As Sophie Jones’ parents wait to be sentenced Rob Devey spoke to neighbours on the street where the family lived – and found they are still coming to terms with events
On a blustery wet November morning, Jameson Street appears just like any other terraced street in Blackpool.
It is unassuming, and difficult to imagine that only eight months ago, behind the white door of a home in the middle of this small street, a two-year-old girl drank what proved to be a lethal dose of the heroin substitute methadone.
Today the house stands empty.
It is respectable-looking apart from what is apparently some relatively recent graffiti daubed in orange - some initials, not obviously relating to the family, and quite inappropriately, a smiley face.
Behind other doors on this street are friendly people, but there are few smiles when they relive the circumstances behind Sophie Jones’ awful death.
It seems neighbours are still struggling to get their heads around how it could have happened.
Sophie’s death is described variously as ‘unimaginable’, a ‘disgrace’, ‘a crazy, ridiculous thing’ and a ‘tragic thing that has gone wrong’.
The people have still unanswered questions. How could anyone put a drug in a child’s Tom and Jerry cup? Was it intended that Sophie should have drunk some of the substance? Was it a tragic accident? Why weren’t social services involved?
Dad-of-two, and neighbour, Adrian Walenciej, is haunted by what happened.
He says he blames himself for not contacting Blackpool Council about the circumstances in which Sophie’s family were living. “I don’t think social services were involved and that concerned me,” says the 32-year-old bar worker.
“How can there be two drug addicts with two kids and no supervision?
“I’m blaming myself, thinking I could have done something and called the council.
“I’ll always think if I had done something she could still be here, but what they did is unimaginable.
“I thought they were drinking or something but I didn’t know the mum was dealing methadone.”
Adrian says he formed a poor first impression of Michelle King when he introduced himself after moving to the area last year.
“She turned around and walked off,” he says. “I only spoke to the couple on a couple of occasions.
“On one of those they were waiting outside for me to get back home from work because they wanted to borrow a lead extension to get some electricity.
“It was around midnight in the middle of November but Sophie was with them in her pyjamas and as a dad I thought it can’t be right to have a little girl out at that time.”
Adrian says he heard “everything” through the walls, including arguments and a baby crying for nights on end.
On the night of Sophie’s death he says he had heard Michelle King scream.
“It was a terrible scream,” he says.
“She was shouting to her husband to call an ambulance and after that I heard noises behind the wall.
“After the ambulance had come and gone and the police arrived I knew something really bad must have happened.
“When I found out what the next day it was a shock.
“I’m a father and I couldn’t understand how they could let that happen.
“Accidents happen; a child can reach for medicine.
“But people started talking about this and they wondered whether it may not have been an accident.
“You hear about kids who are born with a drug addiction. Maybe they had tried giving her a bit of methadone to stop her crying before and it had worked? We don’t know what happened behind those walls, only they know.
“They should get quite a long sentence but nothing will bring their girl back.”
Another neighbour also tells how he would have expected social services to be involved. “I don’t know if they were involved but if they had known the circumstances surely they would have been and the girl could have been taken out of harm’s way,” he says.
“If social services didn’t know I suppose they should look at whether they could have communicated better with different people so they could have been told.”
Blackpool Council said there was no case open into the family at the time of Sophie’s death but a serious case review is now underway. The man adds that the area wasn’t as bad now as it was when he arrived six years ago – and that things had “gone quieter” since the tragic incident. “I had heard rumours about drug dealing but I didn’t know it was happening from their house,” he says.
“When the alleygate was shut at the back people used to climb over the wall near my house and I think those people may have been involved in dealing.
“It’s all gone quieter since the incident with the little girl.
“There’s nobody living in that house now, and people have left three or four other houses.”
Even now, one mum on the street can barely contain her anger at what happened.
“It was a disgrace,” she says. “They should be locked up for good. A child does not ask to be put in that situation. “You do wonder whether they meant for her to drink it but only they know exactly what happened. “I know a lot of people doing drugs around here but I did not know they were.”
The woman recalls going outside the day after the tragic incident and seeing police everywhere.
“People had put teddies outside the front door of the house,” she adds. “I put one there myself because I have children and can’t imagine how any mum could do that to her daughter.”