Starved boy 'disappeared off radar' say campaigners
A four-year-old boy whose body was left in a cot for two years after he was starved to death by his alcoholic mother was "invisible to society", children's campaigners have said.
Mother-of-eight Amanda Hutton, 43, will be sentenced today after she was found guilty of killing her son, Hamzah Khan, by a jury at Bradford Crown Court yesterday.
A two-week trial heard how Hamzah's insect-infested body was discovered in a travel cot in Hutton's bedroom at their home in September 2011. He died in December 2009 due to malnutrition after his mother's alcohol addiction took over her life.
Questions are now being asked about how the death of a young boy could go unnoticed for so long, especially after his body was only found due to the tenacity of a rookie police community support officer.
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PCSO Jodie Dunsmore refused to give up on her feeling that something was wrong at Hutton's home in the Heaton area of Bradford. Thanks to her persistence, police found Hamzah's remains amid scenes of utter squalor which the judge described as "a terrible Pandora's box". They also found five of his siblings, aged between five and 13, living among the knee-deep pizza boxes, used nappies, vodka bottles and cat faeces.
Seasoned officers described being overcome by emotion as they witnessed one child rummaging among rotting rubbish in a bedroom for items before they took her away. Other officers talked of rotten food and an almost unbearable smell in the four-bed terraced house. Neighbours spoke of their amazement when children they had never seen before emerged from the property.
Hutton, who was found guilty of manslaughter, has previously admitted neglecting the five school-age children discovered in the house and another charge of preventing the burial of a corpse. Her eldest son Tariq, 24, has also admitted the latter charge.
Hutton showed no emotion as the verdict was read out in a packed courtroom.
The jury, the second to hear the case, took just under five hours to come to their verdict. The first jury had to be discharged on the first day after one member became distressed by what she heard just ten minutes into the case. It heard expert evidence that Hamzah most probably died from malnutrition, although his body was in such a bad condition it was difficult to be certain.
Hutton told the court she had struggled to get her son to eat and he died suddenly. She claimed she never sought medical advice because she thought he was going through a phase and would grow out of it. She said she panicked after his death and only kept claiming child benefit for Hamzah because she was worried that, if she stopped, his body would be discovered.
Hutton also said she was worried the other children would be taken away if his death was discovered.
A serious case review has been conducted by the Bradford Safeguarding Children Board which will be published later this year. It will examine contact Hutton's family had with agencies including the police, social services, schools and health organisations.
Speaking after the case, Shaun Kelly, head of safeguarding at Action for Children, said: "Hamzah's is yet another tragic story of a child who was invisible to society and died at the hands of a parent.
"School teachers, police officers, social workers and health visitors have told us about the barriers they face when they want to help a child that they suspect is being neglected. It seems that people are so afraid of doing the wrong thing that they don't do anything at all and it all adds up to a systemic failure to protect the most vulnerable.
"More support for professionals who work with children is vital. When speaking with families, they can't take what is being said at face value, they must trust their instincts and escalate their concerns. They need to be allowed to be braver, to push harder by being persistent and take action to protect a child, or child neglect will continue to kill."