THE death of a toddler – who police believe was murdered – could not have been prevented, an investigation has found.
But the serious case review into the death of 20-month-old Sarah Dahane, pictured, published yesterday, has said lessons should be learned from her death.
The youngster was found in her Bicester home in May last year – a day after her mother Angela Whitworth had left the country.
The cordoned-off house in Herald Way, Bicester
The report revealed that her parents had been involved in a custody battle and police and social services had been in touch over domestic abuse allegations.
It stated Sarah’s mother – who is believed to be in Kenya – had also complained of depression and had told a social worker she wanted to give up her baby while pregnant.
But the serious case review – ordered by the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board (OSCB) – yesterday concluded the toddler’s death was neither preventable or predictable.
Maggie Blyth, OSCB independent chairwoman, said: “The serious case review paints a picture of a mother involved in a custody process that clearly had an impact on her wellbeing.
“However up until her death, (the child) had apparently been well cared for and was thriving.
“The review finds that the death was neither predictable or preventable, though there are lessons for the agencies to learn so they can improve their approach to safeguarding in the future.”
Thames Valley Police launched a murder investigation and named Ms Whitworth as a suspect when her daughter’s body was found at their Glory Farm home on May 16, 2013.
Police said last year there were no signs of external trauma to the toddler’s body and her cause of death has still not been formally established. The report said Sarah’s father, Nabil Dahane, had split from Ms Whitworth before Sarah was born. She had spoken to a social worker in 2011 about giving up her baby because she wanted her to have a stable family life.
It said a landlord also reported in 2012 that Ms Whitworth had left Sarah alone in a Northamptonshire flat and the tot had been bruised when she fell off the bed.
Domestic abuse allegations were also reported to police and social workers but none were ever substantiated, the review revealed.
The review said these incidents should have been investigated further and information shared with all child care agencies.
But it concluded: “Whilst there is no reason to believe that the minor weaknesses identified had any impact on the outcome for (the child) they should be addressed as they highlight potential areas of vulnerability in services which might impact negatively on other children and their families.”
The review also recommended those involved in safeguarding children review the way they deal with families from minority ethic groups.
Thames Valley Police spokeswoman Francine Rodrigues last night said its major crime unit was still investigating the death and working closely with the Crown Prosecution Service.
Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Paul Smith said: “We have accepted the recommendations relating to agencies working together and (the council) in particular, and will be putting them into practice.”
The safeguarding board is made up of representatives from organisations responsible for looking after children – including the county council, Thames Valley Police and the NHS. Police have not been able to arrest Ms Whitworth because she is believed to have left the country for Kenya.
- Read the report, statement and recommendations
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