Baby death coroner condemns 'money wasted'

A coroner has attacked the amount of public money "wasted" in the tragic case of an 11-month-old baby who was thought to have starved to death.

The body of the baby boy was found emaciated in his north-west London family flat on 8 March 2010.

His 29-year-old mother died from illness and HIV two days later, Westminster Coroner's Court heard.

Coroner Dr Paul Knapman said: "Hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money has been wasted in this tragic story."

He adjourned the inquest after it was revealed that the baby's father had not seen key documents in the case.

Dr Knapman spoke of the vast amounts of public money that had already been spent on the case, and suggested the combined cost could total over £1m.

"Reference has been made to the hundreds and hundreds of people, almost entirely in the public services, who have been involved," he said.

"I had hoped to hear the tragic case today and conclude the matter.

"However having heard from counsel representing the father and bearing in mind the High Court's present view upon these issues, with no enthusiasm whatsoever, I agree to an adjournment."

Dirty bedroom

Dr Knapman said the money spent on the case included the payment of legal aid for baby's mother, who entered the UK illegally in 2005.

Further expenses included costs of housing, health, social and police services as well as the translation services required to communicate with the mother as she did not speak English.

Metropolitan Police Detective Inspector Paul Clack said it had taken "many months" to compile the 41 statements made by police into the report.

Mr Clack described how the baby was found in filthy conditions after his mother had called for an ambulance to say the baby was having difficulty breathing.

A report read by Det Insp Clack described the bedroom where the baby was found as "untidy and dirty" and "looked like someone had emptied a bin liner over the floor".

A plate with the remains of cereal and crisps was found in the baby's cot, the court heard.

The mother was arrested on suspicion of child neglect but after being seen by a doctor, was taken to a west London hospital where she died two days later.

Dr Knapman said the inquest would be reviewed in April.

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