Kane Mitchell's arrival in family home sparked spiral of violence
- Credit: CAMVS POLICE
A case review into the death of 12-week-old Teddie Michell points to a key moment in the story of his short life that occurred before he was even born.
His mother, Lucci Smith, 29, was living in a flat in Love's Farm, St Neots, with her other children when, in early 2019, her new partner, Kane Mitchel, moved in. He was a man with a violent past and a significant history of abusive behaviour towards partners and ex-partners.
He had criminal convictions resulting from his controlling, coercive and violent behaviour and when he moved in with Smith, who was already pregnant, he was on probation and seeking help for emotional control and anger management. He was also being treated for depression and anxiety and had been assessed as not being fit for work.
The review says his previous victims appear to have been vulnerable women, with children (including unborn children) who were also placed at risk.
The children of one previous partner had been subject to child protection planning because of his presence in the family. A former girlfriend would later tell police he would "just flip" and there had been violent incidents when he had strangled her and spat in her face.
Despite what was known about Mitchell, an assessment by a responsible officer was that this man "posed a medium risk to known women and children", according to the case review.
Shortly after he moved into the flat, neighbours began to report concerns after hearing arguments and loud thuds; they also heard Smith and her children crying. One neighbour recorded Mitchell shouting and screaming after a violent outburst in the street and later passed the recording to police so it could be used in evidence. This video featured in the 24 Hours in Police Custody programme.
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When Smith was questioned about the neighbours' concerns, the case review says "agencies" accepted her explanations that her neighbours were just being malicious. She claimed Mitchell was supportive.
But the review says, Mitchell's "arrival, status, and presence in the household, changed the dynamics, put the children and their mother at risk of significant harm", and ended with the tragic death of 'Stephen' [Teddie]."
The report went on: "A change of partner in pregnancy is a pivotal event. Such changes should engender professional curiosity and enquiry regarding the background, role, and status of men in the household."
The case review went on to say that prior to the arrival of Mitchell in the household, "it appears that no serious concerns about the family had been raised by those who knew them; either as service providers, or as members of the local community. School reported well-mannered, well presented, and polite children, with parents who engaged well with the school."
"The change in family dynamics when mother’s partner joined the household is one of the most important findings of this review. This change was perhaps best described by concerned neighbours, to an extent by a family member, and later by the siblings’ school. The building of the chronology exposes the events, the risks, and the opportunities to improve the response to domestic abuse and concerns about the children."
The review found that the initial responses to concerns of domestic abuse and the welfare of the children were "not sufficiently robust".
"This is because the known risks at this time included mother’s pregnancy, the involvement of family and neighbours in raising concerns, the young age of the siblings, and the, then, new partner’s history and criminal convictions as a perpetrator of serious domestic abuse.
"Further concerns from neighbours raised shortly after 'Stephen’s' birth did not change the agency response from the ‘early help offer’, despite the additional stressor of a new baby in the family. Whilst continued attempts were made to contact mother, including sending a letter, the case was ‘NFA’ (no further action)."