Social workers could not have been predicted or prevented Becky Watts murder, report finds
Becky Watts reported feeling “scared” of being abducted to social workers more than three years before she was murdered in a sexually motivated kidnap plot, a report has revealed.
The 16-year-old was attacked in her bedroom by her stepbrother Nathan Matthews, 31, after he hatched a plot to abduct her with his girlfriend Shauna Hoare, 24.
Matthews and Hoare took tape, handcuffs and at least one stun gun to Becky’s home in Crown Hill, Bristol, in February 2015 and let themselves in when they knew she was alone.
Becky suffered more than 40 injuries before she was smothered by Matthews, who later dismembered her body in the home he shared with Hoare.
A serious case review commissioned by Bristol Safeguarding Children Board detailed how Becky had been receiving services from professionals from autumn 2011 until her murder.
It made five key findings relating to the services provided to Becky but concluded that her murder could not have been “predicted or prevented” by any professional working with her.
The report found many of the professionals did not consider Matthews, Hoare and other family members – with no risk from the former TA soldier towards Becky identified at any point.
Becky was seen by 17 professionals from eight different service providers over a three-and-a-half year period, with the majority of information about the teenager and her family history coming from her stepmother Anjie Galsworthy – the mother of Matthews.
During one early visit to the family home, a family support worker spoke to Becky alone.
“Becky reported being scared about a lot of things, including going back to school and being out alone, caused, she said, by reading about abduction cases and watching horror movies,” the report said.
“The social worker was charged with addressing these concerns but Becky did not attend any of the planned sessions.
“These anxieties were addressed in part through the work with the individual support worker, but the issue of what action father (Becky’s father Darren Galsworthy) and Becky’s stepmother could and should have taken to limit the watching of these programmes was not addressed because the parenting sessions did not happen.
“This meant the meaning of these films for Becky and why she watched them was never established. The lack of an initial analysis/formulation or subsequent reviewing mechanism meant that this gap was never addressed.”
In meetings with a clinical psychologist with Becky and her stepmother, it was noted that Becky was “fearful of the outside world and had concerns about being abducted and had problems with eating”.
Becky disclosed that Matthews was “unkindly teasing” her about her weight during family therapy with her stepmother and father but the sessions did not continue due to her eating disorder and their ill health.
She was later diagnosed with anorexia but recovered from this 13 months later.
The serious case review revealed that professionals considered Becky – who said she worried that her father did not want her at home – to be at risk of sexual exploitation and homelessness.
Becky disclosed that a boy had been threatening to publish explicit images of her on the internet and of worries about “sexting” but said she did not want police contacted as she was “frightened” of repercussions.
Sally Lewis, the independent chairwoman of Bristol Safeguarding Children Board, said concerns of possible sexual exploitation related to sexting and the sharing of images and not Matthews.
She said that, from records at the time, the “terms of access” of Becky watching horror films was not clear.
The review made five key findings in relation to the services provided to Becky between autumn 2011 and her murder in February 2015.
It said services should be focused on an “evidence-based understanding” of the needs and circumstances of adolescents to avoid them being seen as “troublesome” rather than troubled.
There were “inconsistencies” within the approaches of different agencies in terms of recording, analysing, planning, co-ordinating and reviewing – making joint care for children and their families less effective.
Children receiving care from hospital education services sometimes require a multi-agency response, it said.
Professionals should use information from different sources to prevent a “limited understanding” of a child or young person’s needs, the report concluded.
It also found that professionals are less challenging towards fathers who do not engage in child welfare practices – “leaving the risks they may pose unassessed and the contribution they could make to children’s lives unknown”.
These findings have been accepted by the Bristol Safeguarding Children Board and “much work” has taken place to address them, Ms Lewis said.
Becky’s mother Tanya Watts and grandmother Pat Watts told the report it was “important for children and young people to be believed when they talk about their worries and that they were not blamed for their behaviour”.
They felt Becky had been expected to meet and engage with “too many different professionals” and could not build up trust to speak out.
Mr Galsworthy and Ms Galsworthy said that “in hindsight they could see that the behaviour from Becky which they found challenging to manage was worse at times when her stepbrother was around.
“They said they wished they had realised the bullying she was experiencing from him at the time so they could have intervened to keep her safe.”
Mr Galsworthy said he was not included by professionals or given parenting support so he relied on strategies “such as telling Becky she would have to move out of the home if she did not manage her behaviour”.
“He said he now understood that this behaviour was partly as a result of what Becky was experiencing from her stepbrother.”
Matthews was jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum of 33 years in prison, while Hoare was jailed for 17 years, following a seven-week trial at Bristol Crown Court in November 2015.
In a statement issued after the serious case review, Becky’s mother said the teenager “lit up all of our lives”.
“Becky remained a happy caring girl and kept a smile on her face throughout even though she was carrying all of this pain upon her little shoulders,” she said.
“Her grace and beauty and courage astounds me and I am so lucky and proud and honoured to be able to call her my daughter.”
Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Avon & Somerset Police / PA Wire.