Irish couple who never gave up on their missing son learn his remains were found 25 years ago
Denis Walsh Jr was reported missing in March 1996. His body washed up on Inis Mór weeks later, but was not identified until this week. (Garda Press Office)
AN IRISH couple are facing unimaginable heartbreak after they learned their son who disappeared 25 years ago was found just weeks after his disappearance. Denis Walsh was 23 years old when he vanished in March 1996 after walking out of his home in Caherdavin, County Limerick. For the 25 years since, his parents, Mary and Denis Senior, have made multiple appeals for information about their son and have never given up hope in finding him, even travelling abroad after being tipped off to possible sightings. But in a heart wrenching twist, Mr and Mrs Walsh were visited by Gardaí over the weekend where they were told their son, Denis, had tragically been found dead years ago. Improvements in DNA testing had allowed Gardaí to confirm that a body which had washed up near Inis Mór a week after Denis disappeared was, in fact, their son. The remains which had been found off the Aran Islands had been brought to the Mortuary in University Hospital Galway, and had undergone DNA testing in 2008, 2011 and 2017 but yielded no matches in the Garda database. But on 5 February, following further advances in DNA testing, the body was confirmed to be that of Denis Walsh Jr after his parents both provided DNA samples to work with. His parents are shocked and heartbroken but also happy their son has been found and identified and they finally have some closure. They told The Irish Mirror that their son was remembered at his local church over the weekend and they are looking forward to finally bringing him home so that they can lay him to rest properly. His father, Denis Walsh Sr, told the outlet “We’re bewildered by the whole thing; we have suffered enormously for the past 25 years and I haven’t slept over the past three nights.”
He said the family still do not know where Denis’ remains are being kept, and questioned how his body was not identified using dental records when his remains were found just week after he was reported missing. “We have been going around for 25 years looking for Denis,” Mr Walsh continued.
“We went to Cork, Kerry, Dublin, Fermanagh, England. I’m happy Denis has been found.”
Footballer Ashley Cain’s daughter Azaylia has died aged eight months after heartbreaking battle with leukaemia
Footballer Ashley Cain’s daughter Azaylia has died aged eight months after heartbreaking battle with leukaemia
- Ashley and his girlfriend Safiyya Vorajee, 34, had documented Azaylia’s fight against leukaemia on social media, with more than 100,000 people joining the stem cell register
- They launched a fundraising drive launched in her name raising more than £1million
- Her story attracted global support – with Hollywood superstar Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson sending a video to Azaylia and her family
- The money was to fund a trip to Singapore for treatment but their baby girl became too unwell
- Brave Azaylia underwent four rounds of chemotherapy in her battle against the disease
- Earlier this month, they took their baby girl home after doctors revealed there was no further treatment available when multiple tumours were discovered in her body
- For help and support caring for children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions, please contact Together for Short Lives on 0808 8088 100 or visit www.togetherforshortlives.org.uk
Published: 12:24, 25 April 2021 | Updated: 13:47, 25 April 2021
Ashley Cain’s daughter Azaylia passed away aged eight months on Saturday after battling acute myeloid leukaemia for the majority of her life. The reality TV star, 30, confirmed the tragic news on social media on Sunday, writing: ‘Rest In Paradise Princess. I will always hold you in my heart until I can hold you again in heaven ❤️ #AzayliaDiamondCain.’
Former footballer Ashley and his girlfriend Safiyya Vorajee, 34, had been updating fans on their baby girl’s health condition since she was diagnosed with the rare form of blood cancer at just two months old. The couple recently raised more than £1.5 million to fund a trip to Singapore for life-saving transplant, but their little one became too unwell and doctors discovered tumours throughout her body. Azaylia who inspired her father’s powerful ‘let’s go champ’ message underwent four rounds of chemotherapy in her fight and was recently nominated for a Pride Of Britain Award by thousands of supporters around the world. The ex Coventry City winger and the aesthetic practitioner uploaded similar images of themselves cradling their little one before she passed. Azaylia’s mother Safiyya shared two photos cuddling her beloved daughter, with the caption: ‘You are my Angel my heartbeat my soul, RIP my precious baby, you will always be with me like a handprint on my heart.’
Celebrities including Kate Ferdinand, Jacqueline Jossa and Malin Andersson sent their condolences to the grieving influencer and his family. The ex Coventry City winger and the aesthetic practitioner uploaded similar images of themselves cradling their little one before she passed. Azaylia’s mother Safiyya shared two photos cuddling her beloved daughter, with the caption: ‘You are my Angel my heartbeat my soul, RIP my precious baby, you will always be with me like a handprint on my heart.’
Celebrities including Kate Ferdinand, Jacqueline Jossa and Malin Andersson sent their condolences to the grieving influencer and his family. Her story attracted global support with Hollywood superstar Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson sending a video to Azaylia and her family. On Friday, Safiyya had said she felt ‘blessed’ to have another day with Azaylia, telling her followers: ‘Azaylia had another turn. But she’s now rested and asleep and literally it makes your heart race with anxiety.’
Laying next to her poorly daughter, the doting mother continued: ‘But she gets through another day, blessed, my princess. And I feel so blessed. I am lucky to spend another day with you Azaylia. Every day is precious with you.’
