Police watchdog probes West Yorkshire officers over Star Hobson case

Police watchdog probes West Yorkshire officers who had contact with Star Hobson’s family before 16-month-old was murdered by her stepmother

  • Police saw bruises on Star during one visit to see Smith, 20 and Brockhill, 28
  • They went to see them twice before Brockhill murdered the little girl in 2020
  • IOPC is investigating whether any mistakes were made in police early contact 

Police officers who visited Star Hobson’s killers twice before she was murdered are under investigation by the force watchdog over if any mistakes were made.

West Yorkshire Police were told two times the little girl was being hurt by Frankie Smith, 20. and Samantha Brockhill, 28.

But the cruel pair lied to the authorities, despite officers at one point taking the child to hospital to see a doctor.

Brockhill was so cocky about getting away with her crimes she even gave permission to investigators to check her police record.

Weeks after Star’s death in September 2020 West Yorkshire Police referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct. 

Police saw bruises on Star during one visit to see Frankie Smith, 20 and Savannah Brockhill, 28

Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Swift of West Yorkshire Police, spoke to the media outside Bradford Crown Court after the guilty verdicts. He is not one of the officers investigated

Innocent Star Hobson was murdered under the watch of her own mother by her girlfriend

It began an investigation but it was paused for the trial of Brockhill and Smith to take place.

Now the court proceedings have concluded the IOPC has started it up again.

No officers have been suspended or placed on restricted duties while the probe takes place. 

An IOPC spokesperson said: ‘Our thoughts are with Star Hobson’s family, loved ones and all those affected by her tragic death. 

‘We began an independent investigation in October 2020 following a referral from West Yorkshire Police, due to the fact officers had contact with Star’s family prior to her death. 

Partners in death: Savannah Brockhill, 28 and Frankie Smith, 20, have both been convicted over killing Star Hobson

Babysitter Hollie Jones alerted social services but they told Frankie Smith they were coming

Children’s boss quit before trial began 

The Children’s Services boss in charge of Star’s care quit his £121,000-a-year post just days before Smith and Brockhill went on trial.

Mark Douglas became Bradford Council’s third Director of Children’s Services to quit within a turbulent three year period.

The department was rocked by an Ofsted report in 2018 which branded it ‘inadequate’ and said some children under its care were ‘at risk of serious harm.’

Michael Jameson quit as director soon after the report was released and he was succeeded by Gladys Rhodes White, who left less than a year later.

 On his arrival in May 2019, Mr Douglas, formerly Director of Children’s Social Care at Doncaster Children’s Services Trust, vowed to ‘develop good and outstanding services for the city and district.’ 

‘Our investigation, which will look at the police response to two reports Star suffered injuries in the months before her death in September 2020, was suspended while criminal proceedings took place.

‘Our investigation will resume once the trial has concluded.’  

Authorities including Bradford City Council’s social services were completely hoodwinked by Smith and Brockhill on five occasions.

All of them saw evidence of injuries on Star but naively swallowed their lines that she had hurt herself by accident.

One social worker was even present when the little girl was so dazed she walked into a sofa, but thought things seemed fine with the couple.

Just a week before self-styled ‘Number one psycho’ Brockhill murdered her, the council’s Children’s Services ruled a complaint about them had been made ‘maliciously’.

Police attended on January 26 last year after babysitter Hollie Jones alerted social services something was terribly wrong.

Two officers arrived but no concerns were raised when they spoke to the couple and their wider family.

The next time was on June 21 after seeing pictures of Star’s bruised face from her father Jordan Hobson.

Frankie Smith told them and social services the lie she had got them from falling into the handle of a coffee table.

Police have released a harrowing picture of one of the bruises on Star’s face that sparked calls to social services from family

Tragic 16-month-old Star Hobson who died from ‘utterly catastrophic’ injuries at her home in Keighley, West Yorkshire

A timeline of failures: How social services and police missed abuse of tragic Star

January 23, 2020 –  A referral from Smith’s friend and sometimes babysitter Hollie Jones went to social services.

She flagged up potential domestic violence issues and the fact Star was increasingly being left in her care.

Three days later police visited but there were no concerns raised. Social services tried to visit Smith on January 28 but she was not home.

Her family were spoken to and no problems were raised, so the case was closed on February 27.

May 5, 2020 – Star’s great-grandmother Anita Smith contacted social services over concerns over how the baby was being treated.

