When she was discovered, barely alive, on March 20th 2015, tiny Lauren Wade was infested with thousands of headlice, pale, thin and horrifically underfed.
She had been found “skinny and dirty” and unresponsive. Her nappy was sodden, and her hair matted, with bald patches. The sofa on which she was found, and where she slept, was so badly infested with headlice it had a large hole and had “disintegrated”.
An ambulance rushed her to hospital but she was pronounced dead within 30 minutes.
It would be revealed later that she had died from complications caused by the malnutrition inflicted upon her. She was also found to have blood poisoning.
The tragedy, a report revealed, could have been prevented had authorities acted sooner and communicated better.
Instead another young life was tragically snuffed out, as a result of the inability of Scotland‘s social services to reckon with an epidemic of heartbreaking neglect and the deceit employed by some parents to disguise their cruelty.
Lauren’s mother and her partner, who claimed to share the parenting of Lauren, had earlier admitted to failing to care properly for three children, including wilful neglect of Lauren so severe she starved to death, and both were jailed for six years and four months.
Margaret Wade, 38 year old mother of two-year old Lauren Wade and Marie Sweeney, 37, both admitted charges of wilful neglect after the infant’s horrific death.
But as the sentences were passed, a report has revealed how Glasgowmissed signs that the children were at risk, and workers forgot to consider Lauren’s safety despite concerns about the older sisters.
At the time of her death, despite repeated opportunities, health, education and social work staff had failed to communicate with each other or take sufficient action.
The women, both dressed casually and with matching pony-tails stood impassively as a judge said they had admitted to neglecting Lauren and two other children.
Lady Stacey said she would have jailed each of them for seven years for neglecting Lauren, but had reduced this to six years and four months because they had pled guilty. Both were given three year sentences in respect of the neglect of each of the other children, but these will run concurrently with the longer jail term.
Although health visitors and the girls’ primary school feared they were being neglected, Wade and Sweeney were able to con health and social services staff that things were getting better. At the time of her death, no agency had seen Lauren for eight months. A former social work chief charged with investigating the case said it was the worst case of neglect and the most “deviant and devious” parenting he had encountered in a 50 year career.
In fact, while social services scaled back their interventions, Lauren was being pitifully neglected, her health spiralling downwards.
When she was discovered, barely alive, on March 20th 2015, Lauren was infested with thousands of headlice, pale, thin and underfed. She died from complications caused by malnutrition but was also found to have blood poisoning.
She had been found unresponsive, “skinny and dirty”. Her nappy was sodden, and her hair was matted, with bald patches. An ambulance rushed her to hospital but she was pronounced dead within 30 minutes.
Wade later told police she had “no guilt” over her daughter’s death but Lady Stacey told her and Sweeney they had subjected the children to a “chaotic” lifestyle.
The court had heard that one detective described their home in Glasgow as “one of the most disgusting” he had seen in his career.
The house was so infested with headlice they were on the outside of the building, as well as having eaten a hole in the sofa. There were so many bin bags in the kitchen it was impossible to reach the cooker and the family survived on takeaway food. The flat was also littered with empty food containers, some of which contained the decomposing remains of meals.
The court had earlier heard that an ambulance and a room to which the family had been taken while investigations were carried out both had to be decontaminated.
Prosecutor Bill McVicar said: “Paramedics later noticed that the cover she had been lying on was covered in lice and fleas. They had to clean and decontaminate the ambulance.”
Wade told nurses Lauren had been suffering from a virus for a couple of days but a post mortem revealed the toddler had been the victim of “severe neglect”.
Mr McVicar said there was evidence that Lauren had had headlice for as much as 17 months: “It is clear the failure to provide proper accommodation was a long-standing issue which did not simply emerge in the days or weeks before the death of Lauren,” he said.
The judge largely ignored pleas in mitigation behalf of the two women, adding to Wade: “When your youngest daughter died, your house was a in a shocking state.
“I don’t think you need me to point out, but you had been offered advice, it was not taken.
“You knew the children were dependent on you. You failed in your duties to these children.”
Wade’s QC Brian McConnachie had told Lady Stacey that her mental health issues were “partially responsible” for the crimes. “Such was her internal difficulties she did not find it easy to accept outside help,” he said. “She deeply regrets that.”
Sweeney’s QC Ian Duguid said she had not been “trying to hide” what was a “very sick or malnourished child”.
He added: “She accepts that she has let down the children badly – one with very catastrophic consequences.”
Wade and Sweeney both showed no emotion as they were handcuffed and led to the cells.
The pair – a couple for 15 years – both regarded themselves as parents to Lauren and two other children are now being looked after under social work supervision.