The Ex On The Beach star told his fans his tot ‘stopped breathing’, became ‘stiff as a board’ and needed oxygen while they headed out for a walk. In a lengthy caption, the social media star revealed his daughter needed the help of his palliative care nurses and oxygen after having a seizure. He wrote: ‘We had our own little adventure today, even if it was just walking up and down the street. It was special! I thought we’d make the most of the sun today and have a little walk, as nurses came and told us this morning, to make the most of this weekend as Azaylia is becoming very fragile. Shortly after these photos were taken Azaylia had a seizure. Her eyes rolled back, she stopped breathing and her body went as stiff as a board. We put her on oxygen straight away and called for the oncall nurses. After a few hours of close observation we managed to settle her. This has happened a few times now, but it never gets any easier. Yet she continues to battle through! Your determination inspires me. You impress me each and every day. I’m so proud of you. I can’t imagine my life without you. I have faith in you. My Champion. My Hero. I love you.’
Later, Ashley also shared a video of his daughter settled next to him in the living room, writing: ‘Another scary moment with the oncall nurses out. Now she’s settled and sleeping again. Her strength to keep bouncing back is incredible! I ain’t got no plans of this little one going anywhere this weekend.’
He said: ‘The palliative care team told us to make the most of the weekend and you understand what that message means the fact of the matter is we make the most of her everyday, we make the most of everyday. I tell you what, I got no plans for her going anywhere this weekend. I’m an optimist. I’m a believer. I’ve got a positive mind frame and I know her strength. I know mine. I ain’t thinking them things because I don’t have to be told to make a special effort to enjoy her because I enjoy her every day. I ain’t got no plans of this little one going anywhere this weekend, trust me. Let’s go champ, the things you have to do.’
The father revealed her temperature spiked shortly after a hospital trip, before happening again when they reached home causing a nursing team to monitor her until 1am. Ashley admitted ‘there’s a lot you don’t see’ as he detailed the recent ordeal in an Instagram clip on Thursday during a 5k run after feeling ‘pain, stress and depression. The former sportsman explained: ‘Yesterday we got into hospital, got our platelets done and managed to sort her NG tube out, thankfully. Then just as we were getting back into the car she had a spike in temperature and a seizure, her eyes were rolling, she was hot, she wasn’t breathing. We had to get her on the oxygen straight away she settled then when we got home it happened again and we ended up having a nurse from the palliative care team at our house until 1am.’
On how Azaylia’s condition is affecting his mental health, the TV star went on: ‘It’s difficult, man there’s a lot you don’t see, there’s a lot you wouldn’t want to see. It’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week with no breaks, but it’s all worth it because guess what? She woke up again this morning. All the hard work we’re putting in now, it’s worth it in the end to get that little smile, her eyes opening – it’s amazing. It’s been months, but the last few days especially I’ve woken up feeling pain, stress, depression, that’s been consuming my mind as well as my body stopping me from doing the things that were second nature to me, and I don’t like it.’
He added that his little one’s resilience was keeping him going as he added: ‘I’m going to get up, get out, and get at it getting out today in the hope that when I walk back in my house, I’m going to be the best me that I can be for my daughter. I can give her the energy, commitment, and positivity, and I can help carry this ship to where it’s gonna be. Let’s go champ, we’re still in the game.’
For help and support caring for children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions, please contact Together for Short Lives on 0808 8088 100 or visit www.togetherforshortlives.org.uk.
Ashley Cain’s fundraiser for daughter Azaylia’s leukaemia treatment – who donated?
PrettyLittleThing founder Umar Kamani – £20,000
InTheStyle’s Adam Frisby – £10,000
Chet Johnson (Faded Clothing) – £10,000
Manchester United’s Luke Shaw – £5,000
Mrs Hinch – £3,000
Kate and Rio Ferdinand – £1,000
Love Island star Molly-Mae Hague – £1,000
Love Island star Maura Higgins -£1,000
Fulham midfielder Harrison Reed – £1,000
Watford forward Andre Gray – £1,000
Nottingham Forest defender Cyrus Christie – £1,000
West Bromwich Albion’s Robert Snodgrass – £1,000
Newcastle midfielder Isaac Hayden – £1,000
Ex On The Bea
What are the symptoms of leukaemia in children?
Fatigue and pale skin – this is because leukaemia can cause anaemia which makes a child feel weak, tired and light-headed.
Infections and fever – children with leukaemia lack normal white blood cells which would normally help fight infection.
Rash – children may have small, dark spots that look like common rashes if the leukemia cells spread to the skin
Easy bruising or bleeding – this includes frequent nosebleeds, bleeding gums and bleeding a lot from small cuts.
Bone or joint pain – this is caused by a build up of leukaemia cells near the surface of the bone or inside the joint.
Swelling of the abdomen – leukaemia cells may collect in the liver and spleen causing them to enlarge.
Loss of appetite and weight loss – if the spleen and liver swell, they can press against the stomach causing loss of appetite.
Swollen lymph nodes – some leukaemias spread to the lymph nodes causing them to swell.
