The Maria Colwell Report: Chaired by T.G. Field-Fisher

Committee of Inquiry into the Care and Supervision Provided in Relation to Maria Colwell (1974) Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Care and Supervision provided by local authorities and other agencies in Relation to Maria Colwell and the co-ordination between them (Chairman: T.G. Field-Fisher) London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office 0 11 320596 

Coming so soon after the establishment of Social Services Departments and the encouragement to local authorities from the then Secretary of State, Sir Keith Joseph, to develop a strategic approach to delivering services, the death of Maria Colwell at the hands of her step-father while under the supervision of East Sussex County Council sent shock waves through the social work profession from which it would probably be fair to say that it has never recovered.

‘Battered baby syndrome’ had first been described in the nineteenth century but its study had recently been taken up again by Kempe et al. (1962) and its paediatric implications had been described nine years later (Kempe, 1971). So it would be unrealistic to expect the professionals concerned to have had the awareness and understanding of child abuse that is now taken for granted. The Maria Colwell case brought the issue to prominence in the UK.

The Committee were unable to agree a unanimous report, with Olive Stevenson offering a different account of the events that led up to the revocation of the Fit Person (by then Care) Order in respect of Maria on 17 November 1971 but she did not dissent from the rest of the report or its conclusions.

Key points

  •  The Committee were unable to agree a unanimous report.
  •  Maria had been born on 25 March 1965 and died on 6/7 January 1973 at the hands of her step-father.
  •  When she was four months old, her mother had given Maria to her sister-in-law and, apart from a brief period when she was returned to her mother and then placed with another woman, she had lived with her aunt until she was six and a half years old, most of that time under the care of East Sussex County Council.
  •  No love was lost between Mrs Colwell and her sister-in-law.
  •  When Mrs Colwell began proceedings to have Maria returned to her, East Sussex County Council did not oppose the application in November 1971 and were asked by Brighton Council to carry out the supervision of Maria ordered by the court.
  •  From April to October 1971 visits by Maria to her mother and future step-father had been gradually increased but, in spite of Maria’s increasing distress at these visits, she had been placed home on trial in October.
  •  Events in April 1972 involving the family, their neighbours, the police, the NSPCC and Brighton Housing Department do not appear to have been taken sufficiently seriously.
  •  Neighbours made frequent reports of abuse/neglect of the children to the NSPCC and the Housing Department.
  •  From 1 June to 1 December 1972 Maria was not seen by the social worker who was under the impression that the NSPCC were visiting.
  •  Prior to her move from infants to junior school, an education welfare officer had become involved but she did not know about the supervision order.
  •  After the move to junior school Maria’s attendance began to fall off, her last attendance being 20 November.
  •  An incident involving the family, neighbours and the police in November did not appear to have been taken seriously enough.
  •  A flurry of visits by professionals in December 1972 was unable to prevent the death of Maria at the hands of her step-father on 6 January 1973.
  •  Communication and co-ordination within and between the agencies involved had been unsatisfactory.
  •  Because the social worker’s report to court took the line taken by her employer, it might be useful to have had a report from an independent social worker.
  •  A supervision order lacks the powers to compel medical examinations and does not require regular visits.
  •  East Sussex County Council was primarily responsible for the failures which led to Maria’s death but Brighton Council and the NSPCC had also failed her in various ways and the police should have passed on the little information they had.

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Content

In Chapter 1 Introduction, the Committee set out how they were appointed by Sir Keith Joseph, Secretary of State for Social Services, on the 17 July 1973. Maria Colwell had died in January 1973 of multiple injuries inflicted by her step-father, William Kepple, who was found guilty of murder on 16 April 1973. However, on 19 July 1973 the Court of Appeal had substituted manslaughter and sentenced him to eight years imprisonment.

The Committee had held a preliminary hearing on 24 August 1973 followed by 41 days of public hearings between 9 October and 7 December 1973 when they had heard seventy witnesses, received thirteen written submissions and examined 99 documents and exhibits. They had also visited the estate where Maria had lived and the schools she had attended

The Committee regretted that they had been unable to agree on the report.

