Serious case review criticises social services over Cwmbran triple murder

Social workers and police failed to identify the significant risk posed by killer Carl Mills

kayleigh buckley carl mills
Kayleigh Buckley with killer Carl Mills.

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.

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7 Responses to Serious case review criticises social services over Cwmbran triple murder

  1. Philip Measures March 2, 2015 at 11:15 am #

    Exactly what is wrong when you do not have social workers with many years of skill and experience dealing with / over-seeing such matters. Still ‘Frontline’ is now the answer – 6 weeks or so training and, hey! off we go!!!

    I hope that relevant referrals of qualified social workers (including Managers) will be made to the HCPC – it might help shift their mind-set away from dealing with minor disdemeanours onto the really important roles and responsibilities of registered social workers.

    After over 40 years as a social worker the system was clearly too threatened by myself and so I retired taking all of my 40+ years of unblemished experience and expertise with me sick and tired of the ‘bright young things’ and more senior Managers knowing best.

    • Frontline student March 9, 2015 at 4:20 pm #

      Hi Philip,

      I am one of those Frontline social work students you mention, so maybe could allay one or two of your fears expressed in your comment. We’re certainly not “off we go!!!” after 6 weeks – we are student social workers in our practice learning placement from September to September, with the same number of days in PL setting as other established SW routes. One of the benefits of the unit model is learning from our practice educators in situ. Our educators (consultant social workers) are highly experienced practioners who help guide our experience, crossing the bridge from learning to practice. As such you have a unit where experience and inexperience combine, with a consultant in place full time to oversee both practice and learning. I don’t want to give the impression I think this would neccessarily avoid tragadies like the one reported here – just that I don’t think Frontline is part of the problem, as I think you’re implying.

      I’m sorry to hear that you felt your experience was not made use of. I certainly feel as though in my unit, and in my LA, there is a really great appetite for experienced senior practioners and student SWs alike to share, challenge and debate.


      A Frontline student SW

  2. tony bowyer March 2, 2015 at 2:07 pm #

    Whilst I totally agree with Phillip Measures’ point about inexperience in SWs these days – not to mention bureaucratic resistance to people developing individual professional practioner skills etc, rather than blind faith in following procedures, what is CC doing – playing ‘bash the SW’ ?? What about the policing failures – both in terms of the failure to disclose the risk to SSD and to respond it seems to GrandMother’s concerns they received severla times?

  3. Andrew Walker March 2, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

    Philip, exactly the same here, after 41 years’ experience as a social worker in Fife, Birmingham, Cheshire, Ayrshire and Western Isles. A SCR here into the brutal murder of 16 yr old ex LAC Liam Aitchison has NOT been published, only the recommendations, which themselves allude to significant failures in terms of multi-agency working (not working) and lack of designated leadership in such cases. I could go on …. Enjoy your retirement mate!

  4. Soraia March 2, 2015 at 6:51 pm #

    Dear Philip, I guess you just forgot that one day you were part of that “bright young things”.

    • Philip Measures March 4, 2015 at 5:27 pm #

      Yes, ‘Soraia’ I was but I came from a background of mental health and my CQSW training dealt in depth with issues of Child Development and sociology amongst other relevant topics.

      I was also never a ‘company’ person – I knew what social work was about – supporting and enabling those who were most disadvantaged and oppressed and keeping the child as central from a clear Welfare perspective.

      It all did me little good promotion-wise but at least I could go to bed at night knowing that I had, hopefully, done what was right by those I was working with rather than being part of the very system(s) that sought to oppress them further.

  5. Neil Clarke March 2, 2015 at 11:11 pm #

    It is unfortunate that reliance seems to have been placed on the Police check which indicated there was no history of previous concerns. As ever the need for thorough investigation and good accurate communication between all agencies is exposed.

    The case also raises interesting issues around the legality and practicality of intervention in a relationship between a consenting 16 year and an older male who is not in a “position of trust.” I am quite pleased I was not working in Cwmbran at this time – this was not a case with easy answers.