Source: American Cancer Society
ch star Jemma Lucy – £1,000
JLS star Marvin Humes – £500
Mum’s heartbreak as newborn baby ‘left to die’ by midwives in NHS hospital
Bethany Lamming from Hull gave birth to Jensen but, despite being able to breathe for himself and able to cry, midwives refused to help him because he was born at 21 weeks gestationShare
ByJoanna Lovell & Bradley JollyDigital journalist
- 09:06, 3 APR 2021
- Updated14:17, 4 APR 2021
A young mum was left heartbroken after her newborn baby was “left to die” without any medical help in hospital. Bethany Lamming gave birth to Jensen but, despite being able to breath for himself and able to cry, midwives refused to help him because he was born at 21 weeks gestation. Ms Lamming, 21, was told “I’m really sorry, we can’t do anything for your baby.”
As Hull Live reports, the mother watched her son die in her arms. Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said it adheres strictly to national guidance issued by the British Association of Perinatal Medicine which advises it is “not appropriate” to attempt to resuscitate babies born before 22 weeks. Survival for babies born before 22 weeks is not considered possible because the lungs are usually not developed, even though Jensen was breathing for himself and cried. The Trust has since completed a Serious Incident (SI) investigation which found failings by midwives, but concluded even without those failings, the outcome for baby Jensen would still have been the same. But Ms Lamming, from Hornsea, East Yorkshire, said: “He was crying and breathing. His eyes were still fused shut, but other than that he was a normal baby with five fingers on each hand, ten toes, he was perfect. He had eyelashes and eyebrows, proper facial features, he had black hair, and was responsive. He was really tall, length wise he was the size of a 24 week plus baby. The hardest thing was when he started to struggle for breathe, he did take his last breathes in my arms. I just didn’t understand how they could just not help him, every time I looked at him I didn’t understand, it felt like he wasn’t as important as other babies.”
Due to the only bereavement suite on the maternity ward at Hull Women and Children’s Hospital being in use when Ms Lamming gave birth in November 2020, her and partner Marcus Ford stayed on a labour ward where they could hear other babies crying as they said their final goodbyes to Jensen. The couples distress was prolonged when midwives failed to record Jensen as a “live” birth and neonatal death, and instead recorded him as a stillbirth, something which was later picked up by the coroner and almost delayed his funeral. This failure was highlighted in the SI investigation, as was the midwives’ failure to properly inform the couple of the expected outcome for Jensen when he was born. Ms Lamming added: “As soon as he was born the first thing the midwife said to me was ‘just remember, because he’s before 24 weeks, we can’t do anything’. When I gave birth and he cried straight away the second midwife said ‘I don’t know what to do’, and that now repeats in my head. It was not just traumatic for us, but for the midwives also I think. It wasn’t the staff, it was the system, you could tell that they wanted to do something but they didn’t.”
The investigation states: “The panel conclude that there was a missed opportunity for an open and honest conversation to have taken place between a clinician and Bethany and her partner.
“They should have been sensitively informed of the expected outcome (survival) for Jensen and a decision about palliative care which should have been made together.
“The panel concluded that staff failed to adequately acknowledge that Jensen was born showing signs of life and was therefore a neonatal death.”
Ms Lamming said the report, which was published this week, gives her no closure and still leaves her with many unanswered questions.
She added: “Their report says ‘yes we’ve not followed protocol but even if we had, the same thing would have happened, I feel like that’s disgusting, even though they made all these mistakes they still left a living, crying breathing baby to die.
“It shouldn’t be on gestational stage, if he showed life signs surely it should be on whether your child has capability to survive. He breathed and gave life, surely any child who breathes and shows life deserves a chance?
“I think I could accept a lot more if he had not breathed and cried, surely any baby showing signs of life deserves a chance, that’s all I think.
“It shouldn’t have been the hospital’s choice to decide whether he deserves that chance to live. It should have been ours.
“I have since been told that even if he did survive there was only a 2 per cent chance he wouldn’t be handicapped but that’s not their choice, I’d rather have given him the chance then him being treated like he wasn’t even a person.”
Ms Lamming says she would like to campaign for policies to be changed, and has now set up a petition to save the lives of babies born before 22 weeks. You can sign the petition here. She added: “In the cases of a child born before 22 weeks of pregnancy the child is offered no medical treatment or assistance and is passed to the parents for skin to skin contact and to pass naturally in their arms, in some cases this can be minutes in others it can be hours. Our son deserved a chance at life and so does any child born showing signs of life. Every child is entitled to life. It doesn’t matter whether he would be handicapped, that child was still loved, wanted and very much part of our family and anyone else in that situation would want medical help for their child too.”
A spokeswoman for Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust says: “The circumstances surrounding the loss of baby Jensen are incredibly sad and we would like to offer our sincere condolences to Ms Lamming and her family. The trust has completed a Serious Incident (SI) investigation and has recently met with Ms Lamming to share and explain the findings. The investigation found that while certain aspects of communication between staff and the family could have been more effective, they did not lead to any adverse clinical impact and sadly the outcome for baby Jensen would still have been the same. “In response to the report findings, we have committed to a number of actions to improve communication and minimise the likelihood of the issues seen in this case being repeated.”
