Litte girl murdered by father let down by courts and social workers

By Catherine Ellis

A four-year-old girl who was killed by her father was let down by social workers and local authorities, according to a report into her death.

Alexa-Marie Quinn was murdered by her father Carl Wheatley in March 2014, less than three months after Bedford Borough Council granted him custody.

Local agencies have been criticised in the report for "shortcomings" in their response to the suspicion that Alexa-Marie may have been at risk of harm.

  • What we know about Alexa-Marie

Alexa-Marie Quinn was found dead at her home in March 2014. She had been beaten to death by her father.

She had suffered more than 60 injuries, including a bruise from her stomach to her ankles, and two lost teeth when she died in March 2014.

Video report by Juliet Bremner:

The four-year-old had been in Wheatley's care for the three months leading up to her death, after previously being cared for by foster parents.

Concerns had been raised about Wheatley's contact with Alexa-Marie by her foster carers in Bedford in May 2013.

Further worries about her contact with Wheatley had come up at a review the following month.

  • The trial of Alexa-Marie's father

Carl Wheatley killed his daughter just months after being awarded custody. Credit: Police handout

Alexa-Marie's father, Carl Wheatley, 31, was found guilty of her murder and jailed for life at St Albans Crown Court on 15 May 2015.

The supermarket worker from Hatfield was told he would serve a minimum of 21 years.

Prosecutors claimed that Wheatley only wanted custody of Alexa and her brother in order to claim for benefit payments.

During the trial, the jury was told that Wheatley had been diagnosed by psychiatrists with multiple health disorders.

  • Serious Case Review: Findings

A Serious Case Review is launched when a child dies or is seriously injured where abuse or neglect is thought to be involved, to find out what lessons can be learned by local professionals and organisations to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

The Serious Case Review published by Hertfordshire's Safeguarding Children's Board revealed a number of findings.

These include:

Finding: There were weaknesses in management within and between different local authorities and social work teams in the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire boroughs. These led to a lack of full understanding of potential risks that Alexa-Marie was exposed to.

Finding: There were shortcomings in the response to the suspicion that child protection risks may have left Alexa-Marie at harm.

Finding: All parties in the courts did not appropriately consider the implications of a psychiatric report on Carl Wheatley from September 2013.

  • Recommendations

The Serious Case Review made a number of recommendations for local agencies involved in the case to safeguard children in the future.

These included: reviews of training given to social workers and lawyers, reviewing case management arrangements for student social workers and looking into current guidance on children's contact arrangements following a move to a new permanent placement.

Phil Picton, chairman of the Safeguarding Children Board, said that Alexa-Marie was "a very vulnerable little girl" who was placed into the care of a man who went on to kill her.