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Star Hobson: Bradford council leader apologises ‘unreservedly’ over missed signs before toddler’s murder | UK News

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Council leaders in Bradford have apologised “unreservedly” to the family of murdered toddler Star Hobson, after admitting “key signs” were missed by social workers which could have saved her life. 

Kersten England, chief executive of the council, told a parliamentary education committee on Tuesday that Star, who was just 16 months old when she was killed, “should never have had to endure the horrific crimes and abuse to which she was subjected”.

Star was murdered in September 2020 by her mother’s partner, Susannah Brockhill, 29, despite extended family raising repeated concerns with Bradford Council’s children’s services about visible bruises and injuries to the child.

At the time, investigating social workers and police officers dismissed the family’s claims as “malicious”.

Welfare teams believed the version of events presented to them by Star’s mother, Frankie Smith, and Brockhill that the bruises were a result of childhood play and accidents. They closed investigations into Star’s welfare just one week before she was killed.

“I take responsibility, this happened on my watch,” Ms England told MPs at today’s hearing.

She added: “I have frequently considered my position.”

Brockhill was found guilty of Star’s murder in 2021.

Smith, 21, was found guilty of allowing her daughter’s death to happen after a trial in which it was revealed Star had endured months of physical and psychological abuse.

Image:
Star Hobson was murdered by Savannah Brockhill (left) and the toddler’s mother Frankie Smith (right) was convicted of causing or allowing her death. Pic: West Yorkshire Police

Speaking to Sky News following today’s hearing, Star’s aunt, Alicia Szepler, said: “I feel like all the professionals that were involved in Star’s case should all be removed from their jobs.

“Even though it wasn’t actually them who committed the crime, they could have stopped the crime from happening.”

Read more: ‘We call her the monster’: Star Hobson’s family can no longer say name of toddler’s killer

Ms Szepler, who was one of the family members that tried to get social services involved with her niece’s care, says she remains “incredibly angry”.

“The whole of Bradford Council could be stood in front of me saying sorry, but what is sorry now? It’s too late.

“I think the only thing that would make me feel a little bit better is if they actually do go ahead with all the changes that they say they are going to make, so it will never happen to any other children in the future.

“But it’s too late for Star. And right now I’m not confident it wouldn’t happen to another child.”

Earlier this year, the government put the running of Bradford City’s children services into the control of an independent trust.

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Calls for child protection teams

Ms England told today’s committee that the council was “making widespread improvements”, including recruiting more social workers.

The committee also heard evidence from leaders at Solihull Metropolitan Council about safeguarding failures around the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes who died at his step-mother’s home in June 2020, again after extended family raised concerns to social services.

At the time of his death the six-year old had more than 100 bruises on his body.

Emma Tustin, Arthur’s stepmother, was found guilty of Arthur’s murder. His father, Thomas Hughes, was found guilty of manslaughter.

NIck Page, chief executive of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, told the panel of MPs that “this happened because we failed”.

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