A piece in today’s Times:
A mother who let her toddler starve to death while she went away for six days to celebrate turning 18 had left the girl unsupervised 11 times before, The Times has learnt.
Verphy Kudi, now 19, pleaded guilty to manslaughter at Lewes crown court last month after leaving 20-month-old Asiah in a supported housing block in Brighton as she partied in London, Coventry and Solihull, in the West Midlands, more than 150 miles away.
Kudi’s family has questioned the level of support at Gocher Court, the charity-run accommodation commissioned by Brighton and Hove city council to house vulnerable families.
Details outlined by the prosecution at a court hearing last year show that Kudi left her child unsupervised a dozen times. The first time was less than two months before the toddler died in December 2019.
Sally Howes QC, for the prosecution, told a bail hearing for Kudi on October 23 last year at Hove Trial Centre that there was no system to sign in or out of Gocher Court. In mid-October 2019, on the first occasion it was clear to staff that Kudi had left her baby alone, she was spoken to, Howes said. There were then 11 further occasions when she left the baby unsupervised, Howes added. It is understood that the figure includes the time Kudi left Asiah when she died.
The Times understands that Kudi left Asiah unsupervised for long and short periods. The prosecution now regards seven of the incidents as being particularly serious, including the last time she abandoned the infant. Kudi was seen on CCTV leaving Gocher Court, run by the YMCA DownsLink Group, on December 5, 2019, her 18th birthday. She returned on December 11 when she found her daughter dead.
A post-mortem examination found that Asiah died of neglect. Kudi is to be sentenced next month.
The YMCA group confirmed that staff at the centre were “aware of a safeguarding incident” involving Kudi in mid-October 2019. “The incident was referred to the relevant authorities at the time,” the charity said. It added that social services were informed but declined to clarify further details.
A relative of Kudi said last night: “No family member was contacted or informed about this and this is [the] first time we’ve heard there were issues.”
The YMCA group said that staff were not aware of the other times Kudi was said to have left her child.
“The flats at Gocher Court are self-contained and are rented on a private tenancy basis,” it said. “Families living at these flats live independently and are free to come and go without being monitored. Staff are available during the day, to offer housing-related support and one/two hours of planned key-work sessions each week. CCTV footage is not used for live monitoring. It is there to provide security and as a deterrent to anti-social behaviour. The police investigation after Asiah’s death brought these possible further instances to light.”
Brighton and Hove Safeguarding Children Partnership — an association of council services, police and the NHS — has begun a practice review. The city council declined to comment further. Sussex police said that it was co-operating with the review. The YMCA group has previously said: “Verphy had made staff aware that she was going to be away to celebrate her 18th birthday with friends and family. Tragically, there was nothing to alert either staff or other residents that Verphy Kudi had left Asiah in the flat alone.”
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