In Chapter 2 Narrative, from the first part of which Olive Stevenson dissented, they say that Maria had been born on 25 March 1965 and died on the 6/7 January 1973. There had been a feud between the parents’ families; their mother had often left the children alone and they were neglected and dirty; their mother had been warned by the NSPCC and the Children’s Department

In August 1965, when Maria was four months old, her mother had given her to her sister-in-law, Mrs Cooper. Subsequently, the family situation had deteriorated and, following a case conference on 3 December, East Sussex County Council had obtained a Place of Safety Order on the other four children, removed them from the home and obtained Fit Person Orders in respect of them. Two children had been boarded out with their maternal grandmother and two with foster-parents.

On 4 June 1966 Mrs Colwell had removed Maria from Mrs Cooper because she intended to set up with William Kepple but a week later the family was homeless and she placed Maria with another woman, prompting the NSPCC to seek a Place of Safety Order. Maria was returned to Mrs Cooper under an Interim Order and, with the granting of a Fit Person Order, it was up to East Sussex County Council to decide whether to board her with Mrs Cooper. They did not regard this as an ‘ideal’ foster-placement because Mrs Cooper was reluctant to go along with the long-term plan of returning Maria to her natural mother. The Committee noted, however, the generally favourable comments they had received from those who knew Mrs Cooper.

In July 1967 Mrs Colwell vetoed plans by Mrs Cooper to have Maria christened because she had agreed to become Roman Catholic when she married Mr Kepple; Mrs Colwell had children by him in November 1967, December 1968 and November 1969.

In October 1968 Mrs Cooper moved to Brighton but Brighton Council were unaware of her status until June 1971.

Over the next few years there was no general improvement in Mrs Colwell’s family situation; there are complaints in 1969 and 1970 about Mr Kepple and Mrs Colwell leaving the children. But on 20 August 1969 Mrs Colwell applied to Hove Juvenile Court for a variation in the Order relating to Maria which was refused on the grounds that they had no jurisdiction.

In April 1970 Maria started at infant school and Diana Lees took over as the family’s social worker; she was newly qualified and by 1972 was carrying an average caseload of 60-70 cases. She gradually got round all the family but only met Mr Kepple in November when he said Mrs Colwell wanted Maria back. During her visit Maria had been upset by the suggestion that she should return to her natural mother and in October 1970 Maria was distressed by a visit to her mother’s new council flat. Diana Lees noted that, during her visit on 5 February 1971, Mr Kepple had expressed indifference as to whether Maria came home.

At a case conference on 26 April an eventual return home for Maria was envisaged, even though the ideal of a gradual transition from the Coopers to Mr Kepple and Mrs Colwell would not be possible because of the animosity between Mr Kepple and Mrs Colwell and the Coopers. The plan therefore was to enable Maria to get to know her mother and Mr Kepple more until it was possible to make a sudden transfer.

The two Committee members responsible for this part of the report noted that none of the witnesses had supported the assumption that it would have been easier to return Maria to her natural mother when she was younger. They also pointed out that, in relation to the argument that the social workers had acted according to best practice at the time, it might not be reasonable to criticise the social workers as in any case there was insufficient evidence to do so, but it was not unreasonable to criticise the standards of practice at the time.

Following the case conference there had been a series of home visits over the summer of 1971 with Diana Lees noting the ‘negatives’ for Maria. When she stayed for a week in August 1971, Maria had been fearful of not being able to return to Mrs Cooper. By September Maria was resisting visits and some were cancelled; the school was also expressing concern over the visiting arrangements and Maria had absconded from school to avoid one visit, being found hiding at Mrs Cooper’s.

On 6 October 1971 Mrs Colwell applied for revocation of the Care Order and Diana Lees made preparations for Maria to return home on trial in October and to transfer to a new infants school on 1 November 1971. The two Committee members could not see why Diana Lees took this decision without consulting a psychiatrist or paediatrician; after all, what happened had been anticipated in April 1971.

