Report highlights failures by authorities before son brutally murdered his mother

Dorset Echo: Kieren Smith Kieren Smith

AUTHORITIES missed opportunities to act before the brutal murder of a Weymouth mum by her 16-year-old son, a review has found.

An independent domestic homicide review into the fatal stabbing of Leah Whittle by her son Kieren Smith says numerous failings were made by Dorset authorities in the lead-up to her death in 2012.

It reveals she told social services she was nervous and scared of him but nothing was done.

Dorset Police are also criticised for not sharing information with social services after Smith was arrested twice for burglary and throwing a brick through a dinner lady’s window in retaliation for an incident at school.

The review said steps must be taken to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

Smith was sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in jail after being convicted of murdering his mother in the pair’s flat at Fiveways Court in Benville Road.

The review into Ms Whittle’s murder was commissioned by the Dorset Community Safety Partnership, in line with Home Office guidance.

It finds that it would have been impossible to predict accurately that Ms Whittle was at risk of being murdered by her son.

But it also reveals that a number of errors were made by authorities after Ms Whittle phoned Dorset Social Services in June 2010 and told them she was ‘no longer able to control her son’s behaviour’ and was ‘nervous and scared of him’.

The failings of Dorset’s education system are highlighted in the review, which reveals that Smith was not in education for two years and was never referred by his school for psychological testing.

The review reveals that Smith fell through the net of the education system and spent most of his time from the end of 2010 until the summer of 2012 watching horror films in the Weymouth flat where he then stabbed his mother 94 times.

The review criticises the ‘lack of monitoring’ of Smith’s attendance at a pupil referral unit – which he was sent to after being expelled from school – as ‘the factor that had the most difference in this case in the year leading up to the murder.’ The review says Smith remained out of education for ‘the best part of two years’.

After being expelled from school three times between 2007 and 2010 for assaulting other pupils, for drinking and taking drugs and for disruptive behaviour, Smith’s lack of attendance at the pupil referral unit he was sent to was ‘not monitored and addressed’.

Instead, he spent most of his time watching violent horror films in his room from the end of 2010 to when he was arrested, the review says.

The review concludes that Smith isolated himself in order to ‘self-manage’ his behaviour and through spending time alone in his room, watching horror movies, frustrations built up.

The review said dual registration was agreed for Smith’s attendance at the pupil referral unit, known as the Education Centre, and ‘no one organisation’ saw themselves as responsible for Smith’s attendance.

There was ‘confusion’ over who had overall responsibility for Smith’s education once he was in alternative provision, the review says before stating: “It is unacceptable that his lack of school attendance was not picked up.”

Smith should have been referred for psychological testing at school, the review says, because testing after his arrest showed he has an IQ of 69-79, placing him within the category of ‘borderline learning disability’.

As a result ‘there was insufficient attention paid to meeting his specific learning needs’, the review added.

The report said that the family’s social services case file was closed on December 26, 2010, as Ms Whittle was ‘deemed able to meet Smith’s needs’ and did not want to engage with services.

A month earlier, work undertaken by the Specialist Preven-tion Adolescent Support Service – part of Dorset Social Services – was concluded.

The closing summary on the case file said the situation between mother and son was thought to be ‘calmer’ with ‘a considerable reduction in conflict’.

Social services again comes under fire in the review after Smith was known to be spending time with a sex offender.

Social workers’ decision to send Ms Whittle a letter advising her there should be no contact between the sex offender and Smith is described as ‘insufficient’.

The review says an assessment should have been carried out at that point because it would have revealed ‘continuing problems with educational attendance’.

A fuller assessment of parenting behaviour should have been made by authorities, the review said.

“There were aspects of parenting behaviour that could be described as neglectful,” the review said.

It said Smith’s habit of sleeping in a shed from the age of 13 was ‘particularly concerning’.

Ms Whittle and her son, aged 11 at the time, moved to Weymouth from Doncaster in November 2006.

The review said Dorset Social Services made ‘every effort’ to trace Smith’s records from primary school and a children’s centre he attended but they couldn’t be found because they were ‘possibly destroyed in a flood’.

The review calls for an education system which can always fully assess young people’s learning needs and one which takes full responsibility for identifying young people who are not attending any education provision.

