It’s that time of year that is sad for our family. On my husband’s side it’s just been the 7th anniversary of a niece and nephew in law’s middle son being stillborn and later this month it will be the 1st anniversary of a niece and nephew in law’s second child’s, a daughter, death. Toby died by the 36 week of pregnancy but they chose to go full term so she could still pick up their eldest son. Chloe had Edward’s Syndrome / Trisomy 18 where only 5% of babies reach early adulthood. She survived a day but of course it doesn’t make it any easier for the family. Both are remembered with love and as a Christian I know they are both in heaven, both are healthy and both are happy.
As a Christian I can ‘say’ all the right things yet it still hurts and I understand why people don’t understand how a good, kind, loving God allows babies to die. My sister and I have talked about this – she isn’t a Christian – and I have been honest that I struggle trying to understand why God allows this. What I do know is He gives me the strength to do the best I can to be supportive even though I don’t understand what it’s like to lose a baby. The nearest I can to understanding is losing the battle to keep my son due to illegal adoption. My son is still alive but I didn’t ‘get’ my baby back, I found an adult.
Nobody can understand the profound loss of a baby unless they have been through it. Adoption is a limbo as the mother ‘loses’ her baby, it’s not common to get her baby back and at best she will know her child is alive. Anything more than that is a bonus.
What happens if your unborn baby dies – Stillbirth
Your baby’s wellbeing will be monitored during your antenatal appointments, so any problems will usually be picked up before labour starts.
Confirming the baby has died
If it’s suspected your baby may have died, a midwife or doctor might initially listen for the baby’s heartbeat with a handheld Doppler device. You’ll also be offered an ultrasound scan to check your baby’s heartbeat.
Sometimes a mother may still feel her baby moving after the death has been confirmed. This can happen when the mother changes position. In this case, the mother may be offered another ultrasound scan.
Finding out your baby has died is devastating. You should be offered support and have your options explained to you. If you’re alone in hospital, ask the staff to contact someone close to you to come in and be with you.
Before the birth, a person with skills and experience with parents who have lost a baby should be available to talk with you about whether you would like to see a photograph of your baby, have a memento such as a lock of hair, or see or hold your baby.
Giving birth if your baby has died
If a woman’s baby dies before labour starts, she will usually be offered medicine to help induce labour. This is safer for the mother than having a caesarean section.
If there’s no medical reason for the baby to be born straightaway, it may be possible to wait for labour to begin naturally. This decision doesn’t usually need to be made immediately, and it may be possible to go home for a day or two first.
In some cases, medicine that prepares a woman’s body for the induction process may be recommended. This medication can take up to 48 hours to work.
While waiting for labour to begin naturally, regular blood tests are needed after 48 hours.
Waiting for natural labour increases the chance of the baby deteriorating in the womb. This can affect how the baby looks when she or he is born and can make it more difficult to find out what caused the death.
If the health of the mother is at risk, labour is nearly always induced using medicine. This may be done immediately if:
- the mother has severe pre-eclampsia
- the mother has a serious infection
- the bag of water around the baby (the amniotic sac) has broken
Labour can be induced by inserting a pessary tablet or gel into the vagina, or by swallowing a tablet. Sometimes, medicine is given through a drip into a vein in the arm.
After the baby is stillborn
After a stillbirth, many parents want to see and hold their baby. It’s entirely up to you whether you wish to do so. You’ll be given some quiet time with your baby if this is what you want.
You can also take photographs of your baby and collect mementos, such as a lock of hair, foot prints or hand prints, or the blanket your baby was wrapped in at birth.
If you’re not sure whether you want to take any mementos of your baby home, it’s usually possible for them to be stored with your hospital records. If your hospital doesn’t keep paper records, you may be given these mementos in a sealed envelope to store at home. This means you’ll be able to look at them if you ever decide you want to.
You may also want to name your baby, but not everyone does this and it’s entirely your choice.
Decisions about what to do after a stillbirth are very personal, and there’s no right or wrong way to respond.
