Neath and Port Talbot Watchdog (NPTW)

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'Child Deaths'
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Kimberley Carlile aged 4

Greenwich Social Services
Numerous visits by Care officials failed to stop the abuse.
Over thirty home visits by Social Workers

Child Death Reports (PDF)
June 8, 1986

Kimberley Carlile, four, was starved and beaten to death in Greenwich. Her stepfather, Nigel Hall, received a life sentence for her murder while her mother was given 12 years' imprisonment for assault and cruelty. Hall frustrated attempts by social workers and health visitors to investigate. But an inquiry found that her death was avoidable and concluded that four key social work and health staff in Greenwich failed to apply the necessary skill, judgement and care in her case.


The death of four-year-old Kimberley Carlile prompted Mr Justice Steyn, who, after a nine-day trial had heard the most appalling evidence of her suffering, to tell the couple responsible: "In the sordid annals of child abuse your crimes are uniquely wicked". He then passed a life sentence on Nigel Hall for her brutal murder and 12 years imprisonment on Pauline Carlile for grievous bodily harm, assault and cruelty.

When Kimberley died on 8 June 1986 she was little more than skin and bone. She was starved, dehydrated, covered in bruises and weighed only 24lbs - half the body weight of a normal child her age.

For the final months of her life she had been kept prisoner in a bedroom at her stepfather's maisonette on an estate in South London. She had become so desperate for food she had eaten her own faeces.

In the final hours of her life she had been tortured with 15 cigarette burns callously administered along her spine. She was then kicked in the head so Violently it caused a haemorrhage under the skull. A post-mortem also discovered bruising around her genitals and a scar on her buttocks that had been caused by a red hot instrument. Social services immediately wrote to the Carlile family offering help. Within a week Hall had stormed into the local social services office and warned startled social workers to keep their

Almost a year later Pauline remarried a man well known to police in the north-west of England as violent and involved in drugs. Social workers warned that the children could be at risk. Pauline subsequently had her jaw broken by her second husband and Kimberley and her brother and sister were taken into voluntary care with foster parents on the Wirral.

On Christmas Eve1984 Pauline Carlile fled to a women's refuge after death threats from her second partner, and met Nigel Hall on a railway station in Liverpool. Their relationship developed and they soon set up home together in Ktdbrooke, south-east London. Kimberley had been born in Birkenhead on 3 November 1981. She was the youngest of Pauline Carlile's then three children. The oldest was a boy of four and Kimberley had a two-year-old sister. When she was only seven months old the Carlile family came to the attention of 'Wlrral
Social Services after Pauline complained her first husband was being violent. Together with her children, she went to live at a women's refuge. Two months later Kimberley's natural father died of a cerebral haemorrhage after falling over in the street. But Wirral social workers reported that Pauline Carlile appeared to be coping well as she returned home with the children. Amid the outrage that followed the case, Greenwich social workers were accused of abandoning Kimberley. The Panel of Inquiry set up under barrister Louis Blom-Cooper to investigate the circumstances that surrounded the death of Kimberley Carlile concluded in its 290-page report:

"Kimberley Carlile's death was avoidable through the intervention of the welfare agencies". It was hardly surprising. Her last Christmas - six months before her death - was spent padlocked in her room for "being naughty". She was freezing cold and was given only a sandwich and a glass of water for her Christmas dinner as her brother and two sisters played with their new toys nearby. On one of the coldest days of the year, shortly afterwards, neighbours were astonished to see her outside the home wearing just her vest and knickers. Neighbours had heard screams and pitiful weeping coming from the bedroom and had telephoned warnings to social workers. Pauline Carlile was later to tell police that, despite her tender age, Kimberley had told her towards the end of her life that all she wanted to do was die.

The Old Bailey jury was satisfied that Hall had inflicted the terrible injuries and rejected Kimberley, apparently because she was a strong-willed child who refused to accept him as her new father. Pauline Carlile, 27 at the time, had defended herself in court by claiming she was afraid that her other three children would be taken from her if she reported Hall's violent abuse of the defenceless child.

Later that year Pauline removed the children from foster care - where they had been happy and had thrived - and they moved south to be reunited with their mother at her new home in Kidbrooke. At first all seemed well. Greenwich Social Services was asked to monitor the family because of Pauline's decision to take Kimberley and the other two children out of care and go to live with Hall. They had just had their first child together, Pauline's fourth.

Social services neither required the children to have medical examinations nor asked to see Kimberley without the winter clothing that covered her from head to foot. The bruising underneath remained concealed. Kimberley was allowed to leave the office in the arms of the man who was shortly to kill her.

A month later a health visitor visited the family but was not allowed to see Kimberley. At the same time Pauline Carlile's eldest child, the boy now aged seven, told a teacher that Hall was "throwing him around" at home. The education welfare service alerted Greenwich Social Services, who agreed the family should be closely monitored.

By December neighbours were becoming increasingly disturbed by the distressing sounds coming from the home. Unknown to anyone outside the family, Kimberley was now being locked in her room for hours on end. Her" crimes" were mainly bed wetting and standing up to the bullying Hall.


Out of Sight

Two months later - and three months before Kimberley died - a woman phoned social services anonymously and told of crying and terrible piercing screams coming from the Carlile flat. Two Greenwich social workers were dispatched to the home but Carlile and Hall refused them access to the children. A team leader decided to go himself but also got no answer. He left a letter warning the couple that if they didn't allow social workers or health visitors to see the family, he would call the police.

On 8 June Carlile was doing the washing-up when she heard Hall shout out. She rushed upstairs to find him holding a lifeless Kimberley in his arms. Hall told her she had fallen down the stairs. The subsequent post-mortem by Dr Michael Heath made grim reading. He gave the cause of death as "traumatic subdural haemorrhage" due to an injury to the left temple, consistent with a heavy blow - almost certainly a kick. There were numerous bruises all over her body. In fact, she appeared yellow because old bruising suffered at the hands of Hall had faded, leaving widespread discoloration that gave her a jaundiced appearance.

Hall reacted to the letter by phoning social services and admitting he was having problems with Kimberley. She was wilful, had fallen down the stairs, was wetting herself and making herself sick, he complained. The next day Hall arrived with the entire family at social services and asked the social worker, "Why is Kimberley so disturbed?" Hall even admitted hitting her and the social worker noted she looked "withdrawn, sallow, pasty and still" .Dr Heath also found three recent injuries around Kimberley's ears. She had been literally lifted off the ground by her ears causing the tissue behind the ears to tear. Her hymen was inflamed together with an inflammation of the opening of the vagina on her vulva. Although the injury suggested sexual interference, it was impossible to prove she had also been sexually abused. The inquiry decided that Kimberley had been abused incessantly for at least nine months before her death.