They visited but there were no bruises to either the baby or her mother.

Social services spoke to Frankie Smith and Brockhill and the latter gave them permission to do police checks on her.

June 21, 2020 –  Jordan Hobson, Star’s father, referred Smith and Brockhill to social services after seeing pictures the couple had shared of his daughter’s bruised face.

Police again visited their home and saw the markings on the baby’s head.

Smith told them Star had hit her head on the handle of a coffee table.

A medical examination found two bruises on her cheek and four on the back of her leg.

Smith and Brockhill’s explanation that they were from her playing with a puppy were believed.

June 23, 2020 – Social services were again contacted by Rachel Whiteley, a close friend of Smith’s mother Yvonne Spendley.

She had been concerned how Smith had treated Star at a barbecue, picking her up roughly.

Ms Whiteley said at the time: ‘I thought it was disgusting, giving her barbecue food, the way she handled her.’

Social services closed the case in July, it is not clear what was done.

September 2, 2020 –  Frank Smith – Star’s paternal great-grandfather – alerted social services to a video of Star with bruises on her face.

When they visited her, her mother was said to have been in Scotland.

The next day they went again unannounced and found her at home with Brockhill.

They noticed Star was so unsteady on her feet she walked into a sofa while they were there.

There were also bruises on her cheek and right shin but were told by Brockhill she had fallen down the stairs.

The murderer told police later what the social worker had said, adding: ‘Social services came to see Star, she checked her body, her bedroom, chatted with us about Star, she said the report was malicious.’

On September 15 social services closed the case, indeed concluding the referral had been ‘malicious’.

A week later Star was murdered.

They took her to hospital but a doctor said the explanation fitted with the wounds. 

Today it was revealed Brockhill wanted to shave off all of the little girl’s hair to make her into a ‘Gypsy baby’ in her own image, relatives revealed today.

The killer bouncer – who proudly called herself the ‘Number one psycho’ – fatally hurt the toddler by stamping or punching her stomach.

Brockhill had left school aged ten and the seven week murder trial heard she had come from a travelling background.

Relatives and friends contacted social services five times, but they swallowed the killer and Star’s mother’s lies that she was loved and cared for.

The little girl’s great-grandfather David Fawcett said this morning: ‘Savannah was slam-choking – some kind of move they do in kickboxing or karate or something – and she was throwing Star onto the bed, which was thought was a bit strange for an 11-month-old little girl to be doing.

‘Then a day or so later we got word she was going to shave all her hair off, she wanted to be like a gypsy baby, and she was holding her above her cot by one leg.

So that’s when Anita said ‘I’ve had enough, I’m going to ring the social services and try and get this sorted out’,’ he told GMB.

But devious Frankie Smith covered up the toddler’s bruises and injuries after social services tipped her off they were coming to visit.

Smith, 20, set about disguising the wounds she and murderer Savannah Brockhill inflicted on the baby girl with make-up. 

Then when the Bradford City Council social worker arrived at her Keighley home, she made babysitter Hollie Jones hold her to try and obscure their view.

Smith had no idea it had in fact been brave Hollie who had tried to save Star by tipping off the authorities in the first place in January 23 last year

She had acted after witnessing the chaotic scenes in the house and said this morning if social workers had turned up announce the baby might still be alive now.

Brockhill will be sentenced this afternoon for murder with Smith for causing or allowing Star’s death. 

Hollie said: ‘The social workers rang an hour beforehand just to tell them they were coming.

‘Frankie started cleaning Star, covering up bruises and things like that’.

‘She made me hold Star so that the social worker couldn’t really see much of what she was like.

‘Later they told me they visited and they have no concern.

‘That she’s safe with her mother, there’s nothing more that they can do and everything looks fine,’ she told the BBC.

‘It’s like ringing up a criminal an hour before and saying ‘I’m coming to get you’. It just doesn’t really make sense.

‘I think more things need to be put in place because parents that are abusing their children know how to cover it up.’ 

The Bradford Partnership, which includes the agencies which had contact with Star during her short life, said on Tuesday: ‘We need to fully understand why opportunities to better protect Star were missed.’

The safeguarding partnership said a review into the case will be published next year, but that it ‘deeply regrets’ that ‘not all the warning signs’ were spotted.

And Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchliffe said Star was ‘let down’.

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