July 2011

middle class doctor couple who abused their three adopted children for a decade

As high-flying research scientists, they seemed the epitome of middle-class respectability.

So social workers were thrilled when Dr Nicholas Newcombe and his wife Dr Jill Newcombe-Buley, who appeared to live a picture-perfect lifestyle, chose to adopt three children.

But yesterday a damning Serious Case Review accused officials of failing to prevent the two brothers and their sister suffering a decade of abuse and neglect at the couple’s hands.

Professionals were condemned for missing ‘many opportunities’ to help the youngsters because they were swayed by the scientists’ social class and status.

Behind the door of the couple’s £450,000 home in leafy Cheshire, the two boys  and a girl – referred to as B, C, and D for legal reasons – were punched, slapped and smothered.

Newcombe-Buley, a 45-year-old chemist, stamped on one child with a stiletto heel and hit another over the head with a dustbin lid.

She was jailed for four years in October after admitting 15 counts of assault and child neglect.

Research scientist Dr Newcombe-Buley was sent to prison for four years for the abuse of the children she adopted

Her 43-year-old husband, who pleaded guilty to neglect by not reporting his wife, was given a 12-month suspended sentence.

The review concluded that Stoke-on-Trent Social Services should have prevented the abuse, and did not act when Child B desperately tried to expose it.

Tragically, the vulnerable children had been ‘rescued’ from drug-addicted parents.

However, social workers failed to look into important aspects of their adoptive parents’ lives – including work pressures, lack of experience with children and the fact that they had never lived together – according to the review by Cheshire East Local Safeguarding Children Board.

Report author Chris Brabbs said the youngsters were failed by social services, teachers and the police.

‘They went from being ‘rescued’ from the exposure to significant harm within their birth family only to end up being placed in another abusive situation where they  were subjected to repeated and systematic physical abuse, emotional harm and neglect,’ he wrote.

‘The conclusion of this Serious Case Review was that at various stages over the ten years, the  abuse was both predictable and preventable.’

He added: ‘The adoption panel allowed itself to be sucked into the attractiveness of the fact that these applicants were offering a rare and highly sought-after commodity – a willingness to take a sibling group of three.

‘Their approach was affected by perceptions and assumptions made regarding the parents’ social class, professional status, and high academic qualifications, and the attitude of M and F (Mr and Mrs Newcombe) towards them.’

After a placement in November 1999, there was no re-evaluation until the children were formally adopted in June 2001, and little agency involvement afterwards. Four schools they attended also failed to report evidence of abuse.

unities to investigate, and Child B was often taken home against his wishes and without being interviewed, the report found.

This may have led to the children believing it would be better to endure the abuse in silence.

Their ordeal was revealed only in September 2009 when Child B was taken to hospital after being assaulted by another youngster.

He did not want to go home and the intervention of a consultant paediatrician exposed the abuse.

Dr Newcombe, associate director of global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, wrote that the couple and children were ‘badly let down