When Maria went home on trial to Mrs Colwell’s on 22 October 1971 she ran away because she was not allowed to ‘go home.’ In her report to Hove Juvenile Court on 17 November 1971 Diana Lees referred to Maria’s ‘confusion over where her loyalties lie’ (Committee of Inquiry into the Care and in Relation to Maria Colwell, 1974, §67, p. 29); however, in the two Committee members’ view, there was actually no confusion and they argue that social workers were not qualified to make judgements about Maria’s trauma. They note that the Coopers had not been told about the hearing.

Olive Stevenson’s dissent ended here.

The court made a Supervision Order to Brighton but East Sussex agreed to carry on the supervision; among the weaknesses in this arrangement was that Diana Lees would not know the other local authority staff who interacted with the family.

In April 1972 a neighbour complained to the NSPCC about Mr Kepple’s treatment of Maria and an NSPCC officer and a detective constable visited various neighbours but Maria had been primed what to say about the injuries and the Committee argue that the NSPCC should have made further investigations rather than leaving it for the neighbours to report anything else.

On 16 April 1972 there was an argument between Mr Kepple and Mrs Colwell about whether Maria could go out with a neighbour in the car in the course of which it was revealed who had called the NSPCC. This resulted in a fight with the neighbour to which the police were called but they did not see fit to alert the NSPCC or the Social Services Department. The following day a neighbour reported the ill-treatment of Maria and also the previous day’s events to the Social Services Department but there was no contact with the police about these events. The same day Diana Lees and the NSPCC officer visited the neighbours’ houses and the next day Diana Lees visited Maria but her record of the injury is not the same as the NSPCC’s; she advised Mrs Colwell to take her to the doctor but she did not ensure that this happened. In fact, Maria was not registered with a doctor and when she was registered on 21 April 1972 there is no record of an examination.

On 24 April 1972 a neighbour complained to Brighton Housing Department about the family and their ill-treatment of Maria but the significance of these events was not grasped. Her teacher did not accept Maria’s explanation of her injuries but this did not reach the Social Services Department or the NSPCC. The Committee note that a change in the date of school medical examinations had meant that Maria had missed her medical examination though the change of school.

On 13 May 1972 Mr Kepple and Mrs Colwell get married.

On 1 June 1972 Diana Lees visited the Kepples; on her next visit she did not see Maria and the next time she saw her was 1 December 1972. She did not complete a six-monthly report for Brighton Council.

On 18 July Maria was sent home with suspected impetigo and did not attend school again until her move to the juniors in September. The infant school referred her to the education welfare officer who visited and contacted the health visitor who visited but did not see Maria; neither the education welfare officer nor the health visitor knew that Maria was under supervision. In fact, there was nothing in the infant school records about Maria being under supervision though the staff knew; so the junior school staff were unaware of this and did not send essential information to Diana Lees.

In August a neighbour telephoned the NSPCC to report bruises but this message was not passed on to the NSPCC officer. In fact, Diana Lees thought the NSPCC officer was visiting but she only visited on 18 August 1972 (when she saw Maria) and 27 September 1972 (when she did not). According to the NSPCC, a verbal report of this visit was made to Diana Lees on 10 October 1972 – except that Diana Lees was on leave that day.

In August a neighbour discovered Maria barred in her own room at home.

On 5 November the police were called to an incident involving Mr and Mrs Kepple and on 7 November neighbours complained to the Housing Department about the family and their care of the children. The following day, a member of the Housing Department staff visited the neighbours and Mr Kepple and submitted a report; however, this was not passed on to the Social Services Department by his senior until 22 November 1972 even though the report had mentioned the police visit on 5 November; none of this was passed on to Diana Lees.