After a stillbirth, your body may start producing breast milk, which can cause discomfort and distress. Medicines (dopamine agonists) can stop your breasts producing milk. They cause few side effects and may also help you feel better emotionally, but they aren’t suitable if you have pre-eclampsia.
Some mothers prefer to let their milk supply dry up without medication. Your doctor or midwife can discuss your options with you.
Finding the cause
You’ll be offered tests to find the cause of the stillbirth. You don’t need to have these, but the results may help to avoid problems in any future pregnancies.
The tests you’re offered may include:
- blood tests – these can show whether the mother has pre-eclampsia, obstetric cholestasis or, rarely, diabetes
- specialist examination of the umbilical cord, membranes and placenta – the tissues that attach you to your baby and support your baby in pregnancy
- testing for infection – a sample of urine, blood or cells from the vagina or cervix (neck of the womb) can be tested
- thyroid function test – to see whether the mother has a condition that affects her thyroid gland
- genetic tests – usually carried out on a small sample of umbilical cord, to determine whether your baby had problems such as Down’s syndrome
More in-depth tests can also be carried out on your baby to try to establish the cause of death or whether there are any conditions that might have contributed to it. This is called a post-mortem.
A post-mortem is an examination of your baby’s body. The examination can provide more information about why your baby died, which may be particularly important if you plan to become pregnant in the future.
A post-mortem can’t go ahead without your written permission (consent), and you’ll be asked if you want your baby to have one. The procedure can involve examining your baby’s organs in detail, looking at blood and tissue samples, and carrying out genetic testing to see whether your baby had a genetic disease.
The healthcare professional asking for your permission should explain the different options to help you decide whether you want your baby to have a post-mortem.
You’ll usually have a follow-up appointment a few weeks after you leave hospital to check your health, and discuss the post-mortem and test results (if carried out).
This appointment is also an opportunity to talk with your doctor about possible future pregnancies. Before attending your follow-up appointment, you may find it helpful to write down any questions you have for your doctor.
A stillbirth can be emotionally traumatic for both parents, as well as for other family members. Help and support is available.
You may be introduced to a bereavement support officer or a bereavement midwife. They usually work in hospitals or for the local council. They can help with any paperwork that needs to be completed and explain choices you can make about your baby’s funeral. They’ll also act as a point of contact for other healthcare professionals.
Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, provides support for anyone affected by the death of a baby. You can:
- call the Sands confidential helpline on 020 7436 5881 – 9.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday, plus 6pm to 10pm Tuesday and Thursday
- email email@example.com
There are many other self-help groups in the UK for bereaved parents and their families. You can search for bereavement support services in your area.
These groups are usually run by healthcare professionals, such as baby-loss support workers or specialist midwives, and parents who have experienced stillbirth.
Some support groups are for women whose stillbirth has a specific cause. For example:
Edwards’ syndrome (trisomy 18)
Edwards’ syndrome, also known as trisomy 18, is a rare but serious condition.
Edwards’ syndrome affects how long a baby may survive. Sadly, most babies with Edwards’ syndrome will die before or shortly after being born.
A small number (about 13 in 100) babies born alive with Edwards’ syndrome will live past their 1st birthday.
Cause of Edwards’ syndrome
Each cell in your body usually contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, which carry the genes you inherit from your parents.
A baby with Edwards’ syndrome has 3 copies of chromosome number 18 instead of 2. This affects the way the baby grows and develops. Having 3 copies of chromosome 18 usually happens by chance, because of a change in the sperm or egg before a baby is conceived.
Your chance of having a baby with Edwards’ syndrome increases as you get older, but anyone can have a baby with Edwards’ syndrome. The condition does not usually run in families and is not caused by anything the parents have or have not done.
Speak to a GP if you want to find out more. They may be able to refer you to a genetic counsellor.
Types of Edwards’ syndrome
The symptoms, and how seriously your baby is affected, usually depend on whether they have full, mosaic, or partial Edwards’ syndrome.
Full Edwards’ syndrome
Most babies with Edwards’ syndrome have an extra chromosome 18 present in all cells. This is called full Edwards’ syndrome.
The effects of full Edward’s syndrome are often more severe. Sadly, most babies with this form will die before they are born.