The trust says the actions include a review of procedures in respect of extremely premature babies, more specific training for staff and the development of information resources for families of babies born earlier than 27 weeks’ gestation.
Woman, 37, is charged with murder of newborn baby boy whose body was found in Hampshire woodland
- The tiny newborn baby boy was discovered in woodland in Hampshire in 2020
- Investigating police officers arrested Silipa Keresi, 37, from Pylewell Road, Hythe
- Keresi was also arrested last year but released on bail as inquiries continued
Published: 10:49, 29 March 2021 | Updated: 10:56, 29 March 2021
Police have charged a woman with the murder of a newborn baby boy. The tiny body was found wrapped in a white blanket in woodland in Hythe, Hampshire, on March 5 2020. Silipa Keresi, 37, also from Hythe, was arrested in connection with the death of the ‘recently born baby’ for the second time at the weekend. A Hampshire Police spokesman said Keresi was arrested in March last year and released on bail but remained under investigation while inquiries continued. A Hampshire Constabulary spokesman said: ‘Silipa Keresi will appear at Southampton Magistrates’ Court this morning, Monday, March 29. She had previously been arrested back in early March 2020 after the discovery of the body of a recently born baby in an area of woodland in Hythe on Thursday, March 5, last year. She was initially released on bail then later released under investigation while enquiries continued. Detectives arrested her again at the weekend and following advice from the Crown Prosecution Service and have now charged her with the murder.’
The tragic infant was discovered by retired HGV driver Michael Dorsett who was out walking his collie cross through the wooded area. Officers appealed for the mother to come forward at the time and carried out door-to-door inquiries.
Revealed: Chilling social media posts of teenage mother who ‘carried on like normal’ and tried to become a Pretty Little Thing model AFTER leaving her 20-month old daughter to die alone while she partied for her 18th birthday
Revealed: Chilling social media posts of teenage mother who ‘carried on like normal’ and tried to become a Pretty Little Thing model AFTER leaving her 20-month old daughter to die alone while she partied for her 18th birthday
- Verphy Kudi’s daughter Asiah Kudi died at home in Brighton in December 2019
- Mother seen on CCTV leaving flat on her birthday and returning six days later
- Today, Kudi spoke only confirm her name and enter guilty plea for manslaughter
- Baby not under a child protection plan and there was no social worker assigned
- Lived in sheltered housing block where staff are on duty by the front entrance
Published: 11:24, 26 March 2021 | Updated: 09:49, 27 March 2021
A mother who went on a six-day bender leaving her baby to starve to death took to social media to sell concert tickets on the day the body was found before campaigning to become a model. Verphy Kudi’s daughter Asiah perished in a flat at a ‘supported housing’ block in Brighton in December 2019 after being left alone for six days with no food or water. A serious case review has been launched into the 20-month-old baby’s death after she was abandoned by her mother who went to London, Coventry and Solihull to celebrate her 18th birthday. Now, it has been revealed Kudi tried to sell concert tickets on Twitter on the day the baby’s body was found. Another tweet showed her attempting to become a Pretty Little Thing model months after Asiah’s death. Kudi’s flat was one of eight in a residential complex run by charity YMCA DownsLink to house vulnerable young families on behalf of Brighton City Council. YMCA DownsLink staff are located at the entrance to the block at all times. Residents with social workers can receive visits but because the flats are independent units YMCA staff do not enter the living areas or carry out regular inspections. Baby Asiah did not have a social worker. Kudi has repeatedly gone missing since the age of 14 and been the subject of numerous police appeals. MailOnline has asked the council if she had a social worker at the time of her baby’s death. Brighton and Hove Safeguarding Children Partnership (BHSCP) an association of council services, police and NHS has launched a serious case review into the case. The mother, now 19, was seen on CCTV leaving the flat on her birthday before attending parties in London, Coventry and Solihull more than 150 miles away in the Midlands. A post-mortem examination and forensic tests found that Asiah starved, was dehydrated and developed flu. Her cause of death was given as neglect. Today, Kudi appeared at Lewes Crown Court to enter a guilty plea to manslaughter as her father watched on. Speaking after the hearing, Muba Kudi, 59, said: ‘My heart is so broken. My daughter was missing. She had been missing since the age of 14.’
Kudi’s sister, Aisha Batrane told MailOnline: ‘This whole situation has completely broken my family. It might be entertainment for the rest of the world but it’s totally shattered us. ‘We are heartbroken and angry at how Verphy behaved. Verphy had been estranged from the family for quite a long time and we had minimal contact with her. We have spoken to her and we’re still not clear what she was doing for those six days, who she was with and why she left like that? Who the hell knows? We can’t understand it. As a family we now want to be left alone to grieve and try and understand what’s happened.’
