Did she starve child?

The case... WAST­ING AWAY Why did her par­ents stand by and watch their girl die?

Chat - - Contents -

When lit­tle LeaSo­phie be­came a big sister, she strug­gled to get used to the idea. Like lots of young chil­dren, she found it dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand that she sud­denly had to share the attention of her par­ents Ni­cole and Ste­fan with a new baby.

Ac­cord­ing to her mother Ni­cole, Lea-so­phie be­came in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult.

She was only 5, but her mum said that she started be­ing stub­born, ag­gres­sive and re­bel­lious.

She’d throw her toys around, empty out cup­boards in a tem­per.

And, as part of her cry for attention, she also started re­fus­ing to eat.

Most par­ents would re­act to such be­hav­iour with love and com­pas­sion.

But Ni­cole, 24, and Ste­fan, 26, weren’t most par­ents.

Over the next two months, in the fam­ily’s at­tic apart­ment in the Ger­man city of Sch­w­erin, Lea-so­phie slowly starved to death, turn­ing to skin and bone.

As star­va­tion and de­hy­dra­tion took hold, she be­came un­able to walk and spent all her time in bed.

Her skin turned grey and her hair started fall­ing out.

Lea-so­phie de­vel­oped ag­o­nis­ing bed­sores that turned into bonedeep ul­cers.

By early Novem­ber 2007, LeaSo­phie’s body be­gan to shut down and she went into a state of hi­ber­na­tion.

She was dy­ing be­fore their eyes, yet still her par­ents did noth­ing.

Un­til, on the morn­ing of 20 Novem­ber 2007, Ste­fan called an am­bu­lance – hav­ing found Lea-so­phie un­re­spon­sive.

She was rushed to hospi­tal but there was noth­ing that could be done to save her and she died shortly af­ter­wards.

A post-mortem found that Lea-so­phie had died of star­va­tion, de­hy­dra­tion and ul­cers.

The coro­ner said her body had com­pletely run out of fat re­serves.

Her heart-mus­cle mass had shrunk by two-thirds and she weighed just 16lb – less than half the weight of a healthy 5-year-old.

The ex­pe­ri­enced doc­tors who fought to save Lea-so­phie’s life were stunned by the ex­treme na­ture of her in­juries.

‘We had never seen any­thing like that,’ said a se­nior con­sul­tant at the hospi­tal.

Shocked at the state of the ema­ci­ated lit­tle girl, doc­tors called the po­lice – and Ni­cole and Ste­fan were ar­rested, and charged with mur­der by omis­sion, and child abuse. In April 2008, the cou­ple faced trial at Sch­w­erin District Court. The court heard about Lea-so­phie’s ex­treme re­ac­tion to the birth of her baby brother. Her re­fusal to eat. But, in­stead of mak­ing meals to tempt the lit­tle girl into eat­ing, her par­ents sim­ply hadn’t fed her. At all. And, as they’d watched their child be­come thin­ner

Shocked, doc­tors called the po­lice...

and weaker, still they’d con­tin­ued to do noth­ing. The pros­e­cu­tion claimed that Ni­cole and Ste­fan’s ac­tions were de­lib­er­ately cruel. Were they some kind of twisted pun­ish­ment for Lea-so­phie’s stub­born­ness? The pros­e­cu­tion claimed that the cou­ple showed no emo­tion or pity for their daugh­ter – who, by then, spent ev­ery day in agony. They said that, rather than be­ing hor­ri­fied at their child’s dis­tress­ing con­di­tion, Ni­cole and Ste­fan seemed to be re­lieved that the lit­tle girl was out of their way. Not caus­ing them any prob­lems with her attention-seek­ing. It left Ni­cole free to fo­cus her time on her baby son and Ste­fan free to do what he loved most – play­ing vi­o­lent video games. In fact, as his daugh­ter faded and died be­fore his eyes, un­em­ployed Ste­fan was said to be busy try­ing to find a way to come up with some cash to buy a new TV. The court also heard how Ni­cole’s adop­tive par­ents had des­per­ately tried to help care for Lea-so­phie.

But Ni­cole and Ste­fan had turned them away, re­treat­ing within their own four walls.

Child Ser­vices had even been called on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions. And yet, it seems, noth­ing was done.

Psy­chi­atric as­sess­ments of Ni­cole and Ste­fan showed both had per­son­al­ity dis­or­ders.

Ste­fan was found to be deeply in­se­cure, in­ca­pable of feel­ing em­pa­thy.

Mean­while, ex­perts claimed that Ni­cole was a ‘spoiled dar­ling’ who had un­der­de­vel­oped self-es­teem.

Ac­cord­ing to the psy­chi­a­trists, when LeaSo­phie’s be­hav­iour be­came chal­leng­ing, her mother Ni­cole took it as a per­sonal at­tack.

They said she de­cided to let her daugh­ter fend for her­self as pun­ish­ment.

Yet Ni­cole and Ste­fan both de­nied mur­der. They claimed they hadn’t de­lib­er­ately let their daugh­ter starve to death.

‘We aren’t big eaters,’ Ni­cole said in her de­fence.

And she main­tained that she’d loved Lea-so­phie.

‘I was over­whelmed,’ she said. ‘I tried to per­suade her to eat.’

Ste­fan, too, said they sim­ply strug­gled to cope with a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion.

‘We were not bad par­ents,’ he in­sisted.

The cou­ple claimed they’d con­vinced them­selves that, when Lea-so­phie was hun­gry enough, she’d snap out of her silly mood and eat. They said that they’d hoped Lea-so­phie was eat­ing in se­cret to sus­tain her­self.

Ni­cole said they’d briefly con­sid­ered get­ting help from a doc­tor or health worker, but were too scared they’d get into trou­ble.

Or that their chil­dren would be taken into care.

So, in­stead, the cou­ple had done noth­ing. Ni­cole and Ste­fan’s lawyers in­sisted the cou­ple’s ac­tions weren’t de­lib­er­ately cruel.

They said that the dev­as­tated par­ents hoped un­til the end that their daugh­ter would eat again.

It was clear that Ni­cole and Ste­fan had watched their daugh­ter die a hor­ri­ble, painful death.

But were they, as the pros­e­cu­tion claimed, piti­less and emo­tion­less par­ents who had cru­elly killed their daugh­ter?

Or were they sim­ply a cou­ple who were over­whelmed, ashamed – too scared to seek help?

It was up to the judge to make the de­ci­sion...

Ni­cole and Ste­fan had per­son­al­ity dis­or­ders

Lea-so­phie’s par­ents, known only as Ni­cole G and Ste­fan T, were found guilty of child abuse and mur­der. They were each sen­tenced to 11 years, nine months in prison.

Judge Robert Pie­pel slammed them for deny­ing their daugh­ter help, which he said would have been so easy to get.

‘Both of the ac­cused stood by and did noth­ing while their own flesh and blood wasted away in mis­ery,’ he said.

Ni­cole con­tin­ued to weep through­out her sen­tenc­ing hear­ing and told the court she wanted to be a ‘good mother’.

She said her fail­ure to seek help for her lit­tle girl was un­for­giv­able.

‘I could have saved her,’ she sobbed.

Fam­ily flat The 5-year-old died in the at­tic apart­ment LEA-SO­PHIE: A ter­ri­ble end

MUM NI­COLE: Spoilt or scared? DAD STE­FAN: ‘We were not bad par­ents’

The cou­ple in court

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.