Social workers and health staff visited the home of Mikaeel Kular seven times in the months before he was killed by his mother Rosdeep Adekoya – but found no evidence of the violence she would go on to inflict on her three-year-old son.
There was no way Mikaeel’s death could have been prevented, according to a review of how the boy’s case was handled. It cleared social workers in Edinburgh and Fife of any blame for the tragedy.
The central finding of the report states that the circumstances that led to Mikaeel’s death could not have been predicted.”Steve Grimmond
Mikaeel’s disappearance in January last year sparked a massive two-day search before his mother was arrested and eventually jailed for his killing.
Repeated visits by both councils found nothing to cause staff concern “about the physical care of Mikaeel” by his mother. Her vicious, repeated assaults over several days last January were described as “unprecedented and out of character”.
However, despite finding that the toddler’s death “could not have been predicted”, the report made 13 recommendations, including a call for an overhaul of national guidelines for information sharing between local authorities.
Legislation will be reviewed following the revelation that Mikaeel’s nursery in Edinburgh was not told that he had spent a year in care until three months after he was returned to his mother – and just two months before his death.
His father Zahid Saeed rejected the findings, saying: “I feel that the social work department have failed in their duties to protect my children.”
Mikaeel was taken into foster care in Fife between July 2012 and August 2013 after Adekoya left her children on their own for an extended period. He was returned to his mother after social workers judged that she was making “good progress”, and in December 2013 the last of seven visits by social workers and NHS staff took place, after which a supervision order was ended.
Children’s charities said the lack of national protocols for transferring information between councils about youngsters who are no longer on the protection register was “a gap” that required attention.
Speaking on behalf of the joint review, which included Fife and Edinburgh councils as well as NHS Fife and Lothian and Police Scotland, chairman Steve Grimmond said: “The central finding of the report states that the circumstances that led to Mikaeel’s death could not have been predicted.
“Ms Adekoya’s ability to physically care for him was never in question. She felt a need for space and time that resulted in him being left unattended and is the reason he was placed in foster care.
“It’s important to stress that professionals who had regular contact with the family never had any concerns about the physical care of Mikaeel throughout this case. The decision to return Mikaeel to his mother’s care was taken by a range of professionals who agreed that he was well looked after and that he had been in foster care long enough.”
For three dreadful days in January 2014, the UK’s media descended on north Edinburgh after Mikaeel was reported missing, having seemingly vanished from his home in the middle of the night.
Adekoya, who has three other children, originally told police her son had disappeared after being put to bed on the night of January 15.
News that a three year-old was missing in near-freezing temperatures brought the community out on to the streets in a desperate search for the boy.
Hundreds joined search parties, with cordons combing the shore front at Cramond and Drylaw, checking bushes and undergrowth without result.
The searchers’ hearts were broken when police announced the news no-one wanted to hear – a body had been found, not in Edinburgh but across the Forth in Fife. It was eventually confirmed that the body, stuffed into a suitcase and hidden in woodland behind Adekoya’s sister’s house in Kirkcaldy, was Mikaeel.
After the report was published yesterday, council chief executive Sue Bruce paid tribute to the community spirit that saw so many join the search for Mikaeel.
She said: “Last January, we had to face the outcome that everyone dreaded, namely that Mikaeel Kular had not been found safe and well. It was a tragic situation and, although over a year has now passed, our thoughts are with his family and friends still struggling to come to terms with the circumstances surrounding his death.
“We shouldn’t forget the incredible show of community spirit in North Edinburgh following Mikaeel’s disappearance, with hundreds of volunteers giving up their time to join the search. It was extremely moving and inspiring to see the community pull together like that and I know that spirit remains strong today.”
Adekoya was arrested and originally charged with her son’s murder, but was jailed for 11 years after pleading guilty to culpable homicide in July.
Only after Adekoya’s guilty plea did the truth emerge – Mikaeel was beaten to death, savagely attacked by his furious mother after he was repeatedly sick following a family meal
Despite becoming increasingly ill due to internal injuries, Mikaeel’s mother did not seek medical attention for her son, who was already dead by the time Adekoya claimed he had gone missing.
The full report will not be published in order to protect the identities of Mikaeel’s siblings, but a summary version has been made public.
Mr Grimmond added: “The death of any child is a tragedy. The loss of Mikaeel in such terrible circumstances has been particularly devastating for his family, those who worked with them, and two local communities in Edinburgh and Fife.
“Social workers and health professionals involved in the case have been greatly affected by this tragedy. They care very deeply about what they do and the people they support.”
Responding to the call for information sharing procedures to be overhauled, a Scottish Government spokeswoman said that the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act – passed just last year – would be reviewed.
The spokeswoman said: “The sudden, unnatural death of any child is a tragedy and the untimely death of Mikaeel Kular continues to reverberate across Scotland and in particular, the communities in Fife and Edinburgh where he lived.
“The Scottish Government therefore welcomes the urgency with which this significant case review was undertaken and its speedy conclusion and focused actions, which we are sure will now be considered and acted upon by all the appropriate agencies timeously.
“We accept the recommendation directed at the Scottish Government and we will consider the implications of the report very carefully.
“We are currently consulting on guidance and secondary legislation accompanying the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act which will help meet the recommendation.”
The charity Children 1st backed the call for greater clarity when sharing information between local authorities.
Director of children and family services Mary Glasgow said: “There is a gap in the current system that the review does well to bring to our attention.”
Trisha Hall, director of the Scottish Association of Social Workers, said that without any evidence of neglect or abuse, it was impossible for social workers to know what Adekoya was capable of. “Social workers are being asked to assess risk. Social workers can’t predict risk. That’s simply impossible”, she said.
Countdown to tragedy
July 2012: Mikaeel Kular taken into care in Fife.
August 2013: Mikaeel returned to mother Rosdeep Adekoya, who has moved to Edinburgh.
November 2013: Mikaeel’s school informed of his care history.
December 2013: Supervision order for Mikaeel is terminated. Over previous four months, staff from Fife and Edinburgh make seven visits, but find no evidence of abuse or neglect.
January 12, 2014: Adekoya beats Mikaeel repeatedly. He dies of his injuries two days later.
January 16, 2014: Mikaeel is reported missing. His mother claims she last saw him the previous night, and that he left their Drylaw flat on his own. A massive search is launched, with hundreds of volunteers joining the effort.
January 18, 2014: A body is found in the early hours, later confirmed to be Mikaeel. Adekoya is arrested, and is later charged with his murder.
July 2014: Adekoya pleads guilty to culpable homicide, and is jailed for 11 years. Fife and Edinburgh councils announce a joint significant case review into Mikaeel’s death.