Mikaeel Kular’s short life of just three years, it is now known, ended in terrible agony as he was beaten to death by his mother.
When it was thought that the little boy had just wandered away from his home in the Drylaw area of Edinburgh, his apparent disappearance prompted a huge wave of public concern. That concern turned to sorrow when his body was found, a sorrow that surely has returned following the public disclosure of his last moments after his mother Rosdeep Adekoya pleaded guilty to killing him.
When it was still believed that he had just disappeared, hundreds of volunteers turned out to assist the police in searching for him. It was an outpouring of public support and anxiety to help which is not often seen. It is also why there is such big public interest in the case.
It is now also known that Ms Adekoya and her family of five children had a troubled history, to such an extent that they were known to social services in Fife, where they had lived before moving to Edinburgh. Indeed, all of her children were taken from her care after she left them unattended while she went on a night out with friends.
Mikaeel and his twin sister were placed in long-term foster care and remained there for a year although Ms Adekoya remained in contact with them. Social workers returned the children to her just five months before Mikaeel’s death. Social services monitoring is said to have ended a month before tragedy struck.
In such circumstances it is right that Fife social services should hold a significant case review. Outsiders should not rush to judgment before that review comes to its findings.
Such snap judgments are easy to make with the benefit of hindsight. Ms Adekoya had a history of mental illness, but that on its own of course does not disqualify anyone from being able to look after children. Her internet searches reveal that she was having difficulty coping with the demands of motherhood and give hints that she was being violent towards them, but these are insights which are available only to criminal investigators and not to social workers.
Social workers are in a terribly difficult position, especially where children are concerned. They are often condemned for failing to intervene when a child’s death has occurred, and can be similarly condemned as interfering when they do remove children from parents.
According to what Ms Adekoya’s lawyer told the court, her behaviour in causing Mikaeel’s death was totally out of character. If that is correct, social workers may have had no clues that such a tragedy was likely to happen. The review, which should also examine what information was exchanged between Fife and Edinburgh social services, should clarify things. Let’s hope improvements can come out of this review.