Doctors were aware of stepdaughter's plight weeks before she died

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The Independent Online

Doctors and social services were alerted to the plight of six-year-old Lauren Wright weeks before she died from terrible internal injuries inflicted by her stepmother, a court was told yesterday.

The once "tubby" child was emaciated and covered in "disgusting" injuries when her body was found.

Norwich Crown Court was told earlier that Lauren was killed by a blow to her stomach so severe that it caused her digestive system to collapse. The punch or kick, the prosecution claimed, was dealt by her "spiteful and abusive" stepmother, Tracey Wright.

Mrs Wright, 31, and the child's father, Craig Wright, 38, both of Welney, Norfolk, deny manslaughter and wilful neglect.

Yesterday the jury heard from Dr Eamon Clarke, who examined Lauren three months before her death on 6 May last year.

He explained that the girl was suffering from headaches, tiredness, dizziness, nose bleeds and her hair was falling out. The GP also found bruises on her cheek and forearm, injuries her stepmother insisted had been caused by a playground fall.

Dr Clarke told the court that Mrs Wright had brought Lauren to see him on 9 February, 2000.He said he made a brief examination but felt she needed a more thorough examination and a blood test and arranged to see the child again at his main surgery at Upwell the next day.

"The main significant finding was two bruises – one on the right cheek, one on the left forearm. She had no other signs of illness at that time apart from the fact that she was a rather pale child," he said.

A few days later he saw Lauren again. As her blood tests were normal he referred the youngster to a paediatrician at a hospital in King's Lynn, Norfolk. Another doctor at the Upwell surgery saw Lauren in mid-March. The next note on her medical record referred to her death.

A neighbour of the Wrights told the court yesterday that she and her partner telephoned social services anonymously a few weeks before Lauren died to report their fears.

Leigh Kitchener said: "We started to get very concerned about the way Lauren looked. We wanted them [social services] to find out what was going on and do something about it."

Her partner, Steve Arlington, said Lauren was always covered up, even on hot days, and had a "weary and scared look about her".

He said he remembered occasions when Tracey Wright and Lauren had been at his home and he had offered the child crisps or sweets. He told the court Lauren reacted "very strangely. She would look up for approval to see if it was OK," he added. "You knew something was wrong. It was a weird sort of look."

The neighbour said he discussed his concerns with other locals before deciding to ring social services.

Asked to describe Tracey Wright, Mr Arlington said: "I couldn't really describe her. You would be bleeping out what I would say."

The trial continues.