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Murder of Star Hobson: what happened to the toddler?

Star Hobson was 16 months old when she was murdered by Savannah Brockhill and social services were contacted five times before her death

The great-grandfather of murdered toddler Star Hobson has spoken of his anger that social workers’ investigation of her case was dropped a week before her death.

David Fawcett has spoken of his hope that lessons can be learned from the “pretty damning” results of a review into her death.

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Stars’ mother Frankie Smith, 20, was jailed last year for her role in the death of her 16-month-old daughter, who was killed by Smith’s former partner Savannah Brockhill.

Brockhill, a bouncer and security guard, was found guilty of murder, while Smith was found guilty of causing or allowing Star’s death and was sentenced to eight years in prison, later increased to 12 years.

Bradford Council later had children’s social services removed from its control and turned over to an independent trust.

What did the review say?

On Thursday, an investigation into Star’s death found Bradford’s children’s social services were “in turmoil” at the time, with a high turnover of social workers and a high volume of work affecting quality and contributing to “too superficial” reviews. and did not address repeated concerns from family members.

The Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel said an early opportunity to help Smith, who was 17 when she became pregnant, was missed because there was no antenatal health visit and midwife support for teenage pregnancy was not offered. since she was over 16 years old.

It also said domestic abuse between Brockhill and Smith, who met when Star was five months old, was not assessed because Smith was “not given enough space to disclose what happened to her.”

Brockhill, a bouncer and security guard, was found guilty of murder, while Smith was found guilty of causing or allowing Star’s death and was sentenced to eight years in prison, later increased to 12 years.

Bradford Council later had children’s social services removed from its control and turned over to an independent trust.

Savannah Brockhill and Frankie Smith.

What happened to Star Hobson?

Star died after being hospitalized in September 2020 after suffering “extremely catastrophic” and “unsurvivable” injuries at the hands of Brockhill.

Paramedics arrived at the home in Keighley, West Yorkshire, around 3.49pm on September 22 last year to find Star apparently lifeless, pale and wearing only a disposable diaper.

Star went into cardiac arrest and when they attempted CPR, Star vomited “large amounts” of brown material, and a suction device was used to remove it, the court heard.

She was taken to Airedale Hospital, just six minutes away, where doctors did everything possible to save her, but she was pronounced dead that afternoon.

Star Hobson

The injuries that caused Star’s death included extensive damage to her abdominal cavity, “caused by a severe and powerful blow or blows, either in the form of a punch, stomping, or kick to the abdomen.”

The jury also heard that there were other injuries to her body, meaning “Star had sustained a number of significant injuries at various times over the course of her short life.”

He said she was “repeatedly physically assaulted in the weeks and months leading up to her death.”

She was found to have two fractures to her right shin “caused by forcible twisting,” a fractured skull and an old brain injury, tests revealed.

He also described to Star a fracture at the back of the skull and bruising, “much of which is believed to be non-accidental in origin.”

The court also heard of a “slam choke” Brockhill used on Star, during which she was lifted off her feet, grabbed by the neck and thrown onto the bed.

What did Star’s great grandfather say?

Social services were contacted five times by concerned relatives and friends, with police also visiting the family.

Each time, the safety panel said, the couple convinced social workers that Star’s bruises were accidental or that the complaints were maliciously brought forward by friends and family members who didn’t like their relationship.

Star’s great-grandfather, David Fawcett, 62, said he felt vindicated when the report admitted that “Star’s wider family members were not heard.”

“Savannah Brockhill said it was malicious gossip and they believed her more than us,” Mr Fawcett said.

Mr Fawcett spoke of his anger when he learned that social workers’ investigation into Star’s case was dropped a week before her death.

“Reading between the lines, they didn’t have the manpower, so they had to close the case — it’s pretty devastating,” he said.

“The proposals they’ve made are positive because it’s about communication – that’s where Star failed, a lack of communication between different agencies.

“How it went before was pretty chaotic, but I’m optimistic that something can be done and lessons learned.”

He told the BBC: “We hope something comes out of this. We don’t want anything like Star to happen to other kids.

“We hope there will be changes for the better.”

Mr Fawcett said Smith himself was “failed” by social services

Mr Fawcett said he would visit Smith in prison and explain the contents of the report to her as she was “too upset”.

His partner Anita Smith, 70, called social workers in May 2020 after family members told her Brockhill was “choking” Star – picking her up by the throat and throwing her onto a bed.

He said: “When we made the transfer and they went to the house, they should have come to us first to understand why we did it.

“If we were allowed to go into the house that day, Star would have been with us today.”

Mr Fawcett said Smith is a “new mum and is struggling to come to terms with herself”.

“When she stayed with us, we had no problem with her. She got pregnant and she just fought.

“I don’t know how it came about – we were such a close-knit family.

“We’ve always all stuck together, and then someone like Savannah Brockhill just comes into your life and just causes absolute chaos.”

Who is Savannah Brockhill?

Savannah Brockhill called herself “Psycho” in a Snapchat video.

Savannah Brockhill was the partner of Star’s mother, Frankie Smith.

Bradford Crown Court heard Smith was 19 when Star was born on May 21, 2019, and was struggling as a new mom – she would live with her own mother, Yvonne Spendley, for a time after the birth.

Smith began seeing Brockhill when Star was about six months old after she split from Star’s father, Jordan Hobson.

They met when Brockhill was working as a door security in Bradford pubs where Smith drank.

Brockhill told the trial jury she identified as bisexual as a teenager and came out when she was 19.

Brockhill, who was sentenced to at least 25 years of life imprisonment, was also an avid amateur boxer.

In a Snapchat video, Brockhill warned people not to ask a girlfriend out for their girlfriend, saying Smith was dating the “number one psycho.”

A caption for the video reads, “I’m a psychopath when it comes to my girlfriend, and I wouldn’t mind putting someone in a chair for the rest of their lives if they even gave her the wrong look.”

Jurors heard the couple had a “toxic” relationship marked by arguments, breakups and reports of violence.

Smith’s family and friends have strongly denied the couple’s claims that they have made against them because they were a same-sex couple or because of Brockhill’s travel background.

In early February 2020, Star moved in with her great-grandparents after a tearful breakup.

What was said about the review?

Janice Hawkes, Independent Chair of the Bradford Partnership, said: “First and foremost, I would like to say that Star’s death should not have happened under such appalling circumstances and we are truly sorry that it happened.

“We know agencies have let Star down and we need to make things right.

“The release of this thorough and detailed independent review very clearly outlines the opportunities we missed on the ground to better protect Star.

“We have already taken steps to address this but we recognize that there is still work to be done and as a partnership we are fully committed to improving the safety of children across Bradford.”

Kersten England, Chief Executive of Bradford Council, said: “The murder of Star Hobson was appalling and harrowing and I am deeply sorry that opportunities to protect her from such cruel and despicable abuse have been missed.

“Our thoughts are and will always be with those who loved her.

“The expert report is difficult to read, but it is absolutely necessary that we understand in detail what went wrong.

“I accept the results and assure everyone that decisive action has been and will continue to be taken to strengthen our child protection processes and help ensure that a tragic case like this does not happen again.”

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