Prostitute dies of overdose - at 13

ALIYAH ISMAIL was a homeless prostitute, hooked on methadone, desperate for money and exploited by dozens of men. She died of a drugs overdose, alone on a threadbare blanket in a derelict building in the red light district of King's Cross. She was just 13 years old.

The St Pancras coroner's court this week recorded a verdict of death by misadventure, but details of her short life tell a story of failure by her parents, friends and society.

During her final few months, she was put into the care of Harrow council. Just how her carers in the north-west London borough allowed the vulnerable teenager to disappear into London's underworld will be the key question before an inquiry by an independent child care expert, appointed by Harrow to study its own conduct.

So what happened to Aliyah Ismail? Carol Sensky, a Harrow social worker, told the inquest that the marriage between Aliyah's Jordanian father, Jamal, and her mother, Agnes, fell apart when she was four. By the time she was seven she had signs of serious physical abuse. A year later teachers reported her as aggressive and sexually precocious.

Then there was some respite. When Aliyah was nine she spent three years with her father, first in France, then Jordan where, according to her close friend Zoe, 18, she attended a private girls' school and was happy.

But the adolescent began to rebel against the restrictions on young women in the Muslim country. When Aliyah returned to Britain for a holiday in 1997, she found London exhilarating. "She wanted to have too much fun in too short a time. She wanted to grow up quickly but in reality she was so very vulnerable and naive," said Zoe.

Aliyah went to live with her mother in a dilapidated council house in Northolt, on the outskirts of west London, and was soon hanging out with the "wrong crowd," said Zoe.

Her depressed mother could not cope with the headstrong teenager and put her into the care of social workers.

In early 1998, Aliyah was placed in a children's home, but absconded. By April her social worker reported that Aliyah's life was out of control. Her file noted an arrest for theft and suspicions of "abusing drugs and sexual promiscuity". It concluded that she could not be "contained". On 23 September she told her social worker that she was a prostitute. She was working the streets around King's Cross station and had become infected with herpes and hepatitis B. Kelly, 16, a young beggar who knew Aliyah well, claimed the men who had sex with her knew she was under-age. "She looked 13. There was no way you could mistake her for even a 16 or 17- year-old," he said.

Harrow social services agreed that Aliyah ought to be in a secure unit, but failed to act. Less than a month later, on 27 October, she was dead.

Aliyah's last days were spent with a heroin addict, Anthony Hughes, himself only 17. In a witness statement he said that Aliyah was a regular user of crack cocaine and cannabis. The night she died, another prostitute sold her methadone, the heroin substitute distributed to addicts by the NHS.

Aliyah drank it immediately and was soon "buzzing". In the early hours of 27 October, they returned to his mother's rundown flat close to King's Cross, and fell asleep. When he awoke the following afternoon, Aliyah's mouth was encrusted with blood and vomit. "Her body was all floppy," he said. She was dead.

Pathologist Dr Diane Cox said that Aliyah died of methadone poisoning: she had twice the lethal dose of the drug in her bloodstream. Aliyah's father believes the police are not doing enough to find the methadone supplier. He is also incensed at the failure of the social workers to prevent his daughter's death. "Regardless of whether she was a naughty girl or not, they should have helped Aliyah and placed her somewhere safe," he told the Independent on Sunday.

The coroner, Dr Stephen Chan, summed it up: "It is sad to hear such a sorry tale of a very short life - a child's really - so tragically flawed and self-destructive ... She was clearly spiralling down the dark alley of drugs, and vice."

But later that night, a few minutes walk from the coroner's court, it was business as usual on Aliyah's old patch. A disturbed young woman sat on the pavement rocking to and fro, and a prostitute discussed business with a punter, while two police officers searched a suspected drugs dealer. A pretty young girl, aged about 14, paused to check her hair in a window, then disappeared into the dark heart of King's Cross.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Technicians - Prestige Brand

£22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Head Chef

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A passionate and experienced Head Chef i...

Recruitment Genius: Class 2 Drivers

£31700 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist wholesaler owned and man...

Recruitment Genius: Laser and Router Operative

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Laser and Router Operative is...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones