Agencies ‘failed’ over tragedy of boy beaten to death by mother

Police picture of Amanda Hutton
Police picture of Amanda Hutton
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CHILD protection workers “collectively failed” a two-year-old boy who suffered months of appalling cruelty before being beaten to death by his mother, a damning inquiry has found.

A serious case review into the murder of Keanu Williams yesterday showed four significant chances for professionals involved in the youngster’s care to come to his aid were missed – three of them in the final weeks of his tragic life.

Even Keanu’s mother, Rebecca Shuttleworth, has expressed surprise that social workers had allowed her to keep custody of her son.

Making eight recommendations to the organisations responsible for Keanu’s care, the review’s author said various agencies were guilty of a “loss of focus” after a core assessment made shortly before the toddler’s first birthday.

The report, published by Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board, stated: “The main finding ... was that professionals in the various agencies involved ... collectively failed to prevent Keanu’s death as they missed a significant number of opportunities to intervene and take action.

“They did not meet the standards of basic good practice when they should have reported their concerns, shared and analysed information and followed established procedures. The serious case review panel was in agreement that Keanu’s death could not have been predicted.

“However, in view of the background history of Rebecca Shuttleworth ... it could have been predicted that Keanu was likely to suffer significant harm and should have been subject of a child protection plan on at least two occasions to address issues of neglect and physical harm.”

Keanu died in Birmingham in January 2011 after suffering a skull fracture and a severe abdominal injury at the hands of Shuttleworth. She was jailed for life in June this year.

In a section on the background of the 25-year-old, yesterday’s 182-page report states: “Rebecca Shuttleworth has some views about how the services might have supported her and Keanu. She expressed some surprise that Keanu had not been removed from her care when born.”

Excuses given to health professionals by Shuttleworth after incidents of abuse, including a radiator burn to her son’s foot, were not credible, the review found.

Nursery staff were also criticised in the report for not alerting social services after seeing marks and bruises on Keanu’s body when he appeared distressed four days before his death.

A number of employees, including some council staff, have resigned or been sacked over the case.

The independent chair of Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board, Jane Held, yesterday voiced “very deep regret” on behalf of all the agencies involved.

Ms Held said: “No one walked in [Keanu’s] shoes. Staff were distracted by his mother’s needs and by taking what she was telling them at face value.”

Edward Timpson, Government minister for children and families, said: “This is an awful case and the serious case review shows that improvements are urgently needed.”

Birmingham City Council’s child safeguarding procedures, which were judged inadequate in June 2010, are due to be reviewed by Ofsted next month.

The city’s children’s services department was also served with an improvement notice by the Government in September 2010 after a series of high-profile child deaths, including the starvation of seven-year-old Khyra Ishaq in 2008.