Lauren 'considered at risk' two months before death

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The Independent Online

A social worker considered six-year-old Lauren Wright to be "at risk" almost two months before she was allegedly killed by her stepmother, a court was told yesterday. But the girl was found dead – her body emaciated and terribly injured – two days before a planned social services meeting about the case.

The jury at Norwich Crown Court was told that Lauren had been "cruelly abused, spitefully treated, and assaulted" for months before her death. She eventually died from internal injuries after a severe blow to her stomach inflicted, the prosecution alleges, by her stepmother, Tracey Wright.

Mrs Wright, 31, and Lauren's father, Craig Wright 38, from Welney, Norfolk, deny manslaughter and wilful neglect.

The court was told that a social worker, Claire Mann, and an assistant, Charlotte Coates, visited Lauren and Tracey Wright on 14 March last year, after neighbours raised concerns about the child's welfare. But the worker assigned to the case left Norfolk County Council's social services department six weeks before Lauren died, on 6 May 2000, while her assistant had been on holiday in the fortnight before her death.

The two of them interviewed Lauren at her school in Welney – in March and took her to a GP for examination. Ms Coates said: "She was a very endearing little thing ... All her clothes were too big. They looked like hand-me-downs and were quite shabby. She was a very waif-like child. She had very poor quality, thinning hair. Her skin was very pale. She had quite a dull expression."

As the doctor examined Lauren, Ms Coates noticed a number of bruises on her body – on her torso, her arms and legs. "[The doctor] said he thought she had an awful lot of bruising."

Ms Coates and Ms Mann said Lauren echoed her stepmother's view, that the injuries had been caused by school bullies and during a game of blind man's bluff. Mr Wright also blamed bullies when asked, Ms Mann said.

Lauren referred fondly to her "Mum and Dad" while insisting nothing made her unhappy at home, Ms Mann said.

The case continues.