How sons' reign of terror carried on after split from abusive family

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The Independent Online

On the quiet council estate in Doncaster, the abandoned car and broken fridge in the front garden give away the location of the area's most troublesome family.

They are immediate indicators of the deprived and broken-home background of the two boys who carried out the brutal attacks. It was the home they had lived in for eight years before moving, at the behest of social services, to live with a foster family in Edlington, on the other side of the town, just three weeks before the attack.

Their time there, according to neighbours, was marked by violence. People said the family was responsible for frequent damage to cars, stones thrown at windows and buses, and constant noise and abuse. One man said that the police visited the house, which had a sign warning visitors to "beware of the kids", two or three times a week.

Others in the community spoke of random acts of violence, including one incident when one of the brothers attacked an 11-year-old girl with a baseball bat. On the first day of the boys' court appearance for the Edlington attack, the rest of the family – their 36-year-old mother, her partner, and their five brothers, were also forced to vacate the estate, accompanied by a fleet of council and police vehicles.

One man said: "I think everyone is so pleased they've gone they're thinking of holding a street party. I can put my car out now without fear it will be wrecked. I can let my kids out to play now."

The children were on the child protection register and living with foster parents when they carried out the attacks. Their parents had split up and neighbours said the mother's new partner was an abusive alcoholic.

A woman said: "His life was drink, drink, drink, go out, come back, kick off, beat the kids, drink, drink, drink."

When reporters approached the mother, who has seven sons between eight and 18 years old, for a comment on her sons' attacks in Edlington, she reportedly told them: "It's got nowt to do with me – they weren't even in my care."

Questions will no doubt be asked that, if the boys were on the child protection register and were known to the police, how could they be allowed to carry out the attack, which has inevitably been compared with that of the murder of James Bulger.

Doncaster's social services department will come in for the most serious criticism. After the attacks it emerged that seven children known to the town's social services department since 2004 had died.