'Missed opportunities' to protect Poppy, four, from 'blighted' life

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A number of "missed opportunities" to better protect a four-year-old girl who was allowed to eat drugs for months before her death have been identified in a review of agencies' involvement in her life.

Michala Pyke, 38, and John Rytting, 40, were both jailed for 13 years at Hull Crown Court on Thursday for child cruelty and drugs offences following the death of Pyke's daughter, Poppy Widdison, in 2013.

A judge found Pyke had fed Poppy sedatives to "subdue and sedate her" to allow Pyke and Rytting to indulge their own "squalid passion" as they plunged the youngster into "a mire of drugs and utter degradation".

But prosecutors did not charge the pair with any offences relating directly to Poppy's death.

A serious case review which examined the family's involvement with a range of agencies concluded: "This review has enabled multi-agency professionals to reflect on how (Pyke) managed to mislead professionals with apparent ease.

"The review has also shown more disturbingly, however, that despite the significant history known to various agencies, no single practitioner or service knew what life was like for (Poppy) or the extent to which she was exposed to risk and harm on a daily basis."

It identified "a number of missed opportunities to better protect (Poppy)" before she was born and in the period after.

The review described how social services were involved with Poppy through a child in need plan for 13 months following her birth.

Social workers got involved with her life again when she was three years old, it said.

It said there were two referrals to children's social care between these involvements - one was labelled a serious domestic abuse incident when Poppy's father waved a chainsaw around in front of Pyke and their daughter.

Another was when a family member reported concerns that (Pyke) "was smoking cannabis, was lying in bed whilst (Poppy) was left alone and was using hairspray and perfume on (Poppy)".

The review said the social worker was told by a drugs intervention project that (Pyke) was doing well in a recovery programme and they were not concerned.

It said: "A decision for no further action was made based on 'no further evidence to substantiate the allegations'."

It added: "The review found that practitioners adopted a mind-set of wanting evidence in support of allegations before acting rather than searching for evidence to refute the allegations before dismissing their validity."

Poppy died in June 2013 after suffering a cardiac arrest at Rytting's Grimsby home, where prescription and controlled drugs were "left lying around".

A post-mortem examination could not establish a cause of death but toxicology tests carried out on her blood and hair found various drugs, and showed the young girl had been exposed to and had ingested significant amounts of heroin and methadone for a period of between two and six months before her death.

Judge Jeremy Richardson QC said on Thursday Pyke was "utterly unfit to be a mother" and saw her daughter as an "inconvenience" in her relationship with Rytting.

He found Pyke had fed Poppy sedatives to "subdue and sedate her" to allow Pyke and Rytting to indulge their own "squalid passion".

Judge Richardson said to the pair: "You both bear huge responsibility for blighting the life of a pretty, vivacious little girl."

The judge said Poppy was born a heroin addict and suggested Pyke even named her in reference to the drug.

He said the family "existed in the swamp of drug addiction and drug peddling".