Death of Hull toddler Riley ‘could not have been predicted’

A serious case review into the death of two-year-old who drowned in a bath while his mother slept after taking a cocktail of drugs has found that the many agencies involved with the family “couldn’t have predicted or prevented” the tragedy.

Two year old Riley Lewis died in a bath after being left unattended by his mum Kerry Abel

Riley Lewis was found face-down in the water in his north Hull home last January after being left for up to two hours. His mother Kerry Abel is serving a three-year jail sentence for manslaughter.

Tests showed Abel had taken nine drugs including heroin, cocaine and the pain-killer pregabalin. The child’s father, who had also taken drugs, had also been asleep. At the trial Mr Justice Coulson said Riley had died as a result of “gross negligence” but accepted until then Abel had been “a good mother with good maternal instincts”.

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The review out today agrees Riley and his two siblings were “generally well cared for”. However it outlines a disturbing litany of domestic and drug abuse going back to the birth of Abel’s first child, including anonymous calls concerned about children growing up in house “full of drug users” and police call-outs.

Abel called police on several occasions claiming she had been abused, including an incident in 2004, claiming her partner “had dragged her out of a chair by her hair, had kicked and punched her repeatedly, had bitten her leg and then wrecked the house”, but then police couldn’t find either her or the children, despite numerous visits.

A social worker closed the case when Abel told her the relationship was over. Riley’s sister, who was only eight or nine, complained to a member of staff at school about having to feed and change her baby brother when her mum was “asleep”. No action was taken beyond a conversation – which was not recorded – by a “child protection co-ordinator”.

The report criticises agencies for failing to “check or challenge” what they were told, but claims there was no evidence “that the children were ever subjected to significant harm by parental substance misuse.”