Profiles: Violent history of Baby P’s tormentors
Steven and Jason Barker, who showed no mercy to Baby P, even attacked their own frail grandmother, it can be revealed today.
Years before Peter’s death, they were accused of locking Hilda Barker, 82, in a wardrobe to make her change her will so they could benefit from it.
They were said to have brought terror to her in her bungalow home in a leafy crescent in the picturesque Kent seaside town of Whitstable.
The thugs were said to have beaten her black and blue in November 1995 and dressed up in Guy Fawkes masks to frighten her.
Mrs Barker’s daughter called in police and Jason and Steven were arrested.
Mrs Barker was so shaken by her experience that she was moved to a care home, where she died in January 1996. The will was found to be invalid.
But the brothers never faced trial – Mrs Barker died after they were remanded and police dropped the case because of her death, which was put down to natural causes.
A Kent Police spokesman said: “In 1995, Kent Police were contacted by a relative of an 82-year-old lady called Hilda Barker, who lived in Whitstable.
“It was suggested that members of her family had assaulted Mrs Barker.
“The allegations were fully investigated in 1995 and, although two males were charged, the matter was later discontinued through lack of admissible evidence.
“In 1996, an inquest into Mrs Barker’s death concluded it was a result of pneumonia.”
Next-door neighbour Jacqueline Cole, 58, said: “We used to see them when they came down from London. They were teenage lads.
“They used to come down with their parents until the very last time, when she had problems. Every time they came she was bruised. She was frightened every time they came down. She used to say ‘Oh, they are coming at the weekend’.”
Mrs Cole said: “At the time I just thought they were unruly boys coming from a rough part of London.
“We just thought that that was their way of living but their parents were such lovely people.
“If we had realised exactly what… certainly if we had thought they would have harmed her, we would have spoken to her daughter.”
Mrs Cole added: “She was black and blue when they were here. I don’t know what they did, she would never say. All up her arms, we would see it, but she would say ‘I fell’.
“We heard that the boys stood at the front window with these masks and frightened the daylights out of her.”
On Baby P, Mrs Cole said: “It is so sickening. I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. How anyone could do that to a baby?
“Something has gone wrong in their life from their teenage days to have done that.
“I cannot imagine what they did. It’s frightening to think humans could do what they did to a baby. It was horrendous.”
Mrs Cole’s husband, David, 62, said of Mrs Barker’s bruises: “How many, I wouldn’t know. They were certainly on her arm, I do know that. We’d say ‘Is everything all right?’ and she’d say ‘I’ve had a fall’.
“They borrowed various tools to tidy the garden and get rid of trees. Once they asked to borrow two axes.
“I’m not saying they used them on her but, from a frightening point of view, they could have threatened her with axes, spades and shovels.
“We heard the boys used to dress up in these masks and frighten her. I know the police were on to the boys. Who reported Hilda to social services, I don’t know.”
He added: “I think it’s diabolical, it’s beyond words. For such a lady, who’d been through the war, to finish off her life the way it worked out…
“Her injuries were caused by somebody, no doubt about it, and contributed to her early death, that’s what I believe.”
Jason Owen, 37, was said by witnesses at the Old Bailey to have dominated his younger brother, Steven, 33.
Their sister Susan, 36, said Steven was “a bit backward” and was nervous around Jason, who had nicknamed him Fatboy when they were young.
She said that in 1995 – the year their grandmother was attacked – she saw them together in a house in London.
She said: “Steven was hiding. We saw him in the flat upstairs. He came to the window. He looked scared. Jason was behind him. A few days later, Steven had cigarette burns on his hands. He was petrified of Jason.”
Steven Barker moved away from home and lived in Tottenham, north London, working as a handyman for a letting agency.
After meeting Tracey Connelly in 2006, he became her lover and later moved into her home. Bruises began to appear on Peter. Connelly covered up for Steven by saying they were caused by the baby banging his head or falling over.
Barker had tortured guinea pigs as a child and had tormented frogs by breaking their legs. The house was full of dead mice, which he fed to his pet snakes.
He was a keen collector of Nazi memorabilia. Police found a number of knives in the house, along with a German helmet and a swastika.
Connelly left him to look after the toddler. When challenged about the screams coming from the child’s room, he said he was trying to “toughen him up”.
He was seen coming out of Peter’s bedroom after squeezing the boy so tight he appeared to stop breathing.
Barker would take his rottweiler dog, Kaiser, for walks in the local cemetery, sometimes with Peter. Marks on the toddler’s head looked like they had been caused by the dog’s teeth.
The injuries leading to his death escalated in the five weeks after Jason moved in with his 15-year-old runaway girlfriend.
Jason, who lived in Bromley, Kent, was lying low with the girl and laughed at the way Steven treated the baby.
When Peter died, Jason took Steven to a campsite in Epping Forest, east of London, and helped dispose of bloodstained bedding and clothing.
Jason changed his name from Barker to Owen after Peter’s death. He was on bail until halfway through the trial when a plot to flee the country was foiled.
Police discovered he had been trying to change his name again and applying for a new passport.
The under-age girlfriend, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, gave evidence against him but admitted she had lied about some of the things she told police.
She said she still loved Jason and “would do anything to protect him, including lying for him”.