Mosaic Edwards’ syndrome
A small number of babies with Edwards’ syndrome (about 1 in 20) have an extra chromosome 18 in just some cells. This is called mosaic Edwards’ syndrome (or sometimes mosaic trisomy 18).
This can lead to milder effects of the condition, depending on the number and type of cells that have the extra chromosome. Most babies with this type of Edward’s syndrome who are born alive will live for at least a year, and they may live to adulthood.
Partial Edwards’ syndrome
A very small number of babies with Edwards’ syndrome (about 1 in 100) have only a section of the extra chromosome 18 in their cells, rather than a whole extra chromosome 18. This is called partial Edwards’ syndrome (or sometimes partial trisomy 18).
This type of Edwards’ syndrome is more likely if 1 parent has a small change in their chromosomes. Blood samples are often requested from both parents to check for this and to help them understand the chance of it happening in future pregnancies.
How partial Edwards’ syndrome affects a baby depends on which part of chromosome 18 is present in their cells.
What it’s like to have Edwards’ syndrome
Edwards’ syndrome affects everyone differently.
All babies born with Edwards’ syndrome will have some level of learning disability.
They may also have a wide range of physical symptoms, which can be very serious. They may have heart, respiratory, kidney or gastrointestinal conditions.
Babies with Edwards’ syndrome will have a low birthweight.
Despite their complex needs, children with Edwards’ syndrome can slowly start to do more things.
Like everyone, children with Edwards’ syndrome have:
- their own personalities
- things they like and dislike
- things that make them who they are
Older children with Edwards’ syndrome will probably need to attend a specialist school.
Screening for Edwards’ syndrome
Women who are pregnant with 1 or 2 babies are offered screening for Edwards’ syndrome between 10 and 14 weeks of pregnancy. This looks at the chance of their baby or babies having the condition.
Read more about screening for Edwards’ syndrome at 10 to 14 weeks.
If it is not possible to measure the fluid at the back of your baby’s neck, or you are more than 14 weeks pregnant, you will be offered screening for Edwards’ syndrome as part of your 20-week scan. This is sometimes known as the mid-pregnancy scan. In is an ultrasound scan that looks at how your baby is growing.
Screening cannot identify which form of Edwards’ syndrome your baby may have, or how it will affect them.
Read more about the 20-week scan.
Diagnosing Edwards’ syndrome during pregnancy
If the combined test shows that you have a higher chance of having a baby with Edwards’ syndrome, you will be offered a test to find out for certain if your baby has the condition.
This diagnostic test involves analysing a sample of your baby’s cells to check if they have an extra copy of chromosome 18.
There are 2 different ways of getting this sample of cells:
- chorionic villus sampling, which collects a sample from the placenta
- amniocentesis, which collects a sample of the amniotic fluid from around your baby
These are invasive tests that increase your chance of having a miscarriage. Your doctor will discuss this with you.
Results from the diagnostic test
A specialist doctor (obstetrician) or midwife will explain what the screening results mean and talk to you about your options.
This is a very difficult situation and it is normal to feel a whole range of emotions. It may help to talk to your doctor, partner, family and friends about what you are thinking and how you are feeling.
If you are told your baby has Edwards’ syndrome, either before birth or afterwards, you’ll be offered support and information.
You can visit the SOFT UK website for support and more information on Edwards’ syndrome, and to contact other families affected by the condition.
You can also contact Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC), which has information about screening tests and how you might feel if you are told your baby does have, or might have, a problem.
ARC has a helpline that can be reached on 0845 077 2290, or 0207 713 7486 from a mobile, Monday to Friday, 10am to 5.30pm. The helpline is answered by trained staff, who can offer information and support.
Read more about what happens if antenatal screening tests find something.
Diagnosing Edwards’ syndrome after birth
If doctors believe your baby has Edwards’ syndrome after they are born, a blood sample will be taken to see if there are extra copies of chromosome 18.
Treating Edwards’ syndrome
There is no cure for Edwards’ syndrome and managing the symptoms can be challenging. You are likely to need help from a wide range of health professionals.