It says there should have been recognition of the ‘potential impact’ on Smith of early childhood experiences of domestic violence.

It concludes that there needs to be a better understanding of parent abuse from children by practitioners and there should have been better access to children’s mental health services as a possible source of help to Smith and his mother.

It describes Ms Whittle’s murder as ‘an extremely tragic case for all concerned’ and says it is important all possible steps are taken to learn lessons and improve practise in the future.

Although practitioners generally acted in ‘good faith’, there were ‘lost opportunities to act differently’.

The review says lessons can be learned which should ‘improve’ the response to similar situations in the future.

 

• Force is criticised

DORSET Police are criticised in the review for not sharing information about Smith with Dorset Social Services.

The review tells how Smith as a 13-year-old was arrested for throwing a brick through the window of a school dinner lady’s home after she reported a playground fight he was in to a teacher.

Smith was never charged with an offence and although a safeguarding referral form was completed by police officers, it was never copied to social services, the review says.

Again, police failed to share information with social services when Smith was arrested for burglary in 2009 and when he was arrested for assault during the same year, the review says.

It also notes that Smith’s hospitalisation in 2009 after drinking excessive amounts of alcohol on a beach was not recorded in a police incident log system and a child safeguarding report was never completed.

 

• ‘Regular partner at 13’

ALSO coming under fire was the role of health services in the case.

The review notes that Smith asked for condoms from a sexual health clinic at the age of 13 stating he had a regular partner.

The review says: “The lack of evidence of any exploration of the circumstances surrounding this is worrying.”

The nurse at Smith’s school was also criticised for not reading his records, which would have led to more understanding of his ‘alcohol issue’ and ‘angry and abusive behaviour to his mother’.

 

• Training for care staff

DORSET County Council says it has already made changes to its social care assessments and has trained staff to deal with more complex family situations.

The council says it has also made sure that young people who are not going to school regularly and who are not being seen by a professional, are subject to a multi-agency planning meeting to assess their whole situation.

 

• ‘Vital to report abuse’

CLLR Ray Nottage, chairman of the Dorset Community Safety Partnership, said: “This was a very tragic case and I’d like to express our condolences to the family.

“The review, which examines the circumstances of this case and agencies’ involvement with the family, allows us to look at how organisations work with families and highlight where lessons can be learned – in particular, improving agency knowledge of and response to, parental abuse.

“We want to create safer communities, so it is vital that victims of domestic violence, their friends, family and the wider community report abuse to the police or some other local agency.”

Comments (9)

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9:34am Wed 26 Mar 14

MaidofDorset says...

Poor lady, lived in an abusive relationship when her children were small, then abused by her son, and no-one listened between 2010 and 2012 when he killed her, two years of fear and misery.
Poor lady, lived in an abusive relationship when her children were small, then abused by her son, and no-one listened between 2010 and 2012 when he killed her, two years of fear and misery. MaidofDorset
  • Score: 7

10:35am Wed 26 Mar 14

connie68 says...

Communication is the key to all partnership agencies, I just hope they learn from this terrible tragedy!
Communication is the key to all partnership agencies, I just hope they learn from this terrible tragedy! connie68
  • Score: 7

12:46pm Wed 26 Mar 14

JamesYoung says...

connie68 wrote:
Communication is the key to all partnership agencies, I just hope they learn from this terrible tragedy!
Oh, lessons are always learned.
[quote][p][bold]connie68[/bold] wrote: Communication is the key to all partnership agencies, I just hope they learn from this terrible tragedy![/p][/quote]Oh, lessons are always learned. JamesYoung
  • Score: 5

3:11pm Wed 26 Mar 14

Sigurd Hoberth says...

...but accountability is non-existent.
...but accountability is non-existent. Sigurd Hoberth
  • Score: 1

4:03pm Wed 26 Mar 14

WeymouthTeen17 says...

not being funny but he would have done this even if the authorities got involved. As much as it shames me to admit this i used to be friends with Kee and had a go at him numerous amounts of times for the way he spoke to his mum. I even sat with her for a good 8 hours talking to her and saying I would try help. Every day I feel so bad that I couldn't stop this I feel like I let her down. She was a lovely mum and person in general and moved heaven and earth for him. He should be in there until he dies not just 15 years.

