, I think there is almost too great a willingness to want to believe it."

Mr Badman said a willingness to believe Connelly was a failing throughout the Baby P case by more than one agency.

Sue Gilmore, an experienced and respected senior team manager, was not disciplined for her role in the Baby P case and left Haringey social services of her own accord. She told Panorama that after her interview with Tracey Connelly she instructed the social worker responsible for the case and a manager to make checks on the new man in her life.

Both have denied they received verbal or written instructions from Ms Gilmore to check or investigate Connelly's male friend.

The social worker, Maria Ward, said she was not told that Connelly expressed strong feelings for the man.

Ms Gilmore summarised her interview with Connelly and put it in Baby Peter's case file. The file contains a brief mention of a Valentine's meal with an unnamed man and also states that Connelly was "very open" and that she was "impressed" that the young mother had coped with so many difficulties.

Research legacy

The legacy of the Baby P case includes a renewed push to research what is best for children at risk of abuse or neglect.

Researchers at Loughborough University have spent five years following 43 children known to be at significant risk. All were born in 2006, the same year as Baby P.

Professor Harriet Ward said most involved in their care - from social workers to police to psychologists to substance abuse workers - worked on the assumption that the best result was to keep the families together where possible.

But the study found that if parents have not drastically changed their behaviour within six months then it was unlikely to change - a finding that Prof Ward said needs to influence how quickly a child is removed from the home.

She believes abusive parents may be given too many chances and there should be a smaller window of opportunity for improvement.

"The children don't have very much time either," she said of the risk of serious developmental harm in keeping very young children in neglectful situations.

Panorama: Baby P - In His Mother's Words, BBC One, Monday, 13 December at 2030GMT and then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.



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