The death of a five-year-old girl might have been prevented if there had been better information-sharing between agencies, a serious case review has found.
Gabrielle Grady, aged five, died after her father, Chris Grady, deliberately drove a car in which she and her younger brother, Ryan, two, were passengers into a river in Worcestershire in February 2010. Grady and Ryan survived the tragedy but Gabrielle died later in hospital.
Grady, who is currently serving a life sentence for murder and attempted murder, had threatened to kill himself and his children in November 2009 but the threats, although recorded, were never acted upon.
A serious case review into the child’s death, carried out by Worcestershire local safeguarding children board, found that professionals at several agencies, including social workers, doctors, the police and the family courts, missed key opportunities to pool their knowledge and assess the risk Grady posed.
From 2007, Gabrielle’s parents had both experienced depression, anxiety and violence within their relationship. Although police informed children’s services about domestic violence incidents at the home, and GP records showed that Grady had developed a serious alcohol misuse problem, neither doctors nor social workers shared or risk-assessed this information.
In the same year, a number of domestic abuse incidents and contact disputes were not assessed adequately by children’s services and family courts body Cafcass respectively. The review also made the point that despite the contact dispute there was still far more information held about the parents than their children, who were never spoken to alone.
It highlighted research into parents who kill their children which reveals important high-risk factors, many of which were a feature of the case. These include: a history of domestic abuse, including controlling behaviour; contact arrangement disputes; the presence of mental health problems, particularly depression; and the presence of alcohol misuse.
Hilary Thompson, independent chair of the Worcestershire LSCB, said it was possible that “the events would have happened whatever intervention had been made if the father was in a state of mind where he was determined and committed to the course of action”.
But she added: “It is important that we learn from this case in order to better equip professionals to intervene and protect children where that is possible.”
She said each agency involved had made recommendations for improvement which it had acted upon while the serious case review was conducted. She added that the recommendations focused on “tighter procedures, better training, early and robust information sharing and better engagement of some key professionals in the child protection system”.
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