Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Social worker admits Liam Fee dropped 'off the radar'

Liam fee
Image caption Liam Fee was found dead at a house near Glenrothes in Fife on 22 March 2014

A senior social worker has admitted that toddler Liam Fee was allowed to drop "off the radar" of her department.

The High Court in Livingston heard that the child's family had no social work involvement for four months after their case worker went off sick.

Rachel Fee, 31, and her partner Nyomi Fee, 28, are accused of murdering two-year-old Liam in March 2014 at a house near Glenrothes, Fife, and ill-treating two other boys.

They deny all the charges against them.

Karen Pedder, 45, a manager with Fife Council, told the High Court in Livingston that a case worker was assigned to the case in January 2013, after they received reports from the toddler's nursery that he had numerous injuries.

A police officer and a social worker visited the family and accepted the "plausible explanation" from Rachel and Nyomi Fee that the youngster had bumped his head.

But when the official concerned went off sick on 1 April 2013, nobody else was assigned to monitor the family.

Medical opinion

The court was told there was no further social work involvement until fresh concerns were raised about the child in June 2013.

She said a childminder claimed that Liam had been pinching himself and general concern was expressed about his development and speech delays

She said: "Again there was call to the social work contact centre from the Sunshine Nursery, which Liam attended. Again we had another interagency referral discussion.

"Again concerns were raised about Liam having numerous bruising to his body. The outcome was to seek medical opinion on Liam's injuries.

"The view of police and social work was they they didn't look like adult marks but there were concerns given the history."

She added: "We know where normal childhood bruising occurs. This was a different kind of bruising."

She said the combination of factors all caused concern, including one previous investigation, lack of seeking medical attention and social workers who visited the house reporting that Liam was in high chair in front of the TV eating lots of processed food.

'Happy boy'

Rachel Fee's defence counsel Brian McConnachie said to her: "What seems to have happened here is basically, as far as Liam is concerned, this case just went off the radar."

She replied: "It did. Yes."

She stressed that a case would normally be reviewed after about four weeks but she agreed that from April to June the interval was longer.

Mr McConnachie said: "On one view, who knows when the case would have been looked at again if other information had not come forward?"

Miss Pedder told him: "That's a procedural thing we should consider. We should look at the cases more regularly."

The jury were shown photographs of Liam playing at the Sunshine Nursery in Kirkcaldy.

Kimberly Trail, the former manager of the private facility, said the photographs showed how he had lost weight and become pale over a period of a few months.

Nursery concerns

She said she and her staff catalogued a series of injuries to Liam's ears and fingers, a black eye and bruises to his body over the weeks he attended the nursery.

She related one incident when Liam was not happy to see his mum arrive to collect him.

She said: "When Liam saw Rachel the look on Liam's face was quite frightening."

On another occasion she said Nyomi Fee approached the nursery "really angry" after a call from a health visitor following up concerns raised by the nursery staff.

After a discussion she removed Liam from the nursery.

Rachel Fee and Nyomi Fee, who are originally from Ryton, Tyne and Wear, are accused of murdering Liam in March 2014 and attempting to defeat the ends of justice by blaming the killing on a young boy.

The couple are also charged with a catalogue of allegations that they neglected Liam and abused two other children, one of whom they blame for killing Liam, in their care over a two-year period.

They deny all the charges against them.

The trial at the High Court in Livingston continues.

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