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
    Ashraf.

    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
    children.

    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
    stage.

    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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