Agencies admit failing boy murdered by salt overdose

Social services, police, and hospital chiefs admitted mistakes
this week in their failure to prevent the death of a seriously ill
boy murdered by his mother with a salt overdose fed into his
hospital drip feed, writes Haroon

Patricia Stocker was jailed for five years at the Old Bailey
yesterday for putting up to 10 teaspoons of salt into two bottles
of a special milk feed designed to strengthen her nine-year-old
son, who was suffering from a mystery illness.

“We will openly acknowledge we made a serious mistake in
that we did not complete an assessment of David when we required to
do so,” said Havering social services executive director
Marilyn Richards. The social services department had been under
special measures at the time for shortfalls in its care of

Dr Jane Collins, chief executive of Great Ormond Street
hospital, where the boy died, also admitted things should have been
done differently.

“There were a lot of what appear to be relatively minor
incidents which, looked at individually, do not seem to indicate a
parent is harming her child,” she said, adding that one of
the lessons learnt was the importance of surveillance.

Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Spindler, head of the child
investigations unit, said police should have investigated earlier
but were not called in until the salt poisoning had begun.

Mark Rees chief executive of Barking, Havering and Redbridge
hospitals NHS Trust, which runs one of the hospitals that looked
after David said he was confident new child protection arrangements
would get social services and police involved at an earlier

The boy was first admitted to hospital in February 2001, with
stomach pains. Stocker was able to spend nearly every day by the
boy’s bedside despite a history of making up illnesses from
the age of 17.

The youngster’s mother deliberately misled doctors and
nurses investigating his mystery illness by contaminating her
son’s urine and blood samples with sugar, blood, toothpaste
and Ribena.

A meeting between police and social services on August 6 2001
failed to take any action to prevent the boy’s death and, despite
round the clock supervision, Stocker managed to contaminate his
feed with salt three days before his death from a brain swelling on
August 20.

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