Children were home but not quite alone
Sunday 29 August 1993
Surrey police officers believe that the use of the phrase 'home alone' in a press statement attracted excessive interest. But the wording has been defended as describing the situation as it was understood at the time.
Two women left the children, aged 10 months to 14 years, at home in Dorking, supervised by two girls of 16. Neighbours told police, who called in social workers.
The children are being cared for by four foster families during a police and social services investigation to determine whether they can be returned to their mothers. No criminal prosecution will be brought against the women, who are being granted access. It is understood that at least two of the children have been taken into care before.
On Wednesday a press statement was issued on behalf of social services which described the children as having been left 'home alone' - the title of a film in which a child is mistakenly left behind when his family go on holiday.
A senior policeman said the wording created a false impression of the situation's severity. He said arrangements had been made to care for the children, even if they were open to question.
'Did they have clothes, was there food, was there somebody there? The answer is yes. Social services did a good job, the authorities acted quickly and successfully. The county council should have been highlighting the reality not hyping it up as 'home alone' .'
A spokeswoman for Surrey social services said: 'On Wednesday it was our understanding that the children had been left alone at home. We didn't know if there was consistent cover or not. The phrase 'home alone' was something that grew in the press.'
Questions have also been raised over the wisdom of splitting up the children while inquiries are completed.
Surrey social services department argues that the children were found temporary homes in their best interests, as no one knew when the mothers would return. Alan Rhodes, assistant director of social services, said: 'The interests of the children are paramount and nothing should be done to affect those. Brothers and sisters are having regular contact with each other.'
On the council estate where they live, residents take an active interest. Early assumptions that the mothers went sunning themselves abroad were quashed when it was learned they had been in Slough, Berkshire.
Opinion is divided on the rights and wrongs of their actions. Allegations fly that the children were often hungry, always dirty, and never properly cared for. Some recount tales of wild parties at the women's shared home and claim the police had been called. Several refer to the women as lesbians, hastily adding: 'Of course, it's up to them what they do.'
'There's a lot of lies going about, some people just want to stick the knife in,' said one male neighbour. 'The women haven't been made welcome here - and now all this has blown up I can't see them being welcomed back.'
Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Manager for Cyber Secur...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Service Desk Analyst (App...
£35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: 3rd Line Support Engine...
£240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...