Maria was becoming more withdrawn at school, her last attendance being on

20 November; staff were told she was ill but her oldest sister, who babysat, reported no illness. When Diana Lees visited the maternal grandmother, who was caring for two of the children, on 9 November, she expressed concern over Maria but Mr Kepple put off the first appointment on 20 November and Diana Lees eventually visited on 1 December. On 27 November, there had been an anonymous call to the NSPCC saying that Maria was bruised but the NSPCC failed to pass on this message.

When she visited, Diana Lees advised Mrs Kepple to seek medical help; on the same day the school raised its concerns with Brighton Social Services Department who said that physical injuries were an NSPCC responsibility.

On 4 December 1972 the education welfare officer discovered that Maria was on a supervision order; she visited and made an appointment for the school clinic but Maria did not attend. Maria was eventually seen by a doctor on 6 December 1972 but he found nothing that could be associated with a specific form of violence; the committee noted that the doctor had no history to go on.

The education welfare officer raised the possibility of proceedings with East Sussex County Council but Diana Lees was not told of this; a neighbour phoned Diana Lees and left her sister’s telephone number; Diana Lees later said she tried to phone back but received no reply. The neighbour’s sister says there was no call; there was no follow up anyway.

On 13 December the education welfare officer and Diana Lees both visited but Maria did not attend the follow up visit with the doctor.

On 18 December there was an anonymous complaint to the NSPCC which was passed on to Diana Lees who said there was no need to visit because she had seen Maria the previous week.

On 27 December 1972 the last visit by her oldest sister took place.

On 6 January 1973 Maria died of serious bruising and internal injuries; her stomach was empty.

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In Chapter 3 Comments, the Committee set out the issues they identified:

  • Recording: case notes and messages

Though overall standards of recording were high in East Sussex County Council, the Boarding Out Regulations set out clear expectations, and records needed to separate fact and impression, record sources and record the detail of the explanations someone gave; there had been failures in transmitting information to others.

ñ Communication within and between schools

The school record cards held inadequate information and were not seen as important by teachers, while the medical cards mostly recorded medical material; the slips passed between teachers and education welfare officers were inadequate as records; greater importance needed to be attached to informal communication and the role of the school secretary.

ñ Communication between schools and social services departments

The Committee had found conflicts of evidence between the schools and the social services departments, partly because there was little recording by teachers and it was variable by social workers; Diana Lees had not known that the infant and junior schools were different schools and the education welfare officer had not known of Diana Lees’s involvement until November 1972.

  •  Social services departments and the NSPCC

People naturally turned to the NSPCC and there were normally good relationships between social services departments and the NSPCC but this could mean there was no formalisation of their respective responsibilities.

  •  Social services departments and housing departments

Clear visiting arrangements and relationships were needed.

  •  Social services departments and the police

Police procedures were inadequate in cases involving children but there were no problems about referring children to social services departments.

  •  Social workers and the local community

Trust needed to be developed.

  • Communicating with children

Social workers need to see the child alone and be aware of the child’s communication with others, for example, teachers, to supplement the direct communication with the child.

  •  Prospective step-parents

Social workers should check with the police, the doctor and social security; they might have to ask for permission in the light of the step-father’s right to confidentiality and they should not regard a refusal of permission as relevant to child’s welfare but they should at least make the effort.

  •  Independent social worker’s report

At the juvenile court hearing the case went through by default because East Sussex County Council had decided not to oppose the application and the social worker’s report followed that line; this suggests the need for an independent report.

  •  Wardship

The Coopers had no right to attend but it might have been useful if they could have; one possibility might have been a wardship application so that the High Court could make the decision.

  •  Supervision Orders

With no regulations governing Supervision Orders the social worker lacked powers to act; there was no requirement for a medical examination or for statutory visits.

In Chapter 4 Conclusions, the Committee conclude that East Sussex County Council had been primarily responsible because they:

  • had not opposed the revocation,
  • had not attempted to gain time for Maria,
  • had failed to monitor the return,
  • had failed to react in April 1972,
  • had failed to provide adequate supervision from 1 June to 1 December 1972.

Brighton Council had:

  • failed to pass on information, both to East Sussex County Council and between the housing and social services departments,
  • failed to press for the six-monthly report.

The NSPCC had:

  • flawed messaging and communication systems,
  • misread the April 1972 incident,
  • failed to follow its own procedures.

The police had little involvement but had failed to pass on information.

In Chapter 5 Narrative and comment on the period from Maria’s birth in March 1965 up to the revocation of the Fit Person Order by the Hove Juvenile Court on 17 November 1971, Olive Stevenson examines the impact of the separation on Maria and the family interventions, noting that Mrs Colwell had always retained an interest in Maria and resented the placement with Mrs Cooper who always upset Mrs Colwell. She also looks at the role of the wider family and the social worker’s perceptions of the feelings of all parties and undertakes a detailed analysis of the records.

She examines the legal framework within which the social workers were operating and their confusion over the concept of a ‘blood tie’ and stresses that it was not a black and white situation and that there was no clarity about Maria’s ‘true feelings.’ She concludes that the failure to seek a psychiatric opinion was not significant and says there is no value in a hierarchy of blame.

Discussion

There is nothing groundbreaking in this report; as Tom O’Neill (1981) observes, the similarities between Maria’s case and his brother’s are striking. The professional training which social workers had received in the previous two decades had not addressed the communication failures which had underpinned both cases. The need to see children alone and, if necessary, examine them had been stressed as long ago as 1894 by a Departmental Committee of the Poor Law Board (Heywood, 1978) and was to be echoed a decade later by the Hughes Committee (Committee of Inquiry into Children’s Homes and Hostels, 1986).

The decision to return Maria to her mother was almost certainly influenced by Bowlby (1952); though much of the research included in Clarke and Clarke (1976) had been published, it would not have been part of the staple of a social worker’s training. Maria had a secure attachment with her aunt, having been placed with her when she was four months old, and the decision to break this attachment would have been damaging even if Maria had not died because, for her, the person in whom she had invested had been unable to protect her. As Wiener and Wiener (1990) were to find two decades later, social workers seem to be particularly powerless when faced with a determined parent and the outcome is almost always harmful for the child.

There is little doubt that both the decision to return Maria to her mother and future step-father and the planned mode of execution were flawed and the same failure to recognise children’s distress that was apparent in the Pindown records (Levy and Kahan, 1991) was present in the social workers’ records in this case. Yet such failures appear to characterise situations where people’s attention is on something else; thus it was the entry of Christina Maslach into the Stanford Prison Experiment that led to its premature termination. The researchers could not see the damage they were doing because they were so caught up in the experiment (Zimbardo et al., 2000).

The sequence of incidents and complaints which marked Maria’s last year was to be paralleled a decade later in the career of Frank Beck when complaints made against him were not followed up (Kirkwood, 1993).

The Committee were probably optimistic in expecting that granting new powers to social workers in relation to supervision would have helped. The story of Maria’s last months is a combination of professional and administrative failures, including the simple failures to seek outside opinion and to recognise Maria’s distress even while recording it, failures also shared with the Staffordshire social workers (Levy and Kahan, 1991), and to see Maria and to have her examined, something which, on the evidence of the Baby P case, some social workers have still not grasped.

References

Bowlby, E. J. M. (1952). Maternal care and mental health: a report prepared on behalf of the World Health Organization as a contribution to the United Nations programme for the welfare of homeless children (Second ed.). Monograph Series No 2. Geneva: World Health Organization. Previously published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization 1950.

Clarke, A M and Clarke, A D B (Eds.) (1976) Early experience: myth and evidence London: Open Books See also Children Webmag May 2010.

Committee of Inquiry into Children’s Homes and Hostels (1986) Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Children’s Homes and Hostels (Chairman: His Honour Judge William H Hughes) Belfast: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office

Committee of Inquiry into the Care and Supervision Provided in Relation to Maria Colwell (1974). Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the care and supervision provided by local authorities and other agencies in relation to Maria Colwell and the co-ordination between them (Chairman: T. G. Field-Fisher) London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office

Heywood, J S (1978) Children in care: the development of the service for the deprived child (Third ed.) London: Routledge & Kegan Paul

O’Neill, T (1981) A place called Hope: caring for children in distress Oxford: Blackwell See also Children Webmag May 2009.