This morning, the judge ordered that all social services records relating to the case be disclosed to the defence ahead of sentencing. The court heard how, after returning home from the party spree in December 2019, Kudi called 999 saying her baby would not wake up. Asiah was taken to Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton but was declared dead on arrival. Today, Kudi held her hands to her face after the charge of manslaughter was read to her. She spoke only to answer guilty to the charge and confirm her name. Wearing a plain black top and black trousers with a blue medical face mask, she wiped a tear from eyes as her father looked on from the public gallery. Muba Kudi Verphy Kudi’s father sat with his arms crossed throughout the short hearing at Lewes Crown Court. His daughter waved at him from the dock when court staff pointed him out. Asiah was born on March 22, 2018 and was only 20-months-old when she died. It is not clear who the baby’s father was. She had been living at the flat in Brighton with her mother where they had been housed by social services since September 30, 2019. Cameras showed Kudi leaving the building on December 5 at 5.39pm. She did not return until December 11, when at 6.06pm she dialled 999 telling a call handler her baby would not wake up. A few days later, staff at the Brighton mother and baby unit for teen mothers where they had been living contacted police after reviewing CCTV footage. Data gathered by Sussex Police showed Kudi had been at parties in London, Coventry and Solihull before returning to Brighton. Kudi admitted the manslaughter of her daughter between December 4 and 12. Asiah was pronounced dead on arrival at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton on Wednesday December 11. Judge Christine Laing QC told Kudi: ‘You have heard that before I get to sentence you the defence want to get a report on your behalf and a doctor will no doubt make arrangements to see you and interview you over the next few weeks.’
The case was adjourned to a provisional sentencing date of May 28, but Kudi was warned this may be delayed. Brighton and Hove Safeguarding Children Partnership (BHSCP) said: ‘We are deeply saddened by the tragic death of Asiah. In our safeguarding role, we will work with our partners to look into what has happened and carry out a Child Safeguarding Practice Review. This includes working with our partner Sussex Police to make sure our review is carried out in support of or alongside their ongoing actions in this case.’
YMCA Downslink said: ‘This tragedy has shocked us all. Our staff, particularly those who work the complex, have been and continue to be, deeply affected by it. Verphy Kudi and her daughter, Asiah had been living at the independent living flats, for 11 weeks, when Asiah died. We will be working with the Safeguarding Practice Review to understand any lessons that can be learned from this tragedy. Our sympathies and thoughts are with the family and everyone affected by this tragic event.’
YMCA DownsLink was handed a three-year contract worth £336,000 by Brighton council to run the accommodation, starting on Sunday 1 September 2019, Brighton and Hove News reported. The contact offered a ‘medium’ level of support for families, with all flats self-contained with their own kitchen, space for staff on duty, and a communal area for group activities. It is not clear whether any staff visited the unit while Asiah was there alone. MailOnline has YMCA DownsLink. The service used to be run by Peabody, which still owns the building and currently leases it to the council. Family Mosaic Housing, which later merged with Peabody, paid £15.5 million for the flats in November 2014. The Senior Investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Wolstenholme, said; ‘This was a particularly distressing case for my team and me to investigate, and has caused great sorrow amongst Verphy’s family and the many agencies that have supported Verphy and Asiah. We note the guilty plea entered in this case, and continue to prepare for Verphy’s sentencing in May.’
A council spokesperson said: ‘We have been deeply saddened by this tragedy. The case is currently the subject of criminal proceedings, and the city’s Safeguarding Children Partnership is also conducting a review of the circumstances in to the tragic death of this young child. We are undertaking an internal review, which will feed into the partnership review. We have fully supported the police investigation, and are committed to working with the Partnership in its review and taking learning from this. Asiah was not on a child protection plan and was not involved with social work services when she died. It would not be appropriate for us to comment further while the criminal proceedings and reviews are ongoing.’
Boy, 14, dies after falling through roof of derelict building
The young boy was taken to hospital after the incident in Coventry but sadly nothing could be done to save him and he died a short time later, West Midlands Police confirmed
By Danya Bazaraa Senior News Reporter
- 11:37, 24 MAR 2021
- Updated12:38, 24 MAR 2021
A 14-year old boy has died after falling through the roof of a derelict building in Coventry. Police were called to the scene at Torrington Avenue at around 5pm last night. He was taken to hospital but sadly nothing could be done to save him and he died a short while after. The boy’s death is not being treated as suspicious. A spokeswoman for West Midlands Police told the Mirror: “A 14-year-old boy has died after falling through the roof of a derelict building on Torrington Avenue in Coventry yesterday (23 Mar). Emergency services were called just before 5pm and the child was taken to hospital but sadly nothing could be done to save him and he died a short time later. His death is not being treated as suspicious and will be referred to the coroner.”
A worker in a nearby factory told the Sun: “The building hasn’t been used for years.”
They added: “They took the lad away about 6pm, he was still alive. But this morning I heard that he had died.”
Another described the incident as ‘devastating’.
WARNING: UPSETTING CONTENT. Maureen Wood kept her horrific childhood abuse secret for three decades, before finally feeling able to police that she had been sexually assaulted by her mother, step-father and brother
By Ann Cusack & Zoe Forsey Features Editor
- 16:45, 17 MAR 2021
- Updated16:49, 17 MAR 2021
Maureen Wood was first raped by her older brother on her ninth birthday. A year later, their step-father walked in on the abuse she felt relieved as she believed he would protect her and the nightmare would end. But he did nothing, and a few months later began abusing her too. She now had two abusers to cope with. “I hoped against hope that my mum might step in and help me. But she walked into my bedroom and called me a ‘little wh*re'”, Maureen says.
