Toni-Ann: public inquiry demanded by mother

The mother of a seven-year-old girl shot dead while staying with a convicted crack dealer called yesterday for a public inquiry following revelations that the social services and children's guardians failed to care for her daughter.

Roselyn Richards, 32, said her daughter, Toni-Ann Byfield, would still be alive if Birmingham City Council, which had legal responsibility for the child, had acted properly.

Her comments follow the disclosure in The Independent that an inquiry today will criticise Birmingham social services, a government agency set up to represent the interests of children in court cases, and the immigration department for a catalogue of failures in the care of Toni-Ann.

The independent review of the care of Toni-Ann, who was shot in the back while staying in a bedsit in Kensal Rise, north-west London, is expected to conclude that the child was placed with one of the girlfriends of the drug dealer without a proper risk assessment being carried out.

The child was killed along with Bertram Byfield, 42, a drug dealer who was thought to have been the girl's father, in September last year. She had been moved to London from her foster home in Birmingham while her carers went on holiday.

The dead girl's mother, who moved to Britain from her home in Jamaica after the murder, said yesterday: "My daughter should not have been in London on 14 September 2003. Birmingham social services should have known where she was and taken appropriate action to ensure that she was safe.

"I want to know how and why Toni-Ann was with Bertram Byfield, and who was responsible for what happened to her.

"I cannot rest until I have these answers. Toni-Ann was the victim of a ruthless murder which would have been avoided if Birmingham social services had done their job properly."

After the murder a review of the care provided to the dead girl was conducted by David Lambert, a former assistant chief inspector at the Social Services Inspectorate, on behalf of Birmingham area child protection committee. His inquiry report today is expected to say a risk assessment was not properly carried out and the official carers failed to keep other agencies informed.

The inquiry has also made the discovery following DNA tests that Mr Byfield was not even the biological father of Toni-Ann. Police believe Toni-Ann was murdered to prevent her from identifying Mr Byfield's killer.

Shazia Khan, the solicitor representing Ms Richards, described the case as "shocking and horrific". She added: "Toni-Ann's mother is in this country to get answers to how her daughter ended up in a bedsit in London and was murdered when she should have been in the care of Birmingham social services."

She continued: "The inquiry has been conducted behind closed doors.

"Roselyn Richards has been seeking a public inquiry in relation to the circumstances surrounding and leading up to Toni-Ann's death.

"This is the only adequate and transparent way to address the issues highlighted by this case and seriously begin to consider looking at the lessons that need to be learnt following this very tragic death.

"We have written to John Reid, the Secretary of State for Health, demanding a public inquiry."

Ms Khan confirmed that Ms Richards, like Mr Byfield, had believed that Toni-Ann was the daughter of the dead man.

Toni-Ann was sent from Jamaica to live in Britain in June 2000. In November 2002 Birmingham City Council's social services department placed her with foster parents. It was the decision of Toni-Ann's social worker, the family courts, and the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service to send her to London. The guardians and social workers are expected to be criticised for not looking more thoroughly into Mr Byfield's background and carrying out a proper risk assessment before agreeing to send Toni-Annt to stay with his girlfriend while the foster parents were on holiday.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map