Wiener, A and Wiener, E (1990) Expanding the options in child placement Lanham MD: University Press of America See also Children Webmag January 2010.

Zimbardo, P G, Maslach, C and C. Haney, C (2000) Reflections on the Stanford Prison Experiment: genesis, transformations, consequences In T Blass (Ed.) Obedience to authority: current perspectives on the Milgram paradigm Chapter 11 London: Lawrence Erlbaum

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20 thoughts on “The Maria Colwell Report: Chaired by T.G. Field-Fisher

  1. Hi,
    Have spent a great deal of time going over the details of this case – went to the Family History Centre in Brighton yesterday to look at a copy of the Enquiry, also at the various press cuttings…
    I was wondering whether anyone could tell me how or if I could get hold of a copy of the July 1973 Appeal, following hard on the heels of William Kepple’s conviction for murder, that changed his sentence to manslaughter and a mere 8 years imprisonment. I’ve always wondered what the nature of such an appeal might have been, and the reasons for his sentence being drastically reduced.
    Regards, Keith Sherwood (living in Cambridge)
    p.s. My personal interest in the case is that I’m a friend of one of William Kepple’s daughter’s, who was of course a mere child at the time of the tragedy. I’ve researched into what eventually happened to her father – he died in 1993 in the Acton Area

  2. Good point Keith Sherwood ! William Kepple Killed my sister and there can never be any justification in his change of sentence !

  3. I remember my Nanna taking me to the Grave of Maria years ago.
    Maria would have been a distant cousin of mine
    I often think of what she’d be like now.
    William Kepple should have had the same done to him and put in prison for life.

  4. Hi Mark, what an absolute tragedy for you to endure as a child, your sister must have been terrified of the monster. Im also researching the case for my course at university…and would like to ensure that in Maria’s memory i can portray everything correctly, if you are able could you please email me any links to documents etc giving your relationship i appreciate that thi smay be too difficult so apreciate any help.

  5. my aunt lived next door in maresfield road,she tried so many times to alert the powers that be to what that vile,wicked man done to that poor little girl,it is something that stays with our family to this day and on,my dad was arrested when that vile piece of filth tried to push my aunt down the stairs in maresfield road while she had me in her arms aged 9 months he could quite easily have had me as another victim,god bless u mark and all your brothers and sisters hope u find some peace

  6. I came back to the UK as an Army dependant on 6 October 1973 and soon after saw a BBC news at 6 report on the case of Maria. I stood in the sitting room transfixed to Kenneth Kendall as he spoke.
    It dawned on me that I had endured the same horrific abuse all my life as Maria had.
    I understood for the first time what adults had meant when I overheard some of my relatives speaking of me as a ‘bashed kid’.

    Since seeing that report on the news I have always held Maria in my heart and determined to keep her memory alive.
    I felt I had, and still do, an affinity and connection to her. My middle name is Maria.
    The constant days of living in abject fear of my systematic abuser and torturer (my mother) only stopped when at the age of 14 and a 1/2 having been wholloped over the head with a metal pail, I walked into the police station and told a policeman what my mother had done and continued to do.
    As a result I was sent away to boarding school, (courtesy of the Army) but the police never prosecuted my mother.
    I think a deal had been struck.

    I have lived with the ramifications of the abuse I endured. Maria’s ordeal gave me strength to carry on through times I felt there was no point to life and I wanted to put a stop to my suffering.
    I have much to thank Maria for and God willing that there is an after life I shall seek her out to thank her for giving me strength when I felt so weak and terrified.
    Maria is not forgotton.

