Starved boy 'disappeared off radar'
A four-year-old boy whose body was left in a cot for two years after he was starved to death by his alcoholic mother was "invisible to society", children's campaigners have said.
Mother-of-eight Amanda Hutton, 43, will be sentenced tomorrow after she was found guilty of killing her son, Hamzah Khan, by a jury at Bradford Crown Court.
A two-week-long trial heard how Hamzah's decomposed and insect-infested body was discovered in a travel cot in Hutton's bedroom at their home in September 2011.
He died in December 2009 due to malnutrition after his mother's alcohol addiction took over her life.
Questions are now being asked about how the death of young boy could go unnoticed for so long, especially after his body was only found due to the tenacity of a rookie police community support officer (PCSO).
PCSO Jodie Dunsmore refused to give up on her feeling that something was wrong at Hutton's home in the Heaton area of Bradford.
Due to her persistence, police found Hamzah's remains amid scenes of utter squalor which the judge described as "a terrible Pandora's box".
They also found five of his siblings, aged between five and 13, living among the knee-deep pizza boxes, used nappies, vodka bottles and cat faeces.
Seasoned officers described being overcome by emotion as they witnessed one child in the house rummaging among rotting rubbish in a bedroom for items before they took the youngster away and other children in soiled nappies crawling up the stairs.
Other officers talked of rotten food and an almost unbearable smell in the four bed terraced house.
Neighbours have spoken of their amazement when children they had never seen before emerged from the property on the day the police arrived.
Hutton, who was found guilty of manslaughter today, has previously admitted neglecting the five school age children who were discovered in the house and another charge of preventing the burial of a corpse. Her eldest son Tariq, 24, has also admitted the latter charge.
Hutton showed no emotion as the verdict was read out in a packed courtroom. Dressed all in black, as she has been for all but one day of the trial, she stood in the dock flanked by a single security guard.
Judge Roger Thomas QC said she will be sentenced tomorrow along with her son and remanded her in custody.
The jury took just under five hours to come to their verdict. This was the second jury to hear the case. The first had to be discharged on the first day of the trial after one member became distressed by what she heard just 10 minutes into the case.
It heard expert evidence that Hamzah most probably died from malnutrition, although his body was in such a bad condition, it was difficult to be certain.
Hutton told the court that she struggled to get her son to eat and he died suddenly. She claimed she never sought medical advice because she thought he was going through a phase and would grow out of it.
She said she panicked after his death and only kept claiming child benefit for Hamzah because she was worried that, if she stopped, his body would be discovered.
Hutton also said she was worried the other children would be taken away if Hamzah's death was discovered.
A serious case review in Hamzah's case has been conducted by the Bradford Safeguarding Children Board (BSCB) which will be published later this year.
It will examine all the many contacts Hutton's family had with agencies including the police, social services, schools and health organisations.
Speaking after the case, Shaun Kelly, h ead of safeguarding at Action for Children said: "Hamzah's is yet another tragic story of a child who was invisible to society and died at the hands of a parent.
"School teachers, police officers, social workers and health visitors have told us about the barriers they face when they want to help a child that they suspect is being neglected. It seems that people are so afraid of doing the wrong thing that they don't do anything at all and it all adds up to a systemic failure to protect the most vulnerable.
"More support for professionals who work with children is vital. When speaking with families, they can't take what is being said at face value, they must trust their instincts and escalate their concerns.
"They need to be allowed to be braver, to push harder by being persistent and take action to protect a child, or child neglect will continue to kill."
Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: "It is self-evident that something went seriously wrong for this child. It appears Hamzah disappeared off the radar of his community and services, and a full picture of the horror that was his life emerged two years too late."
Professor Nick Frost, independent chairman of Bradford Safeguarding Children Board (BSCB), said: " The main aim of the report (the serious case review) is to make sure all agencies involved learn lessons and change working practices where necessary.
"However, given the refusal of all offers of help that would be offered to any mother and the lack of serious concerns raised from any other source, there was limited involvement from statutory agencies."