Mother sentenced to 20 years for neglecting son Hakeem Hussain, 7, who died alone 'gasping for air'

Hakeem Hussain

A drug addict from Birmingham has been jailed for 20 years over the death of her seven-year-old son, after he died alone "gasping for air" in a garden.

Laura Heath, 40, formerly of Long Acre, Nechells, Birmingham was found guilty last week of manslaughter by gross negligence of her son Hakeem Hussain - who died at the home of a friend where his mother had been staying.

She later told police she had smoked three bags of heroin – two before Hakeem went to bed at 10.30pm and one afterwards, leaving her in a drug-induced sleep.

Toxicology evidence put before the court proved Hakeem had inhaled tobacco smoke in the hours before his death, having also been exposed to heroin, crack cocaine and cannabis through second-hand smoke.

Hakeem died "gasping for air" while lying in a garden without his inhaler at 7.37am on Sunday November 26, 2017.

He was described as "frail" and his death "preventable".

Hakeem Hussain was found dead in the garden of a Birmingham house on November 26, 2017. Credit: BPM Media

During the trial at Coventry Crown Court it emerged that social services in Birmingham were aware of Hakeem before his death.

And just two days before his fatal collapse a school nurse told a child protection conference that "he could die at the weekend".

A serious case review is set to be published within weeks, to assess all agencies' contact with Hakeem and his mother.

The head of Birmingham Children's Trust, which took over child services in 2018, said following the trial that there were "clear missed opportunities" in social services' handling of the case.

One of Hakeem’s blue inhalers had been rigged as a crack pipe by Heath Credit: West Midlands Police/PA

'His death was needless'

Passing sentence on Heath, Mr Justice Dove said the death of Hakeem in November 2017 was the result of her “catastrophic and deplorable” parenting.

The judge told 40-year-old Heath, who was ordered to serve two-thirds of her sentence before becoming eligible for parole, that the death had occurred after her life “entered a drug-fuelled downward spiral into squalor, chaos and tragedy”.

The judge said: "When Hakeem Hussain died in the early hours of the morning he was only seven years old.

"It is clear that in his tragically short life he had been an inspiration of happiness and affection for people who knew him.

"All of that potential for a wonderful and fulfilling life was cut short, extinguished as he collapsed on his own suffocating, clutching a leaf in the garden.

"The truth is that Hakeem died as a result of your deplorable negligence.

"You had allowed your life to be completely overtaken by your addiction to heroin and cocaine.

"His death was needless, tragic and a result of your abject failure as his mother."