He took his mothers life away from here and he could get out in around 13-14 years now?! its WRONG!! He will never change and he will carry on his 'Im a bad boy dont mess with me' persona when he gets out! Dont go blaming others for his sick twisted life blame him! Nothing could have stopped him from doing this. If it wasn't his mother he would have killed someone else!

R.I.P Leah. Rest In Paradise. Im sorry I couldn't help you, i will never forgive myself
not being funny but he would have done this even if the authorities got involved. As much as it shames me to admit this i used to be friends with Kee and had a go at him numerous amounts of times for the way he spoke to his mum. I even sat with her for a good 8 hours talking to her and saying I would try help. Every day I feel so bad that I couldn't stop this I feel like I let her down. She was a lovely mum and person in general and moved heaven and earth for him. He should be in there until he dies not just 15 years. He took his mothers life away from here and he could get out in around 13-14 years now?! its WRONG!! He will never change and he will carry on his 'Im a bad boy dont mess with me' persona when he gets out! Dont go blaming others for his sick twisted life blame him! Nothing could have stopped him from doing this. If it wasn't his mother he would have killed someone else! R.I.P Leah. Rest In Paradise. Im sorry I couldn't help you, i will never forgive myself WeymouthTeen17
  • Score: 16

7:20pm Wed 26 Mar 14

fluffyrabbit says...

WeymouthTeen17 wrote:
not being funny but he would have done this even if the authorities got involved. As much as it shames me to admit this i used to be friends with Kee and had a go at him numerous amounts of times for the way he spoke to his mum. I even sat with her for a good 8 hours talking to her and saying I would try help. Every day I feel so bad that I couldn't stop this I feel like I let her down. She was a lovely mum and person in general and moved heaven and earth for him. He should be in there until he dies not just 15 years.

He took his mothers life away from here and he could get out in around 13-14 years now?! its WRONG!! He will never change and he will carry on his 'Im a bad boy dont mess with me' persona when he gets out! Dont go blaming others for his sick twisted life blame him! Nothing could have stopped him from doing this. If it wasn't his mother he would have killed someone else!

R.I.P Leah. Rest In Paradise. Im sorry I couldn't help you, i will never forgive myself
Please don't blame yourself, it sounds like you tried so hard! you sound like a very caring person. I agree with you 15 years is not nearly enough for this appalling crime, he should be in there for life and never come out! don't beat yourself up with all of this blame....
[quote][p][bold]WeymouthTeen17[/bold] wrote: not being funny but he would have done this even if the authorities got involved. As much as it shames me to admit this i used to be friends with Kee and had a go at him numerous amounts of times for the way he spoke to his mum. I even sat with her for a good 8 hours talking to her and saying I would try help. Every day I feel so bad that I couldn't stop this I feel like I let her down. She was a lovely mum and person in general and moved heaven and earth for him. He should be in there until he dies not just 15 years. He took his mothers life away from here and he could get out in around 13-14 years now?! its WRONG!! He will never change and he will carry on his 'Im a bad boy dont mess with me' persona when he gets out! Dont go blaming others for his sick twisted life blame him! Nothing could have stopped him from doing this. If it wasn't his mother he would have killed someone else! R.I.P Leah. Rest In Paradise. Im sorry I couldn't help you, i will never forgive myself[/p][/quote]Please don't blame yourself, it sounds like you tried so hard! you sound like a very caring person. I agree with you 15 years is not nearly enough for this appalling crime, he should be in there for life and never come out! don't beat yourself up with all of this blame.... fluffyrabbit
  • Score: 2

4:50pm Thu 27 Mar 14

oldbrock says...

MaidofDorset wrote:
Poor lady, lived in an abusive relationship when her children were small, then abused by her son, and no-one listened between 2010 and 2012 when he killed her, two years of fear and misery.
too right, then the powers that be rush to cover their backs and issue an apology that means nothing, the woman is dead, what use is a halfhearted apology, nobody was there when they were needed
[quote][p][bold]MaidofDorset[/bold] wrote: Poor lady, lived in an abusive relationship when her children were small, then abused by her son, and no-one listened between 2010 and 2012 when he killed her, two years of fear and misery.[/p][/quote]too right, then the powers that be rush to cover their backs and issue an apology that means nothing, the woman is dead, what use is a halfhearted apology, nobody was there when they were needed oldbrock
  • Score: -2

7:20pm Thu 3 Apr 14

shellybond says...

