Convicted murderer Marie-Therese Kouao pleaded
her innocence and refused to answer questions about her personal
life at the Climbie inquiry this week.
Kouao, Victoria’s great aunt, and her
boyfriend Carl Manning, were sentenced to life imprisonment last
January for the eight-year-old’s murder. But Kouao told inquiry
chairperson Lord Laming that she had loved Victoria as a daughter
and never hurt her. “How can you put a human being in a bag? You
would not even put an animal in a bag. I refuse to listen to this.
I loved that little girl. She was my daughter in my heart.”
She said that Victoria’s real killers were the
doctors who gave her an injection that sent her body into spasm.
Kouao also insisted that she was married and that Manning was not
her boyfriend but her landlord and a good friend.
She dismissed suggestions that she had coached
Victoria to make sexual abuse allegations against Manning in order
to obtain housing.
Speaking half in English and half in French
Kouao vehemently rejected allegations that she had failed to take
Victoria to hospital immediately after she allegedly scalded
herself in the bath.
“When this happened I went straight to the
hospital. I did not get dressed. I took whatever clothes I found to
put on her. Itried to get to hospital as quick as possible to give
a chance to the doctor.”
She also claimed that the photos of Victoria
covered in burns reproduced in the media had been faked and she
rejected criticisms of Victoria’s social worker Lisa
“The social worker never did anything
wrong…if the social worker saw her body like it was in the
picture do you think she would still leave her with me? Her body
was not like that. Her body came like that after her death.”
Imran Khan, the solicitor for Victoria’s
parents Berthe and Francis, said that having heard Kouao’s evidence
it seemed impossible to imagine how she could have “hoodwinked” the
various professionals she came into contact with. “It’s our view
that those professionals who came into contact with her should have
got through the tissue of lies.”
– For regularly updated reports of the
Victoria Climbie inquiry go to www.community-care.co.uk
Charity explains document confusion
The NSPCC delivered a written statement to the
Climbie inquiry this week explaining the absence and alteration of
key documents, following pre-Christmas evidence. Details of the
statement are expected to be released in the future.
The NSPCC was responsible for the management
of the Tottenham children and family centre, run in partnership
with Haringey Council and Haringey Health Authority.
Giving evidence in December, Sylvia Henry,
former practice manager at the centre, said she had been shown an
original contact sheet on Victoria’s case during an NSPCC internal
review in January 2001. It contained notes of her conversation with
the referrer, senior practitioner Barry Almeida, which confirmed
Victoria had left the area and her case had been closed.
But a photocopy of the contact sheet submitted
to the inquiry in June had names concealed. Henry claimed notes of
her conversation with Almeida had also been concealed. She denied
accusations by inquiry counsel that she had tampered with the
While the NSPCC did produce the original after
Henry’s evidence, it was asked to explain the discrepancies and the
Senior managers give evidence
Last month, the inquiry heard evidence from
the senior management of Haringey at the time Victoria was killed.
Former chief executive Gurbux Singh, now Commission for Racial
Equality chairperson, said systems for front-line staff to raise
concerns had been in place and he had been unaware of serious
workload or staffing problems. “If I thought I was responsible for
what happened to Victoria I would say so. I have thought about that
and I don’t think I am,” he said.
The then director of housing and social
services Mary Richardson, now at Hackney Council, claimed that
staff may have “colluded” in keeping management ignorant of
competence issues in the north Tottenham office. She was unaware of
concerns over team manager Carol Baptiste’s performance, but she
admitted knowing that “she was not the strongest manager we
But, former assistant director of children’s
services Carole Wilson admitted that child protection cases had not
been adequately managed.