Two women deny leaving children: Mothers insist child care was arranged as social workers and police continue inquiry

TWO MOTHERS who left their seven children behind when they went away denied yesterday that they left the youngsters alone.

The children, aged between 10 months and 14 years, were last night still at four different foster homes. They were placed there after social workers, concerned at their mothers' absence, removed them from an address in Dorking, Surrey.

Yesterday a neighbour of the two women issued a statement to waiting newsmen on the women's behalf, saying they never left the children at home alone. She said both women were very upset, adding: 'They just want the children back.'

During the day, the women, wearing dark glasses and keeping their heads down, were seen leaving the house in a friend's car for an unknown address.

Police and social services plan to interview the mothers formally in the next few days. Inspector Chris Drew, of Surrey police, said the authorities were taking 'a problem- solving approach rather than a prosecution approach' and needed to establish whether the arrangements the women made were satisfactory.

Everything would be done in the children's interests, he said. 'There might not in the end even be a case to answer. But that's ultimately for a joint meeting to decide when we have all the information.'

A friend who visited the mothers yesterday said they had told her they were not on holiday. The woman, who asked not to be named, said one of the women was visiting her house in Slough.

Earlier yesterday one of two teenage girls who say they were left to care for the youngsters insisted: 'The children weren't left alone. They weren't in danger. There was always someone there old enough to look after them.'

It was clear that the woman who is the resident of the house has not been welcomed by some people on the estate since her arrival about 18 months ago.

Windows on her house were smashed before she moved in. 'Everyone knew a lesbian was moving in and they didn't like it,' one young mother said. Residents agreed, however, that the women's children seemed well-behaved and happy.

Surrey County Council lawyers obtained a High Court injunction banning publication of anything that would identify the children or their whereabouts.

Living, page 25