Host of warning signs overlooked

Authorities failed to act as mother claimed coincidence
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The Independent Online
The prosecution called it a "chilling catalogue of child abuse" with a "wholesale failure" of the authorities to investigate and intervene.

The story that unfolded in Nottingham Crown Court revealed a host of warning signs that gave the lie to Beckett's own description of them - "just a terrible coincidence".

Beckett spent much of her own childhood in care as her mother was mentally ill and was eventually sent to Rampton psychiatric hospital.

At 20, she became pregnant but gave up the baby, Angela, for adoption. A year later, in July 1982, she gave birth to Tracey and in December she and her boyfriend Tommy Butler were married. He described Beckett as a woman who lost her temper in vicious rows and vented her anger on their baby.

In one incident, Mr Butler said Tracey ended up in hospital after Beckett hit her. Police were called. After the child sustained an eye injury in early 1984, she was placed on the "at risk" register.

A few months later, Clare was born. For five months, she was a bright and normal baby. But in November 1984 she was taken to the Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham, after she stopped breathing.

Clare spent the rest of her life in Cauldwell House, Newark, a special home for severely ill children, before dying at the age of seven, blind and having suffered epilepsy, mental handicap and cerebral palsy. In September 1986, Tracey was also taken to hospital; Beckett claimed the child had taken 23 of her amitryptolene anti-depression tablets.

The day before Tracey was due to leave hospital, Beckett took an overdose but social workers gave the all-clear for the child to return home. By the end of the month she was dead.

A post-mortem examination gave cause of death as a form of bronchitis, although even at that stage a doctor argued that healthy four-year-old children did not die in such a way.

When Beckett gave birth to another daughter, Debbie, in February 1989, she was put on the "at-risk" register from birth because of the family history.

In 1991, Debbie was taken to hospital after being discovered face-down and with breathing difficulties. Beckett claimed the child had taken two amitryptolene tablets. Debbie recovered but suffered a year of abuse before she was taken into care. In October 1992, social services stepped in and a month later Beckett was arrested.

At the end of 1993, police applied for the bodies of Tracey and Clare to be exhumed. Post- mortems found drugs in both their bodies. The high dose in Tracey's body had brought on the illness that killed her.