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Tragedy of Morningside schoolboy, four, who slowly starved to death as he clung to his mum’s dead body in their Hackney flat

PUBLISHED: 11:33 07 June 2017 | UPDATED: 11:33 07 June 2017

Tragedy: The corridor where the family lived. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

Tragedy: The corridor where the family lived. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

Archant

Neighbours of a four-year-old boy who starved to death after being left at home with his mother’s dead body for two weeks have spoken of their horror.

The Trelawney Estate in Hackney where the family was found dead. Picture: Emma Bartholomew The Trelawney Estate in Hackney where the family was found dead. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

They are still distressed they “could have helped and didn’t know”. they told the Gazette today.

Chadrack Mbala Mulo was found on October 20 with his arms wrapped around the decomposed body of his mum Esther Eketi-Mulo in their flat on the Trelawney Estate in Paragon Road.

He is believed to have died 48 hours earlier.

Chadrack, who was mute and autistic, was unable to raise the alarm after Esther died following an epileptic fit.

"I keep thinking to myself: ‘Did I hear him? Did I hear him next door?’ But he never spoke. Never. He just hid behind his mum and held onto her clothes. He couldn’t even call out or speak through the letterbox."

A neighbour who wished to remain anonymous

Now coroner Mary Hassell has urged ministers to take action on the system schools use to deal with unexpected absences to avoid similar deaths in the future.

One traumatised neighbour, a 35-year-old mother of two who did not wish to be named, said she thinks about the pair every night before she goes to sleep.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she told the Gazette through tears. “It has haunted me for a long time, that I could have helped, and I didn’t know.

“I have a little boy and [Chadrack] only just needed feeding and watering. He passed away because he was hungry, not because something happened to him.

“I keep thinking to myself: ‘Did I hear him? Did I hear him next door?’ But he never spoke. Never. He just hid behind his mum and held onto her clothes. He couldn’t even call out or speak through the letterbox.”

The windows were open but neighbours thought the smell in the flat was from the cooking of Ms Eketi-Mulo, who came from the Congo and had lived there about a year.

Staff at Morningside Primary became concerned about Chadrick, who they had not seen since September 30, in early October, but were unable to contact his mother or get in to the flat, which they visited twice.

Head Janet Taylor said the school followed its procedure for checking on children missing from school, and has since “worked closely with the authorities” to consider “what more schools can do in situations like this”.

“Chadrack’s tragic death has devastated all those who knew him at our school,” she said. “We will remember him as a happy little boy and the circumstances of his death are heartbreaking.”

Hassell raised concerns that school only had a number for Chadrick’s mother on file, and that staff waited three to five days before sending someone to their home.

Morningside has now changed its protocols and holds contact numbers for three adults on each child’s file, and sends staff to family homes immediately when they can’t reach someone by phone. They also call police immediately if they cannot gain entry.

But Hassell says it “seems unlikely” other schools in in the rest of England and Wales would have such a system in place.

Chair of the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Board, Jim Gamble, has also written to Timpson, calling for DfE guidance to be updated.

A serious case review conducted by the council aligns “with the issue identified by the Coroner about distinguishing between an attendance issue and a potential welfare issue,” said Gamble.

Minister of State for vulnerable children and families Edward Timpson must respond to the Coroner’s report by June 19.

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