WeymouthTeen17 wrote:
not being funny but he would have done this even if the authorities got involved. As much as it shames me to admit this i used to be friends with Kee and had a go at him numerous amounts of times for the way he spoke to his mum. I even sat with her for a good 8 hours talking to her and saying I would try help. Every day I feel so bad that I couldn't stop this I feel like I let her down. She was a lovely mum and person in general and moved heaven and earth for him. He should be in there until he dies not just 15 years.

He took his mothers life away from here and he could get out in around 13-14 years now?! its WRONG!! He will never change and he will carry on his 'Im a bad boy dont mess with me' persona when he gets out! Dont go blaming others for his sick twisted life blame him! Nothing could have stopped him from doing this. If it wasn't his mother he would have killed someone else!

R.I.P Leah. Rest In Paradise. Im sorry I couldn't help you, i will never forgive myself
i have 2 children who behave like this to me. it is so lovely to see this quote. You gave that woman one thing the authorities missed....someone who listened.......someo
ne who cared........someone who wanted to help and most importantly someone who saw the truth of the situation. social services police all those who should help with children who abuse their parents just blame the parents and take away their power when they should be empowering them. We are the victims. Physically, verbally and emotionally abused by our own children!!!! its more common than you realise and people like you who see whats happening whats really happening mean the world and much more to people like us. You are a young friend of the family, no qualifications and you can see the truth why cant the authorities. Be very proud you helped her more than alot of people especially the authorities
[quote][p][bold]WeymouthTeen17[/bold] wrote: not being funny but he would have done this even if the authorities got involved. As much as it shames me to admit this i used to be friends with Kee and had a go at him numerous amounts of times for the way he spoke to his mum. I even sat with her for a good 8 hours talking to her and saying I would try help. Every day I feel so bad that I couldn't stop this I feel like I let her down. She was a lovely mum and person in general and moved heaven and earth for him. He should be in there until he dies not just 15 years. He took his mothers life away from here and he could get out in around 13-14 years now?! its WRONG!! He will never change and he will carry on his 'Im a bad boy dont mess with me' persona when he gets out! Dont go blaming others for his sick twisted life blame him! Nothing could have stopped him from doing this. If it wasn't his mother he would have killed someone else! R.I.P Leah. Rest In Paradise. Im sorry I couldn't help you, i will never forgive myself[/p][/quote]i have 2 children who behave like this to me. it is so lovely to see this quote. You gave that woman one thing the authorities missed....someone who listened.......someo ne who cared........someone who wanted to help and most importantly someone who saw the truth of the situation. social services police all those who should help with children who abuse their parents just blame the parents and take away their power when they should be empowering them. We are the victims. Physically, verbally and emotionally abused by our own children!!!! its more common than you realise and people like you who see whats happening whats really happening mean the world and much more to people like us. You are a young friend of the family, no qualifications and you can see the truth why cant the authorities. Be very proud you helped her more than alot of people especially the authorities shellybond
  • Score: 0

8:02pm Thu 3 Apr 14

shellybond says...

The authorities in this town need to be made an example of. there are alot of out of control teenagers because police and social services are encouraging it. Many parents are now abused by their own children it is disgusting!! I suffer like leah. ive been threatened with knives by my children had objects chucked at me nearly been knocked unconcious on many occasions, and been told its my fault. i cant even hold my 14 year old by the arm to prevent them running out the house. Children are children we cant allow them to become monsters as adults we have a duty to encourage the good and punish the bad. kids have no RESPECT
The authorities in this town need to be made an example of. there are alot of out of control teenagers because police and social services are encouraging it. Many parents are now abused by their own children it is disgusting!! I suffer like leah. ive been threatened with knives by my children had objects chucked at me nearly been knocked unconcious on many occasions, and been told its my fault. i cant even hold my 14 year old by the arm to prevent them running out the house. Children are children we cant allow them to become monsters as adults we have a duty to encourage the good and punish the bad. kids have no RESPECT shellybond
  • Score: 0

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