Kingston Council 'ignored abuse warning' that led to murder
- 24 January 2013
- From the section London
Social work managers ignored requests to visit a woman being abused by her partner days before he killed her in front of their toddler, according to leaked documents.
The NSPCC twice referred Charito Cruz to social services at Kingston Council because of Mohammed Asad Niazi's abuse.
In December Niazi, 30, was found guilty of bludgeoning Ms Cruz to death with a hammer in 2011 and jailed for 12 years.
The council said it was now conducting a "domestic homicide review".
An Ofsted report said the council had not adequately addressed "all the areas identified" in its internal management review, which has never been published but has been seen by BBC London.
Duncan Clark, Kingston's director of children and learning, resigned with a £128,000 pay-off the day before the Ofsted report was published.
The internal review found on one occasion a social services manager did not think the referral was serious enough to warrant a home visit.
On the second occasion in September 2011 the manager did not read the referrals but took the documents home to read.
That night, Niazi killed 37-year-old Ms Cruz by hitting her 50 times with a hammer.
The council, Mr Clark and two social work managers criticised in the internal review have refused to comment.
Kingston Council would only say it was conducting a "domestic homicide review" into the case, that new senior managers had been appointed and a "significant investment" had been made.
A council spokesman said: "A number of significant actions have been taken in response to the findings of the Ofsted inspection and the improvement notice in order to improve safeguarding arrangements for children.
"The council is implementing the improvement plan and there is good progress on delivering this agenda."
Kingston's former acting head of social care, Olivia Butler, who ordered the internal investigation into what went wrong, said what she uncovered was "very poor practice and tantamount to negligence".
According to the internal documents, Ms Cruz first emailed children's charity the NSPCC at the beginning of September 2011 as her relationship was breaking down due to Niazi's abuse.
The charity asked Kingston Council to visit her at her home but a social work manager decided emailed advice was sufficient, the report stated.
The situation worsened and Ms Cruz contacted the Child Safeguarding department on 23 September saying she was "shocked and scared" that her partner was showing their two-year-old daughter pornographic videos and encouraging her to play with cigarettes.
A social worker phoned Ms Cruz the same day at which point Ms Cruz revealed Niazi, originally from Pakistan, had attempted suicide with an overdose of painkillers.
The department's duty manager on 23 September, failed to ensure the conversation was logged on Kingston Council's computer system.
Niazi emailed the NSPCC several times over two days asking for help controlling his emotions after smashing Ms Cruz's phone with the hammer he later murdered her with.
On 25 September the police sent the Child Safeguarding department a referral informing them that Ms Cruz had visited them over the weekend, saying she was feeling unsafe and that they had visited Niazi warning him over his behaviour.
The NSPCC also contacted Child Safeguarding the next morning with details of their contact with Niazi and asked the council for a second time to visit the family.
The duty manager on 26 September failed to arrange a visit and did not read the referrals at any point during the day. The manager took the documents home to read that night.
At 21:30 BST Niazi bludgeoned Ms Cruz to death with a claw hammer.
Ms Butler said "things could have been very different", claiming the managers involved did not try their best.
In fact, the next day the official casework log was retrospectively fixed with entries deleted and new entries added.
According to Ms Butler this was to "cover up the lack of action and proper response".
According to the report, it was claimed at the time it was simply to keep records in chronological order.
Ms Butler claims she resigned from the council when her advice to discipline staff was rejected by senior management.
She said she "thought this was wrong" and that children were "not going to be safe with these arrangements in place and nothing being done to stop it".
Ms Butler now helps to run children services in three other London boroughs.
BBC London has also discovered Kingston Council was criticised for serious failings in dealings with at least three other cases.
Seven siblings in one family suffered 14 years of abuse before they were taken into care despite repeated warnings to the council's social services department.
Howard Jones, opposition Conservative group leader at Kingston Council, is calling for the Liberal Democrat council leader, Derek Osbourne, and the lead member for children's services, Patricia Bamford, to resign.
Mr Jones said: "If this serious matter that you raise actually does come to the fore and is shown to be as it's alleged to be then she really needs to consider her position and so does the leader of the council... on the grounds of mismanagement, on the grounds of lack of attention to management of the department.
"It's one of the most important departments in the council, looking after our children."