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Concerns raised long before death of little boy Blake Fowler
A TOP-level inquiry has now been launched into how much the authorities knew about Blake Fowler and whether they did enough to protect him.
The Daily Echo can today reveal how concerns were raised by some of those closest to the youngster who died at the age of seven while in the care of his stepfather Peter Meek.
In a letter written just two months before the youngster died, his grandmother wrote to Southampton City Council’s social services pleading with them to step in.
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An inquest into Blake’s death yesterday concluded that there was no way of knowing for certain how he suffered a brain haemorrhage that caused his death in December 2011.
Evidence given to Southampton coroner Keith Wiseman heard how there was a delay in getting an ambulance to the dying schoolboy in an attempt by Peter Meek to cover up the fact he was breaking his bail conditions by continuing to live with Blake’s mother Sarah Spacagna. However, medical evidence heard the extent of the brain haemorrhage meant that Blake would not have survived the injury in any event, and he passed away the following day.
Mr Wiseman said due to the inconsistencies in the accounts given to the police about what happened, there was no way of knowing for certain how Blake came to suffer the head injury that killed him, and returned an open determination.
Now questions are being asked about whether the authorities could have done more to protect Blake and his siblings after the coroner criticised the parents, who were known to social services, as “woeful”.
That level of concern was shared by some of Blake’s family in the weeks before his death.
This newspaper has seen a letter sent to social workers two months before the youngster died, highlighting concerns over his care and that of his siblings.
In it Jane Extance, Sarah’s mother, outlines her fears that her daughter was the victim of domestic violence at the hands of Peter Meek and tells of her concerns that the children were being exposed to it.
She pleads for the children to be put on the child protection register and writes how she doesn’t want to take a phone call “to hear that something has happened to my daughter or grandchildren”.
The contents of that letter and what the agencies did in response to it is now part of a Serious Case Review by the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) which examines the role of the authorities when a child dies or is seriously injured.
The LSCB will also look into what the authorities were doing to monitor Blake Fowler and his siblings after Peter Meek was charged with assaulting their mother Sarah in September 2011.
Despite strict bail conditions banning him from contacting her, the couple were living together apparently unbeknown to the authorities.
It was not the first time Meek had been accused of assaulting his partner. Earlier that year he had also faced the same allegation. Both cases were subsequently discontinued after Sarah withdrew her co-operation with the prosecution. The Daily Echo can also reveal how Blake had previously been the subject of a social services inquiry after Peter Meek, a keen amateur boxer, apparently hit the child during the course of play fighting with him.
The inquest into Blake’s death heard how the child’s medical history included an admission to hospital with a “crushing” injury to his genitals that had apparently occurred when he was getting out of the bath, but one that he had not told his mother about.
Coroner Keith Wiseman said hospital staff treating Blake had noted that Sarah Spacagna had appeared to be “quite rough” with the handling of Blake at the time.
Mr Wiseman added that there had also been mention of Blake being scalded when he was aged one, but no records of that incident could be found. After the inquest Jane Extance told the Daily Echo how she thought the authorities should have done more.
“I think they failed him. I think they should have done more to protect Blake.”
In response Dawn Baxendale, chief executive of Southampton City Council, said: “The details of the case heard in the coroner’s court were extremely upsetting and it is understandable that people will want to know that lessons have been learned.
“We have conducted an internal review of the case to support the work of the Serious Case Review team and will obtain recommendations on any further action that needs to be taken to improve our services.
“Agencies are not able to provide any further details about the case before the Serious Case Review is published, because that process must be fully independent and should not be influenced by any comments we make.”
Keith Makin, independent chairman of the LSCB, confirmed a review had been launched and said it was with the view to establishing whether there are any specific recommendations that might help improve public services for children and young people.
He added he hoped it would be published as soon as it was completed.
Hampshire police were unable to provide a comment on the arrangements surrounding the monitoring of Peter Meek’s bail conditions at the time of Blake’s death.
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