The Growing Problem of Child Neglect
Tiffany Wright was a child of 3 who died in September 2007 after a catalogue of failures. This poor defenceless child was let down by a barrage of people that brought tears to my eyes when I learned of the poor little darlings plight.
When Tiffany was found dead by police officers, she was not stiff with rigor mortis, she was floppy and covered in insect bites due to the fact that when she was found, Tiffany had been dead for some time.
Her Mother, Sabrina and stepfather, Robert Hirst claimed that she had been ill with a bug and had not eaten as a result if this, this meant she had not been given any food for over 36 hours. They were pub landlords in a pub in Sheffield, this was not even a private residence, surely someone must have noticed something? Appparently not.
Officers in charge claim that Tiffany’s living conditions were ghastly, there were soiled nappies and dog excrement everywhere. Tiffany’s bedroom had no toys, no sheets, no duvet, she was found clutching a pair of old trainers when she had died. Hidden beneath a mattress were christmas presents from family members that had been left unopened! On the floor in Tiffany’s bedroom were pieces of lilac wallpaper scattered all over the floor. How was this child overlooked?
Tiffany’s death was identified as terminal bronchial pneumonia, this condition is mostly associated with victims of famine, she must have been visibly ill, but no one took her to see a doctor. Tiffany had not eaten for more than 20 hours before death, or 3 days before her mother called the ambulance.
Because her mother entered an early guilty plea, she was sentenced to 12 years for manslaughter, her step father pleaded guilty to child cruelty and neglect and received 5 years.
In order to identify that Sabrina was seriously failing her child, she would have to stay in one place long enough, she did not. There surely needs to be a change in the law that if a child is on an at risk register, or somebody has voiced a concern over this child then they should have to register a move, in order that the child is not lost from the system?
Sabrina and Robert ran a busy pub for locals in Sheffield that was near Sabrina’s friends and family and none of these or the locals ever queried why Tiffany was never seen, the Hirst’s would venture out with their son, but because Tiffany was not his child she would be locked in a bedroom and left behind! A c0mmunity midwife was alarmed by the filthy conditions that the family were living in she registered her concerns. Once she entered the pub when Robert was there alone and forced him to take above the pub, their baby boy was cold, hysterical and naked strapped into a chair, there was no side of Tiffany; she was probably locked in her bedroom.
Despite the midwife’s warning, the Hirst’s were contacted by letter and unsurprisingly never replied and no one ever visited the pub to check on the children.
A barmaid at the pub commented after Tiffany’s death that Robert would shout and swear at Tiffany, an odd job man said how he had found Tiffany locked in her bedroom naked, cold and whimpering, he commented “She had clearly been there for some time”.
Relatives also turned a blind eye with one quoted as saying that she had heard tapping in the bar underneath where Tiffany’s room had been she commented “I had the horrible thought that Tiffany was being locked in her room when Sabrina and Robert were out”.
In December of 2006 Sabrina spent most of her time working the bar whilst the chilfren were locked in upstairs, Robert was disappearing on a regular basis by this time, Sabrina was later to find out that these absences were when Robert was spending time with the family he had left to be with Sabrina.
On 27 September 2007, the last day that Sabrina admitted to police to feeding Tiffany, CCTV from the pub captured Sabrina saying she must get her daughter up as “I’ve not seen her for a week”, the next day the tape shows her going shopping for an hour, or the next when they went to visit friends for two hours. Shortly after 9pm, Sabrina went into check on her sick daughter, CCTV images again bear witness to her returning after 10 minutes in distress to collect Robert, he stayed upstairs for an hour and a half, detectives believe that in this time he was tidying up her room and putting a clean nightdress on her cold, naked body. After the pub closed, again the CCTV captures Robert saying “Obviously she has been dead for two days, we could get fucking banged up for this, everything taken away from us”. It was then that Tiffany’s mother called 999.
Sheffield Social Services, in their review of the case stated that there had been serious failings in their handling of the case, despite the midwife, Kathleen Delaney trying to raise the alarm on several occasions, these were all ignored.
How can a community not report the Hirst’s? How can a couple with two young children repeatedly explain their absences time after time? I have two children myself and they are an extension of me, if they suddenly disapperred from my side, neighbours, friends, shopkeepers etc would be asking questions, you would hope.
DCI Powell, the detective in charge of the investigation, has said that the lilac flakes found in her bedroom were the result of her having no toys, clothing or food, Tiffany had resorted to licking or eating the wallpaper fom her wall, an entire arc had been cleared above her bed. This poor child lived above a public house where she would have heard the sounds of people eating, drinking, laughter and talking whilst she was starving to death, naked, cold, frightened and so very alone whilst people in the community turned a blind eye to what was happening to continue to drink beer in their pub. How could you?