Carers visited home where Debbie Leitch was starved to death on daily basis - and heard vulnerable 24-year-old crying in her room

A disabled woman who was starved to death by her 'lazy and selfish' mum had carers going in and out of her South Shore home on a daily basis.

By Wes Holmes
Monday, 28th February 2022, 12:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 1st March 2022, 10:34 am

Carers from Cherish UK, on commission from Blackpool Council, attended the house Debbie Leitch shared with killer mum Elaine Clarke and often heard the vulnerable 24-year-old crying in her bedroom.

Despite this, no attempt was ever made to check on her, and no concerns were reported.

A Cherish UK spokesman said: "It is company policy not to release any information about our clients or their family, whether we are currently supporting them or not... we must maintain strict confidentiality and adherence to GDPR regulations.

Debbie Leitch was left to die by her mum, Elaine Clarke

Read More

Read More
'Lazy and selfish' Blackpool mum starved disabled daughter to death in dark, fae...

"We are commissioned by the Council to provide care services. We work with the Council’s social care teams and if we have any concerns about a client or the home environment, we raise this directly with the social workers or safeguarding teams, if appropriate."

Debbie, who had Down's Syndrome, was found dead in a dark, faeces-covered bedroom on August 29 2019. She weighed just 3st 10lbs, and was covered in a severe scabies skin infection that caused her face to be 'completely encrusted with scabs and thickened skin, such that she was no longer recognisable as being a young female'.

A post mortem gave her cause of death as 'severe emaciation and neglect with extensive and severe scabies skin infection'.

Clarke, 49, initially denied the unlawful killing of her daughter, but pleaded guilty to a charge of gross negligent manslaughter shortly before the case was due to go to trial. She was sentenced to nine years and seven months in prison at Preston Crown Court last week.

During the hearing, Judge Amanda Yip heard that Clarke and her family had been known to social services since the late 1990s, when concerns were first raised about her and her partners’ ability to look after her four children, all of whom had disabilities.

In 2014 the family moved to Leeds, where Debbie went to college, made friends and had a boyfriend. She was described by a support worker as ‘shy, but outgoing with people she got to know, and cheeky’.

In 2016 the family moved again to Blackpool, where Debbie no longer attended day care, and Clarke began receiving enhanced benefits for looking after her.

The first signs of neglect appeared in April 2018, when Debbie was referred to Clifton Hospital in St Annes with a scabies skin infection. A follow-up appointment was not kept, and the hospital made a safeguarding referral to adult social services, though Judge Yip said it was not known if any action was taken as a result.

In May 2018, Clarke asked for an assessment from the Adult Community Learning Disability Team to allow Debbie to access activities, but failed to attend multiple meetings to discuss this and the file was closed.

In autumn that year, social services visited Garden Terrace to check on Clarke’s other daughter and her son, and found ‘filthy’ living conditions. Another referral was made for Debbie to access activities, but Clarke failed to respond to attempts to contact her and the file was again closed.

The court also heard that carers from Cherish UK attended the home on to assist Clarke’s youngest son, who has mobility problems, on a daily basis up to and including the day of Debbie’s death.

Clarke told them her daughter was ‘attention seeking’.

The judge said: “In the days leading up to her death, a neighbour also heard Debbie crying and sobbing. She could be heard crying ‘mummy, mummy’. When the neighbour expressed concern, you told them your daughter had been unwell.

“In the week before Debbie’s death, your daughter’s partner saw her lying on the floor in her pyjamas. There was a terrible stench in the room and Debbie was described as being ‘skin and bone’.”

Blackpool Council confirmed that a safeguarding review of social services involved in Miss Leitch's case will now take place following the conclusion of the criminal proceedings.

Social workers had visited the house on Garden Terrace on July 2019 on a surprise visit, and were met by Clarke's other daughter who refused to let them in.

Later that day, Clarke called social services and told them Debbie was 'doing really well, was eating really well, and was spending time downstairs'.

Three days later, social workers attended on a pre-arranged visit, by which time Clarke had cleaned up her daughter and improved her 'filthy' home.

The judge said: "She looked unwell and very slight but the social workers were not alarmed. You told them that she was receiving treatment for scabies. They were due to visit again on September 2.

"In the meantime, carers were continuing to attend the house for your son. They could often hear Debbie crying but when they raised concern you were dismissive. You claimed Debbie was attention seeking."

Stephen Ashley, independent chair of the Blackpool Safeguarding Adults Board, said: “ A safeguarding adults review has been agreed in respect of this case, the learning from which will be published in due course.”

Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 per month for the first two months. Try us today by clicking HERE.