Boy, 4, died alone in Hackney flat two weeks after mother’s death
Coroner calls for changes in how schools treat cases of absent children following tragic death of Chadrack Mulo.
A four-year-old boy, who was unable to call for help or feed himself, starved to death two weeks after his mother collapsed and died suddenly in the flat they shared, a coroner has said. Chadrack Mulo was found clinging to his mother’s body about two days after his own death.
The child’s teachers became concerned when he did not turn up for school. They tried to call and visited the family’s home, in Hackney in east London, twice but could not get in, the inquest into his death found.
“The likelihood is that Chadrack lived alone in the family home for over a fortnight after his mother’s death. He was found a couple of days after his own death, with his arms around her body. She was by then very decomposed,” the coroner, Mary Hassell, said.
She said that Chadrack’s mother, Esther Eketi-Mulo, died suddenly after an epileptic fit at some point in the first few days of October last year. Chadrack, who the coroner said had learning difficulties and had autism spectrum disorder, was alone in the flat with his mother’s body thereafter and was unable to look after himself. “He died a fortnight later of dehydration and starvation. He was then found within approximately 48 hours,” Hassell, based at St Pancras coroner’s court in north London, said.
Justin King, who lived next door to the family, said: “It is so sad. It makes me so upset when I think I could have been his saviour, but I just didn’t think anything was wrong.”
The Marie Curie nurse told the London Evening Standard that he was on holiday visiting family in Africa with his wife and baby daughter when the incident occurred.
“Esther seemed a lovely, kind woman and her son was very sweet. But they were withdrawn as a family and to not hear from them didn’t seem strange. We hardly interacted with them and it was normal for us to sometimes not see or hear them.
“I wish I had thought more of not seeing them and been able to save his life. I did not hear the cries of the child and he could not raise the alarm.”
In a report to the children’s minister, Edward Timpson, the coroner said she feared more people could die in similar circumstances unless action was taken.
She highlighted a string of changes that had taken place in order to avoid a similar situation arising again. “If a child unexpectedly fails to attend and no relevant adult can be contacted via phone, staff at the school do not now wait three to five days as they did then, but instead immediately send a member of staff to the family home.
“They now make a distinction between an attendance issue that may warrant a penalty (not the case for Chadrack because he was under the age of five years) and a potential welfare issue,” Hassell wrote in her report.
“If there is no answer at the family home when staff members attend, they now immediately contact the police, who in most cases are likely to force entry.”
She added that Chadrack’s east London school now collects phone numbers for three family members, rather than just one.
She commended the school for changing its systems to no longer wait three to five days to visit the home of a child who missed school unexpectedly but said it was unlikely that others have similar systems and called on the government to take action.