Couple are jailed over girl's neglect

Eight-year-old hanged herself after being locked in room smeared with faeces
Click to follow
The Independent Online

A couple whose disabled eight-year-old girl died after being locked in a "squalid and revolting" bedroom for at least 12 hours a day was jailed yesterday one year each.

Charlotte Avenall hanged herself accidentally in her bedroom with a cord while locked inside the filthiest room the detectives who found her had ever seen. The walls were smeared with excrement and the girl had been forced to use a chest of drawers as a loo because of the neglect of her mother and stepfather, Susan and Simon Moody.

When Charlotte's dehydrated body was found at the family home in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, she was riddled with head lice, her fingernails were overgrown and there were no bedclothes for her to sleep in.

But while "even the most basic requirements" were denied to the girl in the four weeks before her death, the family's pet spiders and lizards regularly had their tanks cleaned.

Judge Joan Butler QC sentenced Susan and Simon Moody, who both admitted child cruelty, to a year each in prison and said Charlotte's death was preventable: "All it would have taken to keep her safe was for somebody to go in to that room and see how it was. Your bedroom was on the same floor so it is hardly an onerous task to go across the hall and check. Instead, she was left in a foul and filthy mess for four weeks. For 12 hours every night for those four weeks you left her in that stinking room and on the day she died you had left her for 14 hours in that room."

William Harbage QC, prosecuting, said said earlier: "There was an abject failure to provide the most basic requirements for Charlotte, namely an adequate, clean and hygienic place to sleep at night.

"The stench of the faeces and urine was over-powering even outside the room, such that neither parent, who shared the bedroom across the landing could possibly have been unaware of the problem. It's beyond the comprehension of any parent, indeed any normal person, how a mother or father could allow a child to spend a single night in that room."

Charlotte had the mental age of a three-year-old and a fascination with her own excrement but, while social services were aware she was vulnerable, they failed to follow up a visit in August last year when they could get no answer at the door.

The girl's school raised concerns because she would arrive in unsuitable clothes and with excrement on her hands. Social workers knew she was locked in her bedroom but thought it was only for shorter periods while her parents were asleep.

Detective Superintendent Adrian Pearson, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: "Our investigation revealed Charlotte's death was a tragic accident. However, it also showed in great detail the neglect that she suffered at the hands of Simon and Susan Moody. The conditions in which she died were the most shocking I have ever had the misfortune to see in my career."

A statement issued by Nottinghamshire Council on behalf of Chris Few, the chair of the county's safeguarding children board, said several agencies were involved with the family and that a review is underway to establish what went wrong. It added that the agencies have each "evaluated their own actions" and are making improvements on how they operate.