Imran Khan and Partners represented the parents of Victoria Climbié – Francis and Berthe – during the Inquiry into her death.
The Inquiry investigated the circumstances surrounding Victoria’s death in February 2000 at the hands of her aunt, Marie-Therese Kouao and her boyfriend, Carl Manning, who were both found guilty of her murder.The Inquiry was chaired by Lord Laming who took evidence from all those involved in the case, including social services, health, housing and the police. The findings of the Inquiry were damning. It produced 108 recommendations to overhaul child protection.
2nd November 1991
Victoria Adjo Climbié is born near Abidjan, the Ivory Coast.
Seven-year-old Victoria leaves Abobo in the Ivory Coast to lives with her aunt, Marie-Therese Kouao initially in Paris. Kouao takes the girl to London after she is pursued by French authorities over benefit payments.
April – June 1999
On arrival in England, Victoria’s name is given as Anna because of the assumed identity on the false passport used to get her into Europe. Kouao takes a job as a hospital cleaner and the pair initially live in a hostel in north London. Some weeks later Victoria is on a bus with her aunt when they meet Carl Manning, the driver, for the first time.
Kouao and Victoria, who speaks no English, move into Carl Manning’s home in Tottenham, north London. Within days, Victoria would be suffering abuse at the hands of Carl Manning. That abuse would lead to her torture and death.
14th July 1999
Victoria makes her first visit to the Central Middlesex Hospital after the daughter of her child-minder suspects the girl has non-accidental injuries. The doctor accepts Kouao’s story that Victoria has inflicted the wounds on herself by scratching at scabies sores. During this period, doctors alert child protection authorities as a precaution. Haringey social worker Lisa Arthurworrey and PC Karen Jones are assigned to the case. They later cancel a home visit scheduled for 4 August after hearing about the scabies.
24th July 1999
Victoria is taken to North Middlesex Hospital’s casualty department with scalding to her head and face. Doctors immediately suspect that the injuries have been deliberately inflicted. Kouao tells Lisa Arthuworrey and PC Jones that she poured hot water over Victoria to try and stop her scratching her scalp. She says that Victoria caused other injuries with utensils.
6th August 1999
Victoria is discharged from the hospital and is collected by Kouao after her explanation for the injuries is accepted by child protection authorities.
Trial evidence reveals that from October 1999 until the following January, Carl Manning forces Victoria to sleep in a bin liner in the bath every night at this flat.
1st November 1999
Kouao tells social workers that Carl Manning has sexually assaulted Victoria. She withdraws the accusation the next day. PC Jones is asked to investigate why but takes no further action after her letter to Kouao remains unanswered.
24th February 2000
Victoria is rushed to North Middlesex Hospital suffering from a combination of malnutrition and hypothermia. Doctors later transfer her to an intensive care ward at St Mary’s Hospital in west London.
25th February 2000
Victoria is declared dead at 3.15pm at St Mary’s Hospital. Dr Nathaniel Carey, the Home Office pathologist who examines her body, finds 128 separate injuries and scars, many of them cigarette burns, and describes them as “the worst case of child abuse I’ve encountered”. Carl Manning and Marie Therese Kouao are charged with the murder of Victoria Climbié. During police interviews both claim that Victoria was possessed.
The trial opens with the prosecution making it clear that the blame lay not only with Kouao and Manning in the dock but child protection authorities who had been “blindingly incompetent”. Manning denies murder but pleads guilty to child cruelty and manslaughter. Kouao denies all charges.
12th January 2001
Almost a year after Victoria Climbie’s death, Manning and Kouao are found guilty of her murder. Sentencing both of them to life imprisonment, Judge Richard Hawkins says: “What Anna endured was truly unimaginable. She died at both your hands, a lonely drawn out death”.
The government announces a public inquiry into the death to be headed by Lord Laming. The inquiry is the first in Britain to use special wide-ranging powers to look at everything from the role of social services to police child protection arrangements. Ministers make clear that they expect the inquiry to scrutinise the child protection system and not just the failings in the Climbié case.
Lord Laming opens the inquiry and in an unprecedented move calls both Marie Therese Kouao and Carl Manning to give evidence. He says the killers should appear at the inquiry to help it establish where the authorities failed to stop them. The inquiry is split into two parts. The first part or phase takes the testimony of more than 230 witnesses including neighbours, child protection officers and high-ranking social services officials. During this phase, the inquiry heard allegations of racism, incompetence and agencies neglecting their duty of care to Victoria. The inquiry hears of 12 occasions when agencies could have intervened and possibly saved the girl’s life. The second part during 2002 uses a series of special one-day seminars to bring invited experts together to debate the nature of the child protection system and help Lord Laming draw up his conclusions.
Lord Laming reopens the first phase of the inquiry after it emerges that a critical document by social services inspectors had not been revealed to his team.
Carole Baptiste, one of the key social workers in the case, is found guilty of failing to attend the public inquiry and fined £500.
Two further social workers at the heart of the Victoria Climbié child abuse scandal are sacked for gross misconduct. Lisa Arthurworrey and her manager Angella Mairs are dismissed by Haringey Council in north London following disciplinary proceedings.