Treatment will focus on the symptoms of the condition, such as heart conditions, breathing difficulties and infections. Your baby may also need to be fed through a feeding tube, as they often have difficulty feeding.
Depending on your baby’s specific symptoms, they may need specialist care in hospital or a hospice, or you may be able to look after them at home with appropriate support.
Advice for carers
Caring for a baby or child with Edwards’ syndrome can be very challenging. There is lots of support available to help you.
Your guide to social care and support provides lots of advice on how you can take time to look after yourself, including:
- keeping fit and healthy
- getting a break from caring
- getting legal support and advocacy
- taking care of your wellbeing
Information about your baby
If your baby is found to have Edwards’ syndrome before or after their birth, their clinical team will pass the information about them to the National Congenital Anomaly and Rare Diseases Registration Service (NCARDRS).
This helps scientists look for better ways to treat the symptoms of the condition. You can opt out of the register at any time.
It took Irish woman 48 years to learn that she was illegally adopted, although she always felt she ‘didn’t belong’ to her family
Sat 2 Jun 2018 07.00 BST
She was two days old and in “good condition” when a couple knocked on the door of a house in Collins Avenue, Dublin. It was 1954, a time when Ireland was ruled from the pulpit and unmarried pregnant women were told they were a shameful stain on their families and communities.
As the woman picked up the newborn, Nurse Doody a well-known midwife in the city said they should leave by the side door, out of sight of the baby’s birth mother. The couple and Doody took the infant straight to Our Lady of Consolation church in Donnycarney, where the local priest baptised her Theresa Marion Hiney.
Six weeks later, the birth was registered; the certificate records that she was born at home to James and Catherine (known as Kathleen) Hiney. A caution is printed along the bottom: “To alter this certificate or use it as altered is a serious offence.” There is no warning about giving false information in the first place.
It took another 48 years for Theresa Hiney Tinggal to learn that she was illegally adopted, although she had always felt she “didn’t belong” to her family and she never got on with her mother. And it took a further 15 years, until last April, to track down her biological family in Tipperary. She learned that her birth mother was dead and the man who was probably her biological father had long since emigrated to Canada.
Now almost 64, Tinggal is reconciled to the past, although the decades of betrayal and lies still hurt. But, she said, her case and the cases of another 125 people, to whom Leo Varadkar apologised this week for their illegal adoptions, were “just the tip of the iceberg”.
The taoiseach told the Irish parliament that the 126 illegal adoptions through the Catholic agency St Patrick’s Guild between 1946 and 1969 were “another chapter from the very dark history of our country”. People had been robbed of their identity, and many still had no idea they had been adopted decades ago. The revelation would be traumatic. “I am so sorry,” he said.
Tinggal, whose adoption was not through St Patrick’s Guild, told the Guardian: “The number is a joke. I’d add at least a couple of zeros to that. There are thousands of us. It’s hard to put a figure on it and the government knows that.”
She added: “Those people will like me be completely shocked. They could spiral into depression, and will need support and counselling.”
Tinggal discovered the truth about her past from an uncle, who blurted out the information in a phone call. “He said, ‘I really don’t know how they did it, Theresa, but I went home [to Ireland], you were a baby there, and your father said to me, yeah, we got Theresa but not in the legal way.’”
Moments after that call, Tinggal’s older sister who had always known the truth confirmed the devastating news. She flew to Dublin to confront her mother, who confessed the whole story and signed an account of it before she died last year.
In it, Kathleen Hiney tells how she and her husband longed for a second child but were unable to conceive. By chance, her husband met an acquaintance who said he and his wife had adopted a girl but outside any official process. The man offered to put the Hineys in contact with someone who could help them.
Soon after Tinggal’s birth, the couple were informed by telegram and set off to collect the baby. She was on the floor “in an orange box, wrapped in cotton wool” says Kathleen’s account. Kathleen was told nothing about the birth mother’s background. “There did not seem to be any legal process, I did not sign or was not informed about anything and I didn’t ask.”
When she registered the baby’s birth, “they didn’t ask anything, I just said she had been born at home”.
