Social workers had monitored baby killed by mother

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A six-week-old girl being monitored by concerned social workers died after her mentally-ill mother sat on her, a court heard today.

Religious fanatic Julia Lovemore, 41, of Milton near Cambridge, was detained under the terms of mental health legislation after admitting the manslaughter of her daughter Faith in June 2009, following a hearing at Cambridge Crown Court.

Judge Mr Justice Cooke was told two health workers were at Lovemore's home on the day Faith was smothered.

A health visitor and a psychiatric nurse had been concerned about the behaviour of Lovemore's husband David, 39 - also a mentally-ill religious fanatic, the court heard.

They had left the house - because they feared their presence was making Mr Lovemore more agitated - to discuss their concerns with experts. But by the time specialists arrived Faith was dead, the court heard.

Frances Oldham, QC, for Lovemore, said the tragedy could have been avoided as key "indicators" were missed.

But the judge made no criticism and an investigation did not point the finger at social workers or medics involved in Faith's care.

An independent review said there were lessons to learn but concluded there had been good communication between agencies involved.

Local authority staff said the circumstances had been highly unusual and there was no indication that Lovemore was likely to seriously injure Faith.

They said the couple lived a "Spartan" lifestyle and were obsessively religious - and social workers were called in because of concerns that Faith might suffer neglect.

Health services bosses said the health visitor and nurse had no concerns about Faith being attacked but thought Mr Lovemore might need to be taken to hospital.

The judge said Lovemore would be detained indefinitely under the terms of the Mental Health Act - and would not be released until experts ruled she was no longer a risk.

He said Lovemore had "bi-polar affective disorder" and, like her husband, had suffered bouts of mental illness since she was in her 20s.

Mr Lovemore was undergoing voluntary psychiatric treatment, the court heard.

Mr Justice Cooke said on the day of Faith's death, Lovemore was suffering from "mania with psychotic symptoms", including "grandiose delusions of special powers" and "religious delusions of identity".

Local authority bosses said the speed of Lovemore's decline on the day Faith died was not anticipated and medics had not fully understood the link between the couple's mental illness and their religious fanaticism.

"We are deeply upset and saddened," said Gordon Jeyes, vice-chairman of Cambridgeshire Local Safeguarding Children Board - which is made up of health authorities, police and social services departments.

"The circumstances around this death were exceptional. There were complex issues within the family around mental health, and the practice of their religious beliefs."

He added: "The report also highlights that the link between the family's background of mental illness, and the way they chose to practise their religious beliefs, was not sufficiently understood.

"This is one of four key learning points in the report, which have been acted on by the agencies involved in safeguarding children in Cambridgeshire."