A serious case review (SCR) of the triple homicide of a grandmother, her daughter and granddaughter by the baby’s father has found social workers did not appreciate it was a case of sexual exploitation and domestic abuse.
The review concluded the victims could have been better protected if the background of 26-year-old Carl Mills was known.
Kim Buckley, Kayleigh, 17, and her six-month-old daughter Kimberley were all killed in a fire started by the baby’s father after he subjected them to a catalogue of abuse, including threats of violence and breaking into their home.
In 2010 Mills first began to groom Kayleigh, then 15, over Facebook before moving from Bolton to Torfaen to pursue a sexual relationship with her.
Kim became very concerned about her daughter’s “relationship” with an older man and phoned agencies including the police on 19 different occasions seeking help. She worked closely with her daughter’s school, where teachers had also expressed concerns that Kayleigh was being sexually exploited.
‘History of violence’
The school made a child protection referral to social services, but following checks police found “no trace” of any criminal convictions on Mills’ record.
It was later found that he had a significant history of violence, including arson. He had committed 45 acts of violence including setting fire to his mother’s bed thinking she was in it, and threatening her with knives.
The SCR stated: “Risks were not fully understood because information about Mills’ background was not sufficiently accessed and considered.
“No enquiries were made of agencies in Bolton and elsewhere that had previously had involvement with Mills.”
Because Mills did not begin a sexual relationship with her until she turned 16, Kayleigh was viewed by agencies as capable of consenting and responsible for the choices she made. There was a failure to see her as a child and a victim of child abuse.
‘Controlling and abusive’
The SCR said: “Mills’ predatory, controlling and abusive behaviour was not recognised and addressed by the agencies as sexual exploitation and domestic abuse.”
The decision not to arrange a child protection conference reflected a lack of understanding of the purpose and benefits of interagency work, the review stated.
Such a conference might have enabled the necessary professional curiosity to see that this was a case of child sexual exploitation by a man who posed a “significant risk” to Kayleigh and her family.
‘Pregnant with twins’
In October 2011, Kayleigh was found to be pregnant with twins and that Mills was the father. It was at this point that her mother Kim, fearing she would lose her daughter, changed her tack and tried to develop a relationship with Mills, inviting him into her home.
On 10 March 2012, Kayleigh delivered 16 weeks prematurely. One of her twin girls was still-born and the other twin was born blind and deaf, weighing 1.6lb. Baby Kimberley was kept in a natal intensive care unit on oxygen for six months, until the night before the fire.
During that time, Mills began to sleep rough in the area, and at one point in the Buckleys’ back garden in a tent with Kayleigh.
The police made further enquiries and found Mills had a 25 page criminal record of aggressive offences.
In the month leading up to the fire, Mills stole the family’s house keys, cut electric cables and left dog mess in the baby’s bedroom. Health visitors noted he was aggressive and threatening.
‘Tragic and senseless’
In a joint statement from Torfaen Council and the South East Wales Safeguarding Board, chair of the board Simon Burch described the deaths as tragic and senseless.
He said: “Service providers have done a great deal to increase the profile and awareness throughout their organisations of domestic abuse and sexual exploitation. This greater understanding of the issues, danger-signs and need to support victims has been embedded more fully at all levels.
“Child protection and domestic abuse are priority areas for all service providers. We will continue to do all we can to protect and reassure the vulnerable and those at risk of harm.”
Because the coercive control Mills exercised over Kayleigh was also a symptom of domestic abuse perpetrated by a “regular partner”, a domestic homicide review has also been carried out.