Social services could have saved murdered two-year-old, inquiry finds

Sanam Navsarka, who was killed by her mother’s partner, was ‘largely invisible’ to services who failed to follow up concerns about her welfare

Social services could have saved a two-year-old girl murdered by her mother’s partner following weeks of appalling abuse, an inquiry has found.

Two-year-old Sanam Navsarka, of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, was “largely invisible” to services who failed to properly follow up concerns about her welfare, said the inquiry.

Sanam died in May last year following weeks of appalling abuse in which she suffered more than 100 horrific injuries.

Subhan Anwar, 21, was jailed for a minimum of 23 years for her murder, while Sanam’s mother, Zahbeena Navsarka, also 21, was jailed for nine years after being found guilty of her manslaughter.

A serious case review has found that, while Anwar and Navsarka were responsible for Sanam’s death, there were failures by professionals at Kirklees council which may have changed the “eventual outcome”.

The report said Navsarka’s sister told staff at the looked after children service that she had concerns about Sanam but was advised to pass on the information herself.

Staff were told, four weeks before her death, that Sanam had been seen on separate occasions with a bruise and a mark to her head and that Anwar was suspected of hitting her.

However, this information was not shared or recorded as Sanam’s welfare was not seen to be the responsibility of this service.

The review found these failings meant opportunities to assess Sanam’s situation and possibly put protective measures in place were missed.

It stated: “There were some significant departures from professional good practice and procedures.

“Most notable of these was the failure by individual professionals to report appropriately concerns about the child’s welfare.

“If those concerns had been reported, it is likely that protective measures would have been initiated that may have changed the eventual outcome.”

Agencies were involved with other members of the family but attention was not focused on Sanam, who was not on the child protection register, or Anwar, who was not known to authorities.

The review said: “Despite a raft of agency involvement, the child was not the focus of intervention, which was instead directed towards the adults, or towards other young people within the family for whom staff had a particular responsibility.

“She is largely invisible in this review. Professionals failed to see the situation from a child’s point of view: she was never seen to have a need of her own, so assessment and intervention was never directed specifically towards her.”

The report also found that previous child protection concerns within the wider family context were recognised by health and housing services but were not followed through appropriately by children’s social care.

Alison O’Sullivan, director for the children and young people’s service, said Kirklees council fully accepted the findings of the review and apologised for the department’s failings.

She said: “The review found that four weeks before Sanam died a concern about her welfare had been raised but procedures were not properly followed by staff in the children and young people service. As a result an opportunity to make child protection inquiries was missed.

“This should not have happened and I would like to apologise for this lapse in our usual standard of professional practice.”

O’Sullivan said three members of staff had since been subject to disciplinary procedures and two of these had received “very serious sanctions”.

Karen Hemsworth, vice-chair of Kirklees safeguarding children board and assistant director for safeguarding children and vulnerable adults, NHS Kirklees, said steps were being taken to improve the service.

“We welcome the findings of the serious case review and we are already acting on its recommendations,” she said.

“While the review finds that agencies acted appropriately in identifying and providing services to the mother, it is clear that there were faults in the recording of concerns about Sanam’s welfare.”

The trial of Navsarka and Anwar at Bradford crown court earlier this year heard how the little girl, who had fractures to all four limbs, died after fatty deposits from her broken thigh bones entered her bloodstream.

Sanam’s hand prints and bloodstains were found inside cupboards, where she had been put as a punishment. A metal pole was used to shatter her leg and she was bruised and battered repeatedly in the four weeks before her death.

The judge told the pair: “Your deliberate cruelty is beyond belief.”