Murder of toddler Ashley Johnson could not have been 'predicted or prevented'
THE brutal murder of a toddler who was killed by his mother's boyfriend could not have been 'predicted or prevented', a report reveals today.
Scott Hepburn had been left alone with little Ashley Johnson when he 'flipped' because the 18-month-old youngster would not stop crying.
The 33-year-old – who is now serving a life sentence for murder – threw the boy on the floor and twice smashed his head against a wall.
Hepburn then coolly covered up the crime by putting Ashley back into his cot, pretending to the boy's mother he was just sleepy. It was only when Samantha Knox later discovered her son was not breathing that the emergency services were alerted.
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Paramedics arrived at the home in Woodgate Street, Meir, but were unable to save him.
Now a serious case review into Ashley's death on January 27 last year has been published by Stoke-on-Trent Safeguarding Children Board.
It has revealed how Ms Knox had fled from Sandwell back to her native Stoke-on-Trent to escape an abusive relationship.
Ashley had been 'born into a household where 'escalating domestic abuse' had taken place and he witnessed some of the violence firsthand.
But Jackie Carnell, independent chairman of the safeguarding board, said: "After moving back to Stoke-on-Trent, everyone assumed that the risk was removed.
"The father had a court order not to contact the family."
Months later, Ms Knox started another relationship after getting in touch with Hepburn, of Fenpark Road, Fenton, who she knew from school, through Facebook.
Ms Carnell said: "There was no way the actual incident could have been predicted or prevented. I'm absolutely 100 per cent sure of that.
"Could some issues have been improved? Yes. There are recommendations being acted on.
"The most important lesson is that, with low-level domestic violence, the risk to the whole family is assessed."
It was decided that even if Ashley had been identified as at risk of abuse, Ms Knox's relationship with Hepburn would not have 'raised alarm bells' because he had no history of violence.
"It's absolutely tragic," added Ms Carnell.
But the report today called for agencies to tighten up their procedures.
It states: "There were delays in transferring data, a lack of professional curiosity, a lack of lateral checks particularly across local authority boundaries, and a failure to take a holistic approach in respect of assessing the welfare and safety of all the children in the family."
'It's too late, the boy is dead': See Page 4