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'House of hunger' children were withdrawn from school after tragic Khyra was 'bullied for wearing Muslim dress'

  • Social workers allegedly visited children once and never returned

  • MP demands full-scale inquiry into educational authority and social services

  • Neighbours angrily question why school did not raise the alarm

Last updated at 7:12 PM on 22nd May 2008

Tragic: Khyra, seen here in a family video. Her mother Angela Gordon, in the background, is serving food

"She spoke nicely to them and was really nice and patient.

"The only time her children used to play was when she was with them because they weren't really allowed outside unless she was there.

"I saw the birth dad at the house a few months ago but he left the house about two years ago and has remarried."

Today, fury at Khyra's death - and the role of Birmingham City Council's social services department continued to grow.

Labour MP Khalid Mahmood said he had been told an educational social worker went to the children's family home once but never returned.

Mr Mahmood is now calling for a full-scale inquiry by the City Council into how social workers could have missed the children's plight.

He told GMTV today: "Obviously, something has gone wrong somewhere.

"What I am calling for is Birmingham City Council to look at this, for the chief executive to review the procedures and come back and report to us and let us know what has gone wrong."

The MP for Birmingham Perry Barr has already accused both the local education authority and social services of ' huge incompetence'.

"It just beggars belief that we have allowed this to happen. I understand there was at least one visit by an education social worker after the children left school, but not one follow-up visit," he said last night.

"I find that an amazing dereliction of duty that they have not followed it through. There is some sort of structural failure here. It should not have been allowed to get to this stage.

"We have to be far more stringent with people who don't take their children to school.

"They appear to have allowed the children to disappear out of school, not even with a follow-up call to social services. I find it amazing that six children can go like this and nobody cares."

Child protection officials in Birmingham have so far refused to say whether the family were "known'" to them.

A City Council spokesman said: "We are deeply saddened by the death of this child and our sympathies go to the child's family and friends at this difficult time.

"This death is now the subject of a police inquiry and Birmingham City Council are fully supporting the investigation. We are therefore unable to make any further comment."

Paramedics were called to the house in the early hours of Saturday after they were told a girl was having breathing difficulties.

But after seeing the state of Khyra, her three brothers, aged 12, nine and eight, and two sisters, aged 11 and four, they called police. One paramedic was said to have been in tears.

Officers arrived to find the six starving children lying on mattresses in a bedroom on Saturday. All were seriously emaciated and Khrya died in hospital hours later.


Rescue: The back of the house where the six children were found by police

Khyra's mother Angela Gordon, 33, and her live-in boyfriend Junaid Abuhamza, 29, have appeared in court accused of neglect and been remanded in custody.

Court officials said they will face a second charge of causing or allowing the death of a child when they appear again next week.

Agonised questions are now being asked about how yet another child could have been allowed to die such an appalling death.

One neighbour who lives near to the family home said he thought the family must have moved because he had not seen them for so long and demanded that Khyra's school and authorities be investigated for their failure to notice anything was wrong.

He said: "You should really be tough on them at the school and the authorities because they are supposed to be looking after our children.

"I have a daughter at the same school and I asked them, 'Why didn't you do something about the children? If they weren't going to school, the school should have known why.

"The school should have known something. They couldn't tell me, they just said there will be an investigation."

He added that Khyra had been to his house two years ago for a party and stood out because she was "such a happy girl".

"She was positive and smiling and full of life, like children should be.


Home tutoring: Maths and English books lying on a window ledge at the family's home

Another resident, Lilian Costello, said: "I saw Miss Gordon on Christmas Eve and I wished her a Merry Christmas but she said she didn't celebrate it, she celebrated the Muslim Eid.

"I didn't see her again for another four months.

"When I saw her at the beginning of May, I asked her if she had moved and she said she was still living in the road.

"I asked how the children were and she said they were all right."

Mrs Costello added: "She seemed very devoted to the children. She used to let them come out to play with the other children and she always stood at the front of the house watching them."

Another neighbour, Mohammed Khalil, said he used to see some of the children in their uniforms on their way to the nearby Grove School in Handsworth but that he had not seen them for many months.

A Polish woman living nearby, who gave her name as Marta, said Miss Gordon had recently accused her of giving the children bread.

She said: "The mother was very angry. I told her nobody had given her anything.

"I can only think this poor girl had gone into our back garden and taken bread from the bird table."

The conditions of the other children are not said to be life threatening.


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