Soon after her tenth birthday, Maureen’s mother became involved with the abuse. Maureen says: “They used to make me sleep in their bed, between them, and they took it in turns to abuse me. My mum helped to get me ready for when my step-dad would rape me. It felt like the end of the world. With them all against me, I had nowhere to turn.”
Maureen kept her horrific childhood abuse a secret for three decades before telling police the horrifying things she had been through as a child. She had given birth to a son as a result of a rape by her brother but he tragically suffered a cot death. And it was the exhumation of his body, more than two decades after his death, which brought justice for his mother from beyond the grave. Maureen’s childhood torment had remained secret for most of her life, until she bravely called in police. Her abusers were jailed and Maureen launched a legal action against the social services who were supposed to have protected her. The brave mum of five was later awarded £200,000 in an out of court settlement from Staffordshire County Council. She has now written a book, entitled: ‘A Family Secret’ which will be released this week. Mum of five Maureen, 50, says: “The minute I went to the police, all my fear was lifted. It wasn’t my shame and guilt to deal with any more. By going to court, I handed the fear and shame back to my family. My baby son, Christopher, was vital to the prosecution’s case. The police had warned me that they would be unlikely to get a viable DNA sample from his body – but when he was exhumed, his body was intact and the sample was perfect. It feels as though he was looking down on me from heaven, helping me. He is a true angel my guardian angel.”
In 2015 Maureen received a settlement from social services, following a lengthy legal case in which she claimed they had failed to protect her from her brother as a child. Maureen says: “It was a kick in the teeth, I felt like I had been let down twice; by my family and then by the social workers. I took my children on a month long holiday to Disney with the money. But it doesn’t change what happened to me. I brought the case, not for the money, but to ensure that they don’t let this happen to another child.”
At Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court in October 2011, her stepfather, John Wood, then 68, was convicted of seven counts of rape and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Her 46-year-old brother John Donnelly, received two years in jail after admitting rape, incest and indecent assault. In a re-trial, her mother, Maureen Wood (senior), then 65, was found guilty of four counts of aiding and abetting the rape of a girl under 16. She was jailed in October 2011 for nine years. She says: “The abuse by my mother was, and still is, the hardest thing to process. As a mother, you nurture and protect your child but she destroyed me.”
Maureen had been placed in care at the age of three, after her parents separated. Four years later, her mother, Maureen senior, took her and her older brother, John, back out of care and they were introduced to their new step-father John Wood. When Maureen was eight, the sexual abuse began. She says: “I remember every detail of that day. We had been outside, having a water fight, and as I dried off in the bathroom, my brother, John, who we called Jock, came in and started touching me. I didn’t understand what he was doing but I knew it felt wrong and it was horrible.”
On her ninth birthday, Maureen was raped for the first time. A year later, their step-father walked in as she was being raped. Maureen says: “I felt relieved – because I thought he would stop it. I thought he would look after me.”
Instead, her step-father said nothing. And weeks later, he began abusing Maureen too. he says: “I hoped against hope that my mum might step in and help me. But she walked into my bedroom and called me a ‘little wh**e.'”
Soon after her tenth birthday, Maureen’s mother became involved with the abuse.
Despite her horrific family life, Maureen enjoyed school and did well academically. She had friends but confided in nobody. She says: “My family threatened that if I told anyone, I’d end up in care again. I was terrified of that. They said nobody would believe me and that I’d get into trouble with the police. It was difficult because, to the outside world, my parents were respectable people. They worked at a local social club and they were managers at the Masonic hall too. They were well-known and well-liked. I tried running away and once stayed away for two days. But the police found me and took me home.”
When she was 13, Maureen fell pregnant. By the time she realised, it was too late for a termination. Maureen says: “My mother was mortified; all she worried about was what the neighbours would think of her, with a 13-year-old pregnant daughter. Yet of course she knew that either her own husband or her son was the father. But she just blanked that out. The abuse stopped while I was pregnant. For the first time in my life I could remember, I wasn’t being abused and it was like a little piece of heaven. I was ordered to tell people that I was raped by a stranger but I knew, for certain, that my baby’s father was my brother.”
In October 1984, Maureen gave birth to a son, Christopher. He was born on her brother’s 19th birthday. She says: “Christopher had blond hair, blue eyes. It didn’t matter why he came about, or where he came from. He was mine. That maternal instinct kicked in immediately. I adored him with all of my heart and for the first time in my life, I felt what love was.”
But just under a month later, he suffered a cot death. Maureen discovered his body. She says: “When he died, I felt like my life had ended, my world had finished. He was the only person I truly loved. It was raining the day we buried him. I felt like the heavens were crying with me. I just wanted to die.”
After Christopher’s death, Maureen’s mother and brother stopped abusing her. But her stepfather began assaulting her again only a couple of weeks afterwards. The abuse continued until, at 16, Maureen left home. She had suffered eight years of horrific abuse. She says: “My teens were very difficult. I was grieving for Christopher and I felt very angry and confused. I drank too much and I went off the rails a bit.”
