THE list of his injuries is heartbreaking, horrifying, stomach churning, so extensive that the thought of what his little body endured over two terrifying days at the hands of his own flesh and blood becomes the stuff of nightmares.
Forty separate injuries, one which caused his bowel to rupture.
What did Mikaeel Kular do to be so dreadfully punished? Oh yes, he ate too much.
Distressing details of the terrible beating he endured at the hands of his mother emerged in court yesterday, a sickening final chapter to a truly hellish episode, which on the one hand drew a community together in a way which revealed the very best of human nature, and on the other, revealed inhumanity at its worst.
News that Mikaeel had gone missing from his Ferry Gait Crescent home last January had sent a tidal wave of shock across north Edinburgh and beyond. Thoughts turned to Madeleine McCann, plucked from bed on holiday in Portugal, not to be seen again.
Surely that couldn’t happen here in Edinburgh?
We all held our children’s hands a little tighter – even those among us who weren’t immediate neighbours, who didn’t live close by Mikaeel’s home, we all felt Mikaeel’s loss. Where could he be?
Of course the one person on earth who knew the answer to that was also the one whose every fibre of being, whose every heartbeat should have been focused on keeping her little boy safe, well and happy.
Instead the distressing details of the relentless beating Mikaeel endured revealed that far from a loving mother in the deepest torture over where her little boy could be, Rosdeep Adekoya was a scheming, conniving child beater, whose main thought as her son lay dead in a suitcase was of protecting herself by playing the role of grief-stricken parent. She told her lies while strangers gave up their time to trudge streets and parkland, hour after hour, mile after mile, desperately looking for the son she knew was already dead.
And as the community came together in a force of nature unlike anyone could have imagined – sharing hopes, gathering in community centres, shedding tears and marching on fuelled with snacks and drinks from shopkeepers and neighbours – Adekoya’s pack of lies crumbled.
Today we know what happened. The question that haunts many now is how COULD she do it?
How could a mother not only break that deeply woven maternal bond that begins when she discovers she is pregnant, that multiples and grows with her swollen tummy and finally explodes in that overwhelming adoration that feels like nothing on earth can feel as you hold your baby in your arms for the first time, then go on to beat them to a pulp and chuck away their body like a piece of rubbish to rot? Why?
Few reading the details of Mikaeel’s final hours could possibly feel much sympathy for his mother in spite of the fine words of her defence counsel Brian McConnachie QC. “Rosdeep Adekoya is not a monster,” he told the court.
“It appears she is basically a young mother with a number of underlying problems.”
Let’s look for a moment at Adekoya’s woes. She lost her father aged 19, the court was told. Grief is an awful thing, as many of us who have endured the loss of a parent know. Many, however, find that very distinctive kind of loss makes them appreciate family even more. They say ‘I love you’ to their children a bit more often, hug them a little more.
Adekoya had broken up with Mikaeel’s father, but was that a pathetic attempt to shift the blame for her vile actions onto someone else? She is, let’s remember, a 34-year-old mother, mature and with responsibilities, beyond the stage surely of playing the role of dippy lovelorn teenager.
And Adekoya had been prescribed anti-depressants at one point and complained of long-standing depression, stress and anxiety. If true, then perhaps we should ask why her medical problems were not being dealt with adequately. Then we should reflect on the fact that many with these conditions would not for a second think of laying their hands, never mind their fists, on a toddler.
Tellingly, psychiatrists who examined her concluded she was “possibly suffering from a mild to moderate depressive disorder at the time of Mikaeel’s death”, not enough to be unfit to stand trial.
What tipped this trainee beautician – perhaps another clue as to where Adekoya’s shallow interests lay – into a prolonged and vicious beating was something that most of us cannot for a second relate to.
Mikaeel, she complained, had committed the terrible sin of overeating on a trip out. As he got ready for bed, he vomited. Most worn-out parents might well inwardly sigh at the thought of having to clean up or find a change of clothes. Then give their child a hug as being sick when you’re three is pretty rubbish and upsetting.
Instead Adekoya ‘comforted’ Mikaeel by whacking him with her open hand and thumping him with her clenched fist. She beat, hammered and pummelled his tiny body. Then she did it again and again. She may not have intended to kill him. But if she had stopped and thought for a second about his wellbeing, she could have saved his young life. His injuries, while severe, could have been treated. Instead she let him suffer and die. Too absorbed in what would happen to her if his bruises were spotted – she didn’t care.
Like a sack of old rubbish, she stuffed his little broken body into a suitcase, drove to Kirkcaldy and ditched him in a wood. Of course police had to believe what she was saying, maybe someone did break in and whisk him away. Perhaps a spurned lover, family friend, opportunist passer-by or some drugged up weirdo really was to blame.
Mikaeel had to be found.
What Adekoya didn’t consider as she wove her fairy tale – no doubt inspired by tragic Madeleine’s story – was the phenomenal wave of unity and determination that would engulf the community. Young, old, mothers with toddlers the same age as Mikaeel who pushed buggies mile after mile, searching, and grandparents who saw their own beloved youngsters in his deep brown eyes. They all came. Mikaeel might have had a darker shade of skin than many who joined the search, but what was patently obvious was it mattered not a jot. He was their child too and this single, powerful force of nature had no intention of just letting him go.
Hour after hour, mile after mile, day after desperate day, they gathered to help.They searched perhaps fearful of what they might find yet driven by an unstoppable sense of humanity and simple care – qualities which had clearly deserted his own mother – for a defenceless little boy. As it transpired, any one of these strangers would have given Mikaeel more protection, safety, and quite probably, love, than his mother. The hours passed and the knot in the stomach grew tighter. Mikaeel, we were told, had been wearing his turquoise pyjamas with the dinosaur print – a tiny, poignant detail that made his disappearance all the more real.
Suddenly the police photograph that showed off his cheeky, broad smile grew in our mind’s eye into a full length little boy, cute in his pyjamas with the cartoon dinosaur, washed, teeth brushed, smelling of mint and baby powder, ready for the safest place on earth – his own bed.
News his body had been found was delivered by a clearly choked Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham to groans of despair from those who had gathered hoping for good news. He paid tribute – rightly – to the “fantastic” response of the local community. “Without such vital assistance,” he said, “the police could not do their job.”
Today Mikaeel’s mother is facing years behind bars. Not a future anyone would choose, but more than her little boy has.
All we have now is the memory of Mikaeel’s smile, a tighter, stronger community and, while of little comfort, the knowledge that no-one can possibly hurt him now.