Family warned social services ‘we don’t want another Baby P’ as they describe ‘shambolic’ response
Star Hobson’s great-grandparents warned social services “we don’t want another Baby P on our hands” over fears for the toddler’s safety but described the response as “shambolic”.
Star’s great-grandfather David Fawcett, 61, said his partner Anita Smith, 70, called social workers in May 2020, after family members told her Savannah Brockhill was “slam-choking” the toddler – lifting her by the throat and throwing her on a bed.
Ms Smith’s call was one of five referrals to social services in the nine months before Star was killed on September 22 2020. One from another of her great-grandfathers was closed days before her death.
Mr Fawcett (pictured) said Brockhill convinced those who inspected that everything was fine and the social workers decided “it’s just malicious gossip, so we’ll leave it at that”.
On Tuesday Brockhill, 28, was convicted of murdering Star while Star’s mother, Frankie Smith, was cleared of murder at Bradford Crown Court but convicted of causing or allowing the toddler’s death.
Each time, the trial heard, Brockhill and Smith convinced social workers that bruising on Star was accidental or the complaints were made maliciously by friends and family who did not like their relationship.
Mr Fawcett, a postman from Baildon, Bradford, told the PA news agency: “When Anita made her complaint, she actually said, ‘look, we don’t want another Baby P on our hands here, do we?’.
“The lady on the phone from social services said, ‘how do you mean?’, and we were shocked at her reaction.
“Well, Baby P died through abuse, and we’re making a complaint.
“My first reaction would have been, ‘yeah, right, we’re on the ball, we’ll sort this one out, we don’t want another Baby P. Especially with them being the social services.
“It just came across as being a bit shambolic, really, Absolutely shambolic.”
Mr Fawcett, who is Smith’s grandfather, said they decided to approach the authorities when family members told them Brockhill was “slam-choking” Star and threatening to shave off her hair.
He said Brockhill was prepared for the subsequent visit and they were told that the social worker concluded: “It sounds to me like it’s just malicious gossip so we’ll leave it at that.”
He added: “We weren’t there. They never came to us. We never heard anything else.”
Mr Fawcett said: “The next thing we heard the case was closed.
“Anita was shocked. She said, ‘you’d have thought they would’ve come down to chat with us’.”
Mr Fawcett confirmed their call was one of five referrals to social services in 2020.
He said: “Maybe you miss it with one, two… but five? I just find it highly unacceptable, especially as they didn’t get back to us.”
Full details of how these reports were dealt with by social workers did not form part of the trial of Smith and Brockhill, but some snapshots of agencies’ contact with the toddler were outlined to the jurors.
The first call was made to social services in January by Smith’s friend Holly Jones, who was concerned about how much she been asked to look after the toddler and about domestic violence between the couple.
Ms Jones told the jury that, later in the year, after Star accidentally bit her as she helped her eat, she was horrified when Smith responded by biting her young daughter’s finger, making her cry.
The jury was told that social workers visited Smith and Star in January but the matter was closed after no concerns were raised by family members they spoke to.
The court also heard that Star’s father, Jordan Hobson, contacted social services in June after he saw images of bruises on Star’s face.
Police took her to hospital for an examination, despite Smith saying her daughter had hit her face on a coffee table.
The jury was told that the medical examination found the bruising was consistent with the account given by Smith.
Prosecutors said there was a further contact by a friend of Smith’s mother at about the same time, but this referral was closed the next month.
On September 2, Star’s great-grandfather Frank Smith contacted social services after seeing video of bruises on the youngster’s face.
Social workers made an unannounced visit and Smith said Star had fallen down stairs.
Social services closed the case on September 15 after concluding the referral to be malicious, the jury was told.
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