But despite finally finding happiness, Maureen was haunted by nightmares of the abuse. She realised she had to seek justice and eventually she contacted police. Maureen says: “It was 29 years since the abuse began and so the CPS insisted that the only way they would take the case to court was if the Home Office would approve an exhumation of Christopher. His DNA would prove that my brother was his father, and that I had been telling the truth. I was warned that the DNA sample was unlikely to be viable. Yet when his body was exhumed it was almost intact. The sample was perfect and it proved I had been telling the truth. It was almost as if Christopher was watching over me, helping my court case. He was and still is my guardian angel.”
Christopher’s body was exhumed in July 2009 and reburied a month later. Maureen has no pictures of him but she has the small plaque from Christopher’s original coffin. She says: “I didn’t want my baby to be exhumed. But it was the only way. The night before, I went to his grave and came away with a sense of peace. I felt I had his support.”
Maureen’s step-father, brother and mother were all convicted of the abuse. Her mother died in prison and Maureen found it in her heart to attend the funeral. She says: “My mum and step-dad never apologised. But my brother pleaded guilty and told me he was sorry. I still grieve for the childhood I didn’t have and for the mother I didn’t have. I think of Christopher every day. Writing a book is my way of making sure that my voice and the voices of so many others who suffer is heard.”
Maureen’s book is available on Amazon.
Mystery of boy, 15, found dead upside down in snow with family desperate for answers
EXCLUSIVE: Alfie Lawton’s family have called for people who may have been with him when he died in South London to come forward, after the 15-year-old’s death on the coldest day of the year
By Milo Boyd
- 14:58, 25 FEB 2021
The family of a 15-year-old found dead upside down on a snowy hill believe witnesses might be able to help unlock the mystery of how he died. Alfie Lawton was discovered near railway lines in New Malden, South London just before 7pm on Monday, February 8. After a long search the teenager had been found by members of the public, lying with his head at the bottom of a steep bank, his family have said. He was unresponsive at the Green Lane Recreation Ground and – despite the best efforts of police, paramedics and members of the public – could not be revived. A post-mortem exam found no drugs or visible signs of injury on his body, although the Met says it is waiting for full toxicology results. Alfie had told his mum Sarah that he was going to meet friends several hours earlier the first time he’d gone out in months, because the great-grandma he’d been shielding was in hospital with Covid. From speaking to witnesses in the park, the family believe at least one of the people he’d met was with him when or just before he died. “We know who he was with when he died, we have established that with various witnesses,” Sacha, his cousin, told The Mirror.
She said she thought if Alfie’s friend had seen what happened and called for help Alfie would probably be at home and back to normal now. Alfie had religiously stuck to the lockdown rules since November in order to protect his great-grandma. When the 84-year-old fell ill with the disease and was hospitalised, his mum Sarah thought “you know what, nan has covid, you’ve been in the house watching me cry for a week, off you go and get some fresh air Alfie”.
At 3.30pm, two hours after he went out, Sarah started to get worried because Alfie wasn’t responding to her or his sister, which was out of character for the Southborough High School student. According to Sacha “all indications” are that he died around 5pm, when the family would usually be having tea. In the two weeks since the family have been able to rule out death by drugs and suicide thanks to information from the post-mortem. “He was upside down in the snow on a bank,” Sacha said.
“It was steeper than a staircase, you need to virtually crawl to get up it. We were working on the basis that he had somehow fallen down the bank. We have heard now there is no clear sign of death, so he hasn’t fallen out of a tree.”
Members of the public helping to search for Alfie came across him at around 6.45pm and the emergency services responded at 6.59pm. “It was the coldest day of the year,” Sacha said.
“When he was found a paramedic was overheard saying he was 22C. There was a massive effort to revive him. It was bitter. It was still snowing. The place in the park where he was found was secluded and tucked away.”
Alfie’s family have been completely rocked by the death of the teenager, who was “very ambitious and clever.” “He was just funny,” Sacha said.
“A really funny kid. He used to sing the Only Fools and Horses theme tune and he was always pulling pranks. A friend told us he dressed up in all the girl’s stuff when they went out shopping to make them laugh. He was the one that was going to turn the family into millionaires. When we got his phone back we found out he had a real estate folder on it. His eye was firmly on the future and it was going to be bright. Everybody liked Alfie. He was beautiful inside and out. Everyone we have come across loved him.”
The pain of Sarah, Alfie’s dad Josh, sister Jordan and brother Freddie and their large extended families has been intensified by the mystery of his death. Sacha said: “He has gone to the park one day and he hasn’t come back, and there are no visible signs of him being attacked. Alfie didn’t kill himself. We think something medical has happened. We just want answers.”
She said if any of Alfie’s friends knows anything she would encourage them to come forward with anything they know. There have not been any arrests in relation to this case. Detective Inspector Andy Griffin said: “Alfie’s family, and their community of neighbours and friends are struggling with the grief of losing such a wonderful and vibrant young man. Police are actively investigating the circumstances that led to Alfie’s tragic death, which currently remains unexplained. We need as much information as possible to assist our enquiries, and answer the questions the family has about what happened to Alfie on that day.”