But two years later, Kathleen admitted the illicit adoption to the health board, through which she fostered a third child. Without knowing it, Tinggal was monitored on a monthly basis by health visitors until she was 16, with notes on her progress recorded in a thick file. All the time, she believed the health board visits to the family home were to check on her fostered younger sister.
“They knew my adoption was illegal, but they didn’t do anything. I think I was just one of many thousands of illegitimate children who had been illegally adopted but as I had a home I think they just saw it as a problem solved,” she said.
As well as the health board file, a register of births about 1,000 were found among Doody’s papers after her death. Tinggal’s birth, with her “good condition” noted, were among them. It was also recorded that £45 a considerable sum in 1954 had been handed to Kathleen, probably to pay for a pram and other essentials.
For a while after Tinggal discovered that she had been illegally adopted, “I was so angry you wouldn’t believe it. I fought with everybody. Friends said, ‘you’ve changed since you found out you were adopted.’ I said, ‘what do you expect? I’m not the person I thought I was.’”
She traced her biological relatives through DNA matching, a long and often disheartening process. “I used to look in the mirror and shop windows and wonder who I looked like,” she said. “Now I know who I am and where I come from.” She visited her birth mother’s grave. “My heart still feels for her and all of the mothers in her situation,” she said.
Ten years ago, Tinggal who now lives near Bournemouth set up Adopted Illegally Ireland, which campaigns for adoptees to be given access to files and records. The organisation claims 42 mother and baby homes were involved in informal or illegal adoptions.
The adoption industry in Ireland spun out of control, she said, because of “the Catholic church and the idea of sin well, a sin for women but all those men got away with it. Now the church has lost control, which is the best thing ever for that country. They’ve destroyed so many lives.”
Varadkar’s apology this week was, she said, “a significant moment. But why have they put a lid on it all these years? Why didn’t they listen? I’ve been raising it for years and in the end I thought, I’m up against a brick wall here.”
She and other adoptees did not want compensation or retribution, but they wanted help in finding the truth. “Everyone I’ve spoken to over the years just wants to know where they come from and what happened. I don’t think this can be swept under the carpet again. Things will change now, and not before time.”
Children who kill from shootings to stranglings, 12 evil kids and how they took another young life
Joshua Phillips was 14 when he murdered an eight year old and hid her body for six days, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were 10 when they killed two-year-old James Bulger and Morgan Leppert was 15 when she killed a pensioner.
- 15:37, 22 FEB 2019
- Updated15:47, 22 FEB 2019
It’s rare for a child to commit a serious crime, and even rarer for that act to be murder. So when these cases make the news, they fascinate readers and stay in the public consciousness long after the trials have ended. Murder is such an extreme crime that even what motivates adult killers can remain mysterious. Getting to the bottom of what pushed a child to kill is even more difficult. Many such crimes involve children attacking those younger than them, usually with an age gap of six to eight years. Needing to feel powerful comes into some of the cases, as does curiosity wanting to know what killing feels like. Below, we take a closer look at some of the most chilling child murderers:
1. Aaron Campbell
Evil Campbell snatched six-year-old Alesha MacPhail from her bed as she visited her dad and grandparents on the Isle of Bute, Scotland, last July. The 16-year-old abducted, raped and murdered the 3ft 9ins youngster, causing “catastrophic” injuries, before dumping her body in woodland on the island. Alesha, a “smiley” little girl who was adored by her family, was later discovered facedown and naked at the site by a member of the public. A court heard she had 117 separate injuries. Campbell, who lived on the scenic and sparsely populated island, was yesterday found guilty of her abduction, rape, and murder by jurors. Judge Lord Matthews told the teenager he had committed some of the “wickedest, most evil crimes” Glasgow’s High Court had ever heard. He was found guilty of the horrific crime on February 21.
