Climbie killer apologises for the 'sick situation' that led to death

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Carl Manning, the man who tied up, beat and eventually killed Victoria Climbie, apologised for his "sickening" behaviour yesterday.

At times hesitant and nervous, Manning's evidence to the inquiry into the eight-year-old's death was in contrast to the remorseless testimony of his accomplice – his lover and Victoria's great aunt, Marie Therese Kouao – earlier this month.

The pair were convicted of murdering the little girl, who was bound and left naked in a cold bath, hit with a hammer and fed only scraps, last January.

Manacled to a prison guard, Manning gave three hours of evidence via a video recorded at Leeds Combined Court. Victoria's parents, Francis and Berthe, sat motionless as his testimony was played on large television screens.

On a day when the head of Haringey social services admitted some of her social workers' "literacy problems" prevented them being able to read staff guidelines let alone follow them, Manning insisted the social workers, police and doctors who failed to save Victoria were not to blame.

The 29-year-old, serving a sentence at Wakefield prison, said: "I shouldn't have contributed to such a bad environment and put someone through such pain and suffering.

"I cannot account for my behaviour and my actions but the least I can do is apologise and say how sorry I am towards the family of Victoria Climbie. It may not mean much to them now, but it is a regrettable situation and I am very sorry for what happened."

Unlike Kouao, who continued defiantly to protest her innocence, Manning said: "I cannot blame anybody else except for myself for ... how I let the situation get out of hand and how I could have contributed to such a sick situation.

"The whole situation is pretty sickening and it is unnecessary and it should not have happened. Sadly, it did and you know there is no underlying reasoning for it. I cannot even come to terms with how I reacted in the situation, how I let those things happen," he added.

Earlier in the day, the inquiry was told that Haringey social services was still having problems finding social workers for vulnerable children.

Three weeks ago, Anne Bristow, the director, admitted she was ordered to find social workers for 50 cases that had been left unallocated after staff went away at Christmas.

But Mrs Bristow denied a claim made by the public service union, Unison, in a letter last July that as many as 150 cases were unallocated, opening up the "possibility of another tragedy".

The director of social services complained of problems recruiting staff, admitting that some trained social workers had literacy problems.

"I believe in any large organisation you will always have some staff with literacy problems," she said.

Ms Bristow said a programme of improvements was under way to address several weaknesses that had been identified since Victoria's death.