The police said all efforts are being made to trace any witnesses, people with information or people who were in or near Green Lane Recreation Ground between 2pm and 7pm February 8. Anyone with information that could help with police enquiries is asked to call 101 or tweet @MetCC quoting ref CAD5562/08FEB21.
Family finally discovers truth of five-year-old boy’s death in NHS surgery blunder 43 YEARS after the tragedy
Family finally discovers truth of five-year-old boy’s death in NHS surgery blunder 43 YEARS after the tragedy
- Carl Marrows lost his life because of errors by NHS hospital staff, inquest hears
- He suffered ‘massive blood loss’ due to a known complication of the procedure
- An inquest in 1986 put the five year old boy’s death down to natural causes
- Driven by a sense of injustice, his family challenged the decision years later
Published: 23:19, 14 February 2021 | Updated: 23:19, 14 February 2021
A family has won a 43-year fight to discover the truth about a five-year-old boy’s needless death following a hospital operation. Carl Marrows was originally said to have died from natural causes but in reality he lost his life because of errors by hospital staff, an inquest heard. A coroner, who reinvestigated the boy’s death after a legal battle by his family, concluded Carl had been the victim of neglect and ‘gross failure of care’. The ruling at a new inquest in Hull last week was welcomed by the boy’s father who said there had been a cover-up by hospital staff. The youngster, who had spina bifida, died following an operation in 1978 at Scunthorpe General Hospital to correct his gait. He suffered ‘massive blood loss’ due to a known complication of the procedure. An inquest in 1986 put the death down to natural causes but, driven by a sense of injustice, his family challenged the decision years later. Carl’s father John approached coroner Professor Paul Marks who uncovered records of the case, agreed the verdict was ‘not sustainable’ and backed his bid to have the inquest finding overturned at the High Court. The youngster, who had spina bifida, died following an operation in 1978 at Scunthorpe General Hospital to correct his gait. The hospital is seen above in later years . They succeeded and a fresh inquest was ordered. It heard how precautionary measures should have been taken in case Carl suffered bleeding after surgery. Instead of having a tube fitted to allow for the emergency treatment, he was simply sent to a ward. When a nurse realised something was wrong, there was a delay before a doctor arrived and staff were unable to save his life. Professor Marks said had the proper procedures been carried out Carl would not have gone into cardiac arrest and died. He also noted some medical records were incomplete. The coroner recorded a narrative conclusion including that neglect had led to the child’s death. Describing the death as sad and tragic, he added: ‘If Carl had survived this operation he would have been 49 this July. His family have conducted themselves with the deepest integrity and dignity throughout these proceedings.’
Carl’s father John approached coroner Professor Paul Marks who uncovered records of the case, agreed the verdict was ‘not sustainable’ and backed his bid to have the inquest finding overturned at the High Court. After the hearing Mr Marrows, 74, a retired HGV driver from Howsham, Lincolnshire, described Carl as ‘a very bright little lad’. He said: ‘The whole thing has been a cover up. They just did not want the hospital or the NHS to look bad. I am glad the truth has finally come out but it grieves me that my poor lad could still have been with us now.’
He said his ex-wife Jennifer, who died several years ago, was ‘hit hard’ by the tragedy and they split up. Dr Peter Reading, of Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Trust, said: ‘We hope that this new inquest verdict brings the family some closure.’
TV detective joins hunt for man missing for 28 years after walking into public toilet
EXCLUSIVE: Charles and Doris Clark are being investigated over the death of son Steven who vanished in 1992 and are helping Mark Williams-Thomas with a new ITV documentary
- 22:54, 14 DEC 2020
- Updated08:48, 15 DEC 2020
The elderly couple arrested on suspicion of murdering their son are working with a former detective on a TV documentary about the case. Charles and Doris Clark are helping Mark Williams-Thomas while under investigation in connection with the death of their son Steven. The 23-year-old mysteriously vanished on December 28, 1992, after going into a public toilet in Saltburn, North Yorks, while his mum was in the ladies. Doris, 82, was spotted filming last month close to the spot where Steven went missing. Both she and husband Charles, 78, were due to answer bail on Sunday but were released under investigation by Cleveland Police after their arrest in September. They deny any wrongdoing and are trying to solve the mystery of their son’s disappearance. Mr Clark, like his wife a former police officer, confirmed they agreed to do an ITV documentary. He told the Mirror: “We have no evidence at all of Steven being dead. I think he is alive so let’s look for him. He went for a walk on the beach and was then seen two or three days later by a lot of people. He was alive in Redcar days later, from the police statements (at the time).”
Asked if he thought it was unusual to film a TV documentary while under investigation for murder, he laughed, adding: “We did not seek legal advice at all. We are looking for Steven. He is missing. They are putting a TV documentary together to find him, and I don’t know any more than that.”
ITV and Mr Williams-Thomas were approached for comment. The Clarks still live in the home in Marske-by-the-Sea three miles from Saltburn which they shared with their son. A mystery letter writer who named Steven’s “killer’” in a 1999 message to police came forward after the Mirror published extracts for the first time last month. One witness has come forward to say that she saw him close to his family home, two hours after he was reported missing. Steven was described as having a “distinctive” gait after a car accident had left him with a limp.