'Disastrous social services and police failures left father free to murder month-old baby son'


Last updated at 17:58 29 February 2008

Duncan Mills: guilty of murdering his baby son Luigi Askew

Social workers and police were accused yesterday of disastrous failures that led to the murder of a month-old baby.

Luigi Askew was left at the mercy of his violent father Duncan Mills, who had a prison record and a history of assaulting girlfriends.

The boy's mother Samantha turned up at hospital with injuries several times while she was pregnant. But nobody acted on suspicions that she had been attacked at home, according to an inquiry into the case.

A social worker and a health visitor called at the baby's home the day before he was beaten to death by his father last May. They reported the child was "developing well".

Mills, 32, was convicted of murder at Ipswich Crown Court at the beginning of the month. He was also found guilty of inflicting grievious bodily harm with intent on 23-year-old Miss Askew.

The findings come at a time of growing controversy over the childcare system. There are concerns over the activities of social workers who are meant to protect children and help families, and over the secrecy of the family courts that make key decisions on vulnerable youngsters' lives.

A Government report last month found that over a two-year period more than 100 children died at the hands of their parents.

It found that social workers were often too slow to remove children from parents with mental problems, drug problems or a record of violence, that they are too afraid of violent men, and that they are too willing to trust mothers.

However, they have also been accused by MPs and campaigners of taking children from families in order to fulfil adoption targets.

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Murdered: one month old Luigi Askew

The inquiry into the Askew killing by the Suffolk Safeguarding Children Board said Mills's history of domestic abuse of a previous partner had not been properly recorded, so that when social workers searched for background information it did not appear.

They were therefore unaware that Mills had been jailed for two years in 2002 for assaulting a girlfriend.

Police were called twice to incidents involving Mills and women which they did not record as domestic abuse. Miss Askew's hospital visits while pregnant led to no further action because she gave "credible explanations" for her injuries.

The report said there was a lack of "protective focus" for the baby. It made recommendations on improving procedures for dealing with suspicions of domestic violence.

Cliff James, Suffolk County Council's childcare boss, said the report came to the conclusion that this was not a preventable death. He added that Miss Askew had left Mills and moved in with her father in Ipswich before the killing.

"We would recognise there was a failure to appropriately maintain a record which could be searched to identify Duncan Mills," he said.

"The staff involved with the family were not aware of his violent past."

At last month's trial Miss Askew said she was so badly beaten up by Mills at her father's house that she could not get off the floor to go to Luigi who was crying downstairs.

Mills told her he was going to "shut him up" and she heard a noise like "something getting knocked on a radiator".

Mills's sentencing was delayed for psychiatric reports.

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