Toni-Ann Placed In Criminal World
Toni-Ann Byfield was shot so she could not identify her drug-dealing father’s killer, a man who has now been convicted of the two murders. But how did a young girl come to be placed at the centre of such violent criminal circles? Toni-Ann had made it clear she had a strong relationship with Bertram Byfield, the man she believed to be her father. The “bright, lively” seven-year-old looked forward to her weekend visits to his north-west London home.
It was on one of those visits, in September 2003, that she was shot dead, along with Mr Byfield, by a crack dealer who had been paid to kill her father.
Posthumous DNA tests showed Mr Byfield, 41, and Toni-Ann were not actually related. However, they had believed they were father and daughter, and she had been allowed to visit him despite his criminal past which had seen him jailed for dealing in crack cocaine in 1997.
It was a decision made by social workers at Birmingham City Council in whose care Toni-Ann had been placed a few months after arriving from Jamaica in June 2000. The decision to allow the visits prompted an outcry after her death. An independent review of Toni-Ann’s care criticised Birmingham social services, the Immigration Service and the Child and Family Courts Advisory and Support Service.
Following the review in 2004, Birmingham City Council apologised for its “serious shortcomings and mistakes”.
Peter Hay, strategic director of social care and health at the council, said: “We were too narrow in our focus. Bertram Byfield was honest about his convictions and prison sentence, but there was a whole element to his life we did not assess properly.”
As well as serving time in prison Mr Byfield, who was also known as Tony or Blacka, is believed to have been affiliated to a Jamaican drugs cartel. He had survived an attempt on his life in 2002 when he was shot six times.
After the killing of Mr Byfield and Toni-Ann, Interpol traced the girl’s mother Roselyn Richards in Jamaica. She has also criticised the care her daughter was given, saying after the 2004 review: “Birmingham social services should have known where she was and taken appropriate action to ensure she was safe.”
Mr Hay told BBC News that Birmingham’s social care and health directorate had made improvements in child protection practice immediately after Toni-Ann’s death. “We know there were some shortfalls in the system from some agencies, however, this was not a case of neglect or abuse, but of murder. Two years ago we committed ourselves to improving the way we work and Toni-Ann is also entitled to justice through the conviction of the person who shot her.”
Mr Byfield and Toni-Ann were buried together in Handsworth, Birmingham, in October 2003 following a funeral service attended by 200 people.