PARENTS subjected their child to what was described as the worst case of neglect a doctor had seen in their 30-year career, a court was told.
The seven year old girl was found to have infected sores on her scalp, her hair “moving” with the infestation of head lice, and smelling so bad the odour was described as “rotting meat”, jurors at Southampton Crown Court heard.
The girl’s sister, who was two, was allegedly found in a neglected condition, although not as severe, said prosecutor Robert Bryan, but her teeth were so badly decayed six of them had to be removed under general anaesthetic.
The court heard how the alarm was first raised in December 2013 when the elder girl moved to a new school in Southampton and teachers immediately noticed her dishevelled appearance.
Her class teacher described noticing the smell of the child first which she said was like “rotting meat” and smelt as though “something had died”.
She said that the girl appeared grey and her eyes sunken and also appeared to have black patches in her hair.
Giving evidence to the court she said on first sight she thought the child was a boy, but it was the smell that she noticed immediately. “That smell was the one thing that has stayed with me. It was the worst smell I have ever smelt in my life, it smelt like gone off rotting meat,” she said.
She was so concerned that she raised it with the member of staff in charge of safeguarding and other senior leadership staff who also observed the girl in class scratching at her head.
The teacher described large head lice moving in her hair, dropping on to her shoulders and arms and onto the book she was reading while dried clumps of blood also falling on to her clothes from where she was scratching.
After observing her, one teacher said: “Her hair was moving because of the number of lice that were in her hair.”
When staff confronted the girl’s mother she claimed to have taken the child to see a doctor a few days before to address the sores in her head which she believed to be eczema.
She said she was applying treatment to her hair but it was difficult to bath her because the child said her head hurt.
PICTURED: Southampton Crown Court
The mother met with staff the following day when teachers also noticed the girl’s sister appeared to be in dirty clothes and was not wearing a coat despite it being a freezing cold day, explained Mr Bryan.
When one staff member helped her to put a coat on which was tucked into the bottom of her pram, they noticed her front teeth appeared to be discoloured, he added.
As a result of the state of the girls, staff had already notified social services which resulted in council child welfare staff attending the school with police officers. The girls were subsequently admitted to hospital for treatment and monitoring.
Reading from the findings of the medical examination that followed Mr Bryan said in her 30-year career it was the worst case of neglect, the examiner, had seen.
Along with the infestation of lice, the seven year old had infected sores on her scalp, was iron deficient, had signs of tooth decay and had scratch marks around her neck and arms while her unkempt, matted hair had dried blood in it from her weeping sores and dead lice were found in her socks and shoes.
Mr Bryan said that when the girl was bathed the water turned brown.
“It was dark brown from the old blood and bright red from the fresh blood.”
The youngster sister was also borderline iron deficient, had a head lice infestation and had a number of decayed teeth, which was put down to drinking sweetened drinks from her bottle, known as ‘bottle decay’.
She also suffered from a speech and language delay.
Mr Bryan said that while the girls were being treated in hospital their mother brought a toy in for them which was described as “bloodstained and had head lice squashed into the fur.”
The parents, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, were subsequently arrested and eventually charged with two counts of child neglect.
In interview with the police Mr Bryan said the pair denied neglecting the children and said they were trying to sort out the issue with the older girl's head.
The mother, from Southampton, said she had been to the doctors several days before she started the new school and had been prescribed medication which she had been trying to apply.
The father claimed the girls ate a healthy diet and enjoyed fruit and vegetables at home.
The pair said they had been told there was a problem with the girls’ teeth, and when asked what they had done about it the mother said she had tried not to drink fizzy drinks around them and out her glass “out of the way” to stop them drinking out of it.
Mr Bryan said police officers asked the mother where she thought she had fallen down as a parent to which she replied “I haven’t”.
Mr Bryan said: “If advice was being given it was not being followed or it was being ignored and it resulted in the children suffering.”
The woman, a 43-year-old from Southampton, who at times wiped tears from her eyes whilst listening to the opening of the case, denies two counts of child neglect.
The father, a 47-year-old also from Southampton, denied the same charges.
The trial, presided over by Judge Peter Henry, is expected to last three weeks.