#Note that due to the sensitivity of this case I am unable to give exact details of the children’s disclosures.
I knew the children were safe and now it was time to find out what had happened in their short lives. I made my way to the scene. Panic had set in and my phone rang nonstop. How could this have happened and Who was to blame, were the most common questions. I knew then that the answer to these questions would not be straight forward.
Everything we needed from the scene had been collected. The team re-grouped in a Conference Room at the local Police Station and I switched my phone off. It became clear that the family had moved numerous times across many Counties and had come to notice in each County, yet because their life was nomadic, no one Authority had taken responsibility for them. Everyone realised that this family had needed help for years and that the children had been failed, on a catastrophic level.
Mum was a vulnerable adult with a Social Worker of her own. She had been married three times, once in the eyes of the law, twice more in the eyes of Religion only. Each marriage had produced children. We needed to trace the Fathers and knew they also had issues of their own. We knew mum had called Social Services 74 times in the two weeks running up to finding the children, each time asking for help and each time saying she could not cope. No one had returned her calls and the children had not gone to school for three weeks.
Mum was now a High Risk Missing Person who had previously attempted suicide and was wanted for Child Neglect.
‘You switched your phone off Katie, Is it as bad as I think?‘ ’. My Superintendant had just entered the Room. ‘Would you have driven here if it wasn’t’’ I replied. I briefed him and we had the normal arguments about who was doing the press release. I was pleased I won. I looked like shit and had no desire to go on television. The hunt for mum went national.
Day became night and I was grateful to whoever it was that ordered in pizza. I managed to get home before 3am and squeezed in a power nap, shower and extra strong coffee before the car returned to collect me at 7-30am. When I walked into the briefing room all the blokes looked like death warmed up. I was thankful for Touché Ecalt, I still giggle about the power of makeup.
We all knew the days plans and went about our tasks. The suite was ready and the interviews began. The children that could be interviewed were, the stories they told were chilling. They had gone to school in dressing gowns, unwashed and hungry. They had been bullied because of how they looked and when they asked for help were told to speak to their mum about it. It was the first time I was moved so much that I had to collect myself before continuing. It is much easier to interview victims of a criminal than victims of the system.
Interviews over, the drive back to the placement seemed relaxed. I chatted to the children and we discussed Christmas. When we got to the house their foster parents were waiting. They had been out and bought the children new clothes. I have never witnessed children getting so excited over clothes before, it was wonderful to see.
The 10 yr old disappeared upstairs and came down in a beautiful outfit with a pair of Clarks boots on. She kept looking down at them and smiling. I will never forget that moment. She turned and said ‘Can I go to the school disco? I have never been before, I have never had anything nice to wear!”. It is safe to say the foster parent responded beautifully and the arrangements were made. I left the house, again reassuring the children I would return as soon as I could.
It was 7pm and mum had still not been found. Our time was running out and the decision was made to get the court order needed to keep the children together.
When I got home that night I climbed into bed with my children. I woke up the next day in the same place.
At 8am the following day I got the call. Mum had been found and arrested for Child Neglect. My car was on its way, travelling time to the custody suite was 2 hours. The journey there was mind numbing . My phone rang continuously and information about the children’s fathers came flooding in. The arguments between Adult and Child services escalated and became very tedious. The Custody Sergeant called me expressing his concerns over the mental health of his prisoner, Mum. Quite rightly he had requested the Forensic Medical Examiner (FME) to come out and assess her.
I arrived at the Custody Suite at the same time as the FME. I looked at Mum and saw a broken woman who should not be in a custody suite. Within 30 minutes she was transferred to the local hospital and in time Sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
Four hours later I was with the children explaining to them what had happened to their mother. The children were pleased their mother had been found and that she was in hospital.
They were ecstatic that they were staying right where they were, together for Christmas.
I now know fairy lights will always mean so much more too me than trees x
Thank you for reading xx
Four months later the children were reunited with their mother. They continue to live a happy life and have no contact with their fathers. The treatment and support the mother received was second to none and shows with help, families can stay together when the system gets it right. My Christmas wish is that in future all Agencies strive to get it right first time and think of the Family not what is within their remit.
Child Victims of Crime (CVOC) is a National Police Charity that supports children. To make a donation use the link below. Thank you x