Debbie Leitch's dad vows to fight 'inappropriate' nine year sentence for killer mum who starved the disabled 24-year-old to death

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The dad of Debbie Leitch, who was starved to death in a filthy, faeces-covered room, has vowed to fight for justice as her killer could walk free from prison in just six years time.

Elaine Clarke, 49, of Garden Terrace, South Shore, 'bought herself handbags and shoes' while daughter Debbie wasted away in a dark room covered in dirty nappies and empty takeaway boxes.

The vulnerable 24-year-old, who had Down's Syndrome, weighed just 3st 10lbs and was so covered in a severe scabies infection that emergency services could not recognise her as female when she was found dead on August 29, 2019.

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'Lazy and selfish' Blackpool mum starved disabled daughter to death in dark, fae...
Victim: Debbie LeitchVictim: Debbie Leitch
Victim: Debbie Leitch

Clarke was sentenced to nine years and seven months in prison after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of her daughter in court on February 24. She must serve at least two thirds of her prison sentence before she is eligible for parole, meaning she could be released as early as May 2028.

Debbie’s father, Tom Leitch, 54, has promised to fight the ‘inappropriate’ sentence, and has arranged a meeting with his local MP, Sally-Ann Hart, in Hastings this Friday.

"I’m not happy with the sentence. You know as well as I do the pain she caused to Debbie, and how long it was going on for. To say she should be allowed out in just six years is not appropriate. It’s not right,” he said.

Tom, who still lives in Hastings, had three children with Clarke before the couple split up in 1997, allegedly due to Clarke having an affair. She was given custody of Debbie and her sisters, while Tom was allowed to visit them.

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Killer: Elaine ClarkeKiller: Elaine Clarke
Killer: Elaine Clarke

“When social services decided to give Elaine custody, she did everything she could to stop me seeing them,” Tom said. “My personal opinion is that it was the wrong decision to give her custody in the first place. Elaine was never a fit mother, and I think that has been proven. I think social services should have to answer questions about why the mother should always be allowed to keep the children. That seems to be the unwritten rule – and look what has happened now.

"I actually appealed for custody of Debbie and her sister, but social services decided that with their backing and support Elaine could take care of them. This clearly wasn’t the case.”

In 2014, Clarke moved her family 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 they moved again to Blackpool, where Debbie no longer attended day care, and Clarke began receiving enhanced benefits for looking after her.

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Debbie's dad Tom LeitchDebbie's dad Tom Leitch
Debbie's dad Tom Leitch

The first signs of neglect appeared in April 2018, when Debbie was referred to Clifton Hospital in St Annes with a scabies skin infection.

Tom said: “I spoke to Debbie on the phone through September, October and November several times, and she said to me ‘Dad, is there any chance i can come back to Hastings and live with you’. I made the wrong decision, and I will regret it for the rest of my life.”

He told Debbie to wait until she turned 25, as he believed she would become homesick and want to return to her siblings in Blackpool.

“I wasn’t aware of what was going on,” he said. “If I had known what was going on, I would have jumped in my car and gone and got her. If she had told me what was happening, I would have stormed in there and said she’s coming with me. That’s something I will have to live with for the rest of my life.”

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On July 26 2019, Clarke's niece Sammy Muggeridge, visited Garden Terrace and found Debbie lying on a filthy mattress in a dark room which ‘smelled of death’. She warned Clarke that Debbie would die if she was not looked after, and reported her to social services.

A GP from Whitegate Health Centre paid a visit to the home later that day, and Clarke told him she was treating her daughter's skin infection with medication. He made arrangements to visit again on August 12, but when he arrived he was unable to gain access to the property.

Social workers who visited the house on a surprise visit in July were also refused access, and had to come back three days later.

Tom said: “Elaine is vicious. She has lied all her life to the professionals and everybody else, even her family. The sentence she got is like a slap in the face. It makes me angry, because I think: is that all my girl’s life was worth? Debbie deserved better than that.

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"Are they saying six years is an acceptable sentence for torturing somebody to death? Because that’s what she did.

"It’s not justice, and I want justice for Debbie. I’m going to try to fight for it. I don’t know if anyone will help me, but I have to try for Debbie’s sake.”

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