2. Danny and Ricky Preddie, 13 and 12 (2000)
Only after a third trial were teenage brothers Danny and Ricky Preddie jailed for killing 10-year-old Damilola Taylor. The young boy was walking home from Peckham Library in south-east London on a November day in 2000, when he received a gash to his left thigh from a broken bottle, as caught on CCTV. Star Wars actor John Boyega and his sister Grace were some of the last people to be spotted on the CCTV footage with Damilola while escorting his part of the way home. The three were friends and the Boyegas helped watch him. Damilola ran to a stairwell and bled to death in 30 minutes in the grim surroundings. Several theories around what caused his fatal wound were presented by forensic scientists in court, with the Metropolitan Police accepting that he was attacked and fell onto a broken bottle. The first trial led to acquittals after the key witness a 14-year-old girl was ruled unreliable by the judge. The jury in the second trial could not reach a verdict on the charges of manslaughter. At the end of the third trial, the two brothers by now over 18 years old were sentenced to eight years in youth custody. Ricky was released in 2010, and Danny followed the next year. Damilola’s story was made into a 2016 BBC drama, Our Loved Boy.
3. Eric Smith, 12 (1993)
While riding his bike through a local park in Steuben County, New York, 13-year-old Eric Smith bumped into four-year-old Derrick Robie who was walking alone. Smith lured the small boy into a wooded area, strangled him, dropped two large rocks on his head, and then sodomized the body with a tree limb. He was eventually convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to the maximum term then available for juvenile murderers: a minimum of nine years to life in prison. He has been refused parole eight times since 2001, and will next be up in 2018. In 2005, Smith claimed that his family life was abusive, and the effect upon him was as devastating as the bullying. However, his inability to express emotion while saying such words leads court psychologists to believe that Eric Smith could ever be fully rehabilitated and released into society.
4. Lionel Tate, 12 (1999)
Lionel Tate is the youngest American citizen ever to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Tate was left alone with six-year-old Tiffany Eunick, who was being babysat by his mother, Kathleen Grossett-Tate. After 45 minutes of playing with the little girl, Tate told his mum that she wasn’t breathing, because he’s had her in a headlock and slammed her head on the table. In fact, her injuries ranged from a lacerated liver to a fractured skull, broken rib, and swollen brain – the prosecution said her injuries were consistent with those she would have sustained falling three stories to the ground. Tate had stomped on the little girl until she succumbed to her injuries. His life sentence was extremely controversial as he was so young to receive such a long sentence. The prosecution even joined the plea for leniency in sentencing and offered to help with Tate’s appeal. The conviction was overturned in 2004 on the basis that his mental competency had not been completely evaluated before the trial. He was released on one year’s house arrest and 10 years’ probation. He has committed further crimes since and is currently serving 10 years in prison. He is due for release in 2018.
5. Joshua Phillips, 14 (1998)
Joshua Phillips was allegedly playing with a baseball bat at home in Jacksonville, Florida, when he struck 8-year-old Maddie Clifton in the eye, causing it to bleed. Phillips claimed he panicked, fearing his father’s reaction, so he strangled her with a phone cord and stabbed her 11 times. He then hid her body in the pedestal of his waterbed, where his mother discovered it a week later. While the autopsy did not reveal any sexual assault, Maddie’s body was found nude from the waist down. The murder appears to have been motivated by Phillips’s fear of his abusive father, who would have been very angry had he found Maddie hurt at their house. Phillips, who had no history of violence, was charged as an adult with murder. He was found guilty of murder in the first degree, and sentenced to life without possibility of parole.
6. Craig Price, 15 (1989)
Craig Price had become a serial killer before the age of 16, having killed four people in his Rhode Island neighbourhood on the east coast of the US. Aged 13, in 1987, Price broke into the house two doors down from his own and stabbed 27-year-old Rebecca Spencer 58 times, killing her. He did not become a suspect in that case until confessing to the murder two years later after he went on to kill three other neighbours, while he was high on marijuana and LSD. The victims, 39-year-old Joan Heaton and her daughters Jennifer, 10, and Melissa, 8, were stabbed over 30 times each. Their wounds were so deep that the handles broke off the knives, leaving the blades embedded in the victims. In court, Price nonchalantly mimicked the dying cries of the Heaton girls, displaying no emotion even as he related such grim details as biting the face of one of the victims as he stabbed her. Price refused a court order to undergo further psychological testing, fearing the results would be used to commit him for life. Instead, he was jailed for 25 years, but his violent behaviour behind bars makes it unlikely he will ever be released.
