Two convicted of murdering three-year-old

ANOTHER council is facing scrutiny over horrific child abuse after a baby-sitting couple were found guilty of murdering a three-year-old boy just hours after he was seen by a housing support officer.

Wolverhampton City Council pledged to examine lessons learned from the murder of Ryan Lovell-Hancox, who was neglected, abused and beaten by Kayley Boleyn and Christopher Taylor.

Boleyn, 19, and Taylor, 25, both face mandatory life sentences after being convicted of murder and child cruelty by a jury at Wolverhampton Crown Court.

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The couple inflicted more than 70 injuries on the toddler, who died in hospital on Christmas Eve 2008, two days after suffering a fatal brain injury.

Both defendants blamed each other for Ryan's injuries but jurors took seven hours to convict the pair of murdering him in an attack at their flat in Slim Avenue, Bilston, West Midlands.

The pair, who will be sentenced later this year, had been looking after Ryan for almost a month after his mother agreed to pay them to care for him.

Wolverhampton City Council yesterday refused to discuss the details of a serious case review into Ryan's death but the trial of his killers heard he was seen at their bedsit by a housing support officer hours before the attack which led to his death.

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The court heard the officer, who gave Boleyn a lift to a job centre, assumed Ryan was asleep after seeing one of his legs sticking out from under bedding.

It also emerged that a child had been seen by housing officials at the flat on previous occasions.

Council officials confirmed Ryan was not the subject of a child protection plan and was not judged to be "at risk" by experts who came into contact with him.

It is believed the serious case review is scrutinising social services' contact with Boleyn, as well as the actions of housing support officers working for a charity which helps young people after they leave care.

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The trial heard that, at the time of the killing, Boleyn was in breach of her tenancy, which stated she should live alone with no pets and no children.

Roy Lockwood, director for children and young people's services at the council, who is also the chair of the local Safeguarding Children Board, said yesterday: "I'd like to express my deep sorrow and regret at the death of Ryan – a tragic and shocking event for his family, his community and the city as a whole.

"The death of a child under these circumstances gives us all pause for thought about whether there was anything we could or should have done to prevent it.

"Ryan was not the subject of a child protection plan. Nonetheless, all the agencies in the city that have a responsibility to protect children are determined to learn what lessons there are to be learned to ensure no child ever dies in such circumstances in our city again."

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The four-week criminal trial heard Ryan's mother, Amy Hancox, was paying around 40 a week for Taylor and Boleyn to look after Ryan while she decorated her home.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Christopher Hotten QC said Ryan's mother was struggling to cope with him on her own. It was agreed Miss Hancox would visit Ryan each day, although she subsequently failed to visit him for two or three days at a time.

Miss Hancox told the court she had no idea of the catalogue of abuse suffered by Ryan.

"My crime was naivety. Kayley is related to my family. She never showed any signs of nastiness," she told the jury.

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Both defendants initially claimed Ryan had hit his head after falling in the bath but later changed their accounts. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said everyone needed to be alert for signs that a child may need help.

Its head of child protection awareness Chris Cloke said: "Young

children can't speak out for themselves but often show signs of distress.

"Child protection is everyone's responsibility and must become a top political priority in the coming General Election."

Succession of tragic child-death cases

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The tragic case of Ryan Lovell-Hancox is the latest in a line of child deaths that have led to investigations on whether local authorities could have done more to prevent them.

There was a major outcry following the death of baby Peter Connolly in Haringey when it emerged the youngster had suffered more than 50 injuries despite many visits from social workers.

In Doncaster, a review found "inadequate" child care arrangements where a number of children known to social services have died since 2004.

Two reports published last year made scathing criticisms of Calderdale Council over the deaths of two babies as basic procedures were not followed although there was no suggestion the deaths could have been prevented.

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