  7. Maria was my best friend when we were born we lived in same road farm road hove we played everyday with the children next door the Kent’s unbeknown to her she left the street out of the blue to go to her death from an animal Kepler evil Irish bastard me and the girls are now a48/49/50 Maria would have been same as me 48 now unbeknown to her I am still in touch with the cousins she never new wh were her around then he should burn in hell for eternity and the mother who was worse also may they never find peace for ever in a state of suicidal despair ,god bless you Maria my little friend

    Colleen Ohara

  8. Keith I would really like to talk to you as I believe I knew the family but now I am older and know the details of this case I don’t want to bring up memories that may have been blocked out and if I am incorrect again do not want to cause any distress to the family
    Mark my deepest sympathy goes out to all of your family ~ may she be resting in peace ❤️

  9. Hi I’ve been talking to a retired detective and he tells me that the reason why mothers were not charged was because until recently husbands and wives could not testify against each other. It was very hard to prove who actually was the cause of death in most cases and so it was manslaughter charge.

  10. I think that William Kepple should have got a life sentence after what he had done to poor little Maria. Her mother was just as bad and she should have gone to prison as well. What a disgrace, so many mistake were happen and little Maria.s life was take from her. Why did the social not took her away from the Kepple.s house when she first stated being abuse. Now at this age she would be married with her own children and even grandchildren.

  11. Hi – Maria would have been my auntie – I am (besides my father) the only blood relative alive that visits maria’s grave and have been to the national archives to see for myself the horrific injuries and torment Maria suffered.

    I would be interested in hearing from anyone direct who knew Mara.

    I received a letter from the Ministry of Justice to say that if this crime has happened today – Pauline (maria’s so called mother) would have been sentanced and a hefty one at that.

  12. Collenn Ohara I would love to hear about little Maria. I know some but not a great deal. I know her fav colour was red. Please do get in touch.

  13. Keith Sharwood – I read through the transcripts which they allowed me to view (being a blood relative of Maria) and the reason why the verdict was changed from Murder to Manslaughter – please do get in touch if you need more information. But please please bear in mind. Information will only be disclosed to help people understand and try to stop these things happening. No information will be revealed to those who wish to gain money from writing books about Maria (believe me we’ve had a few that have done this and thankfully been able to stop them before publishing)

    Many thanks

  14. Since starting my degree in Children, young people & their services I have been fascinated by the story surrounding Maria Colwell. I am very much interested in the failings of the partnerships between the many agencies involved in Marias life. Whilst doing my honours in Children, Schools & Families I have chosen Marias story for various pieces of work I need to complete and wondered if anyone knows how I can obtain the actual Inquiry, I realise that in this era we now have Serious Case Reviews so looking for something that was published since Marias death that lead to changes in legislation, preferably around multi agency working. I also would be interested to read the fostering aspect, especially as it is very difficult to know how her siblings lived whilst she endured such a devastating lifestyle when she was reunited with her mother. Is there information regarding the care of her siblings? For my assignment I am looking to link the cases between previous children in foster care that dies and cases similar that followed Marias death.

  15. If you cannot find it in a local or University library, you can read it at the St Pancras site of the British Library though you will have to register as a Reader and give them a good reason why you should be allowed to read it.

  16. I have found the report into the death of maria, I’m also covering the poor girls story as part of my degree in social care. I will attach the link.
    Kind regards
    https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/194507/response/481776/attach/3/FOI%202014%203453%20Children%20at%20Risk.pdf

    [Moderator’s note: this is in fact the report of the response of East Sussex County Council to the report of the Committee of Inquiry but is nonetheless a useful additional resource for those interested in the lessons from this tragedy. Thank you, Wendy]

  17. What became of Pauline all these years later? I discovered she had a child with a man called Valentine (he died in 1978), and the child was taken into care a few weeks after birth in 1974 in Enfield. She seems to have dropped off the planet – or changed her name …

  18. She died in 1992 i think – and yes had changed her name after re-marrying – why on earth anyone would want to marry that monster is beyond me!

    Anyway Maria lies peacefully and is now resting so I think it’s best for all involved if it’s now left. It’s very sad for her surviving brothers & sisters

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