7. Alyssa Bustamante, 15 (2009)
Alyssa Bustamante lured her 9-year-old neighbour Elizabeth Olten into the woods, where she strangled her, then slit her neck and wrists, before burying her in a shallow grave. Bustamante, of midwestern state Missouri, was a troubled teenager who had a history of depression, self-harm, and suicide attempts. “I just f***ing killed someone. I strangled them and slit their throat and stabbed them now they’re dead. I don’t know how to feel atm [at the moment],” Bustamante wrote in her diary.
She later added: “It was ahmazing. As soon as you get over the ‘ohmygawd I can’t do this’ feeling, it’s pretty enjoyable. I’m kinda nervous and shaky though right now. Kay, I gotta go to church now lol.”
Elizabeth’s mother, Patty Preiss called Bustamante “an evil monster” and said that she “hated her” on the first day of the teenager’s sentencing hearing. Alyssa was charged with first-degree murder and tried as an adult, getting a life sentence with the possibility of parole.
9. Jesse Pomeroy, 11 (1871)
The son of a Civil War veteran, Jesse Pomeroy was born in Boston in 1859. By the age of 11, he had begun luring younger boys to remote areas and beaten them with extreme brutality, using fists, a belt, and a knife. In 1872, he was finally arrested for the ongoing attacks and sentenced to reform school. The Boston Globe covered the story, and the last line of the article said: “It is generally concluded that the boy is mentally deficient.”
In 1874, Pomeroy was living back with his family, and attacked 10-year-old Mary Curran, then later, four-year-old Horace Mullin. He killed both youngsters, and their bodies were later found hidden in the basement of the house. They had been slashed, stabbed, and decapitated with a knife. Pomeroy was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death by hanging. However, two years later, in 1876, his sentence was commuted to life in solitary.
9. Morgan Leppert, 15, (2009)
Leppert and her 22-year-old boyfriend at the time Toby Lee Lowry was convicted of the brutal murder of James Stewart, 62, in his own Florida home. Stewart was found lying on the floor of his Florida after being stabbed multiple times with metal rods and a knife and suffocated with a plastic bag over his head. In the police tapes, she told detectives: “[My boyfriend] told me to stab him. I poked him, it didn’t even go through for god’s sake.”
She places most of the blame with her ex-boyfriend, who testified against her in order to avoid the death penalty. The pair claimed that they killed Stewart to steal his car.
10. Willie Bosket, 15 (1978)
Willie Bosket was born in Harlem, New York to a father who killed two people shortly after his son was conceived, and thereafter spent his life in prison. Bosket junior was in and out of trouble growing up, a violent child, and wore this as a badge of honour, telling juvenile authorities that he would be a killer just like his father. He committed his first murder when he was 15-years-old, shooting and killing two men during separate robbery attempts. He also killed a transport worker before the police got to him. He was tried as a minor and was given 5 years in a youth facility a sentence seen as extremely light. The outcry against his sentence let to the Juvenile Offender Act of 1978, which ruled that children as young as 13 could be tried in New York’s adult courts for crimes as serious as murder and receive the same penalties as adults. Upon release aged 20, Bosket continued his life of crime, leaving and re-entering jail until receiving a life sentence for assault and arson while in prison in 1989.
11. Mary Bell, 11 (1968)
On the day before her 11th birthday, Mary Bell lured 4-year-old Martin Brown to an abandoned house in Newcastle, north-east England. Two months later, she strangled 3-year-old Brian Howe to death. The story of Bell’s childhood is particularly brutal. Her mother Betty was a prostitute who had tried to kill her daughter on more than one occasion, trying to make it look like an accident. On one such occasion, an independent witness saw Betty giving the pills to her daughter as sweets. Mary herself says she was subjected to repeated sexual abuse, her mother forcing her from the age of four to engage in sexual acts with men. During her trial, court-appointed psychiatrists said Bell displayed classic signs of psychopathy. The judge described her as dangerous and still posing a risk to children. After serving her 12-year sentence, Bell was released in 1980, and has lived under a series of pseudonyms since, which have been extended to cover the daughter she had aged 27.
12. Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, both 10 (1993)
Jon Venables and Robert Thompson became the youngest convicted murderers in England after killing 2-year-old James Bulger in 1993. They abducted the toddler from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside, and took him to a disused railway line, where they began torturing him. They threw paint in his eye, kicked and stomped on him, threw bricks and stones at him, then dropped a 10kg iron plate on him. The case pathologist said that there were so many injuries 42 in total that not one could be isolated as causing the fatal injury. The boys left Bulger laid across the railway tracks with his head weighed down. After they left the scene, his body was cut in half by a train. A pathologist confirmed that the little boy had died before the train hit him. After trial and conviction, the now 11-year-old boys were sentenced to serve 15 years. The huge media interest in the trial as well as their young ages led to numerous reviews of their sentence, going all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights. The boys were released from prison on licence in 2001, aged 18, with new identities to protect them for life. Jon Venables has been in and out of prison since, on charges including accessing child pornography.
Children Who Kill with Susanna Reid ITV 9pm tonight (Thu)
The real story behind ‘forced adoptions’
A story this week about a girl put up for adoption because her grandparents were ‘too old’ is just one more in a long line of emotive but simplified media tales
The British media abounds with highly emotive adoption stories, and this week was no exception. Howls of protest sounded in some areas of the press at the news that a three year old girl was forcibly put up for adoption this week, against the will of her loving grandparents, allegedly because they were judged ‘too old’ to care for her. It was reported that the mother of the child had lost custody of her due to severe mental health problems, but that her parents were willing to take on special guardianship, against the recommendation of social workers.
The UK is the only country in Europe, and one of a tiny minority of countries in the world, that participates in so-called ‘forced adoption’. This fairly self-explanatory procedure means taking a child away from its family without and sometimes against- the agreement of all family members. This is very much a last resort in a desperate situation, undergone when there is no safe way for children to stay with their immediate family. However, there’s no denying that it can feel extremely brutal for those involved.
In the last few years, the number of children with an Adoption Order has dramatically fallen. What this means in practice is that there are just as many children in the care system, for instance, being fostered but fewer who have been recommended by local authorities to be placed for adoption with a new family. This year alone, the number of children in care with an Adoption Plan fell again, by 37 per cent. For many of these children, cast adrift in a sea of uncertainty, this is a depressing state of affairs.
The key reason for this results from judgments made by the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal which reminded local authorities and courts of the huge significance of adoption. Adoption legally and permanently severs the child’s legal relationship with their birth family. Again, the UK is the only country in Europe to do this, however often contact does continue with both siblings, grandparents, and sometimes birth parents. ‘Forced adoption’ is more accurately referred to in the care sector as ‘contested adoption’.
Make no mistake about it: most children who are embroiled in the care system are there because of serious abuse or neglect. One of the reasons that contested adoption is legal here and illegal elsewhere is because UK law puts the welfare and rights of the child first, above those of parents and any associated relatives. It’s not always in the child’s best interests to stay with their birth family.
‘Kinship carers’ defined as relatives and close friends of the birth family often become special guardians of a child. This allows children to leave the care system and remain within their immediate family, minimising disruption to that child’s upbringing, and can often provide a knowledgeable and loving new home. By law, kinship carers must be the first port of call for social workers. However, there are some difficulties with these arrangements.
For instance, kinship carers do not receive access to legal aid, which means it can be difficult for them to contest a child’s adoption through the courts. Neither do they enjoy the same benefits as adopters do if they look after a child, such as the legal right to adoption leave from work. Some have fallen foul of the Bedroom Tax.
Sadly, finding a loving home for a child can often be harder than anyone imagined. What is needed is a more holistic approach to adoption and fostering by the government. The £19.2 million for the Adoption Support Fund providing therapeutic support for adoptive children was recently pledged, but this fund doesn’t extend to children placed with kinship carers. Meanwhile, too many children remain in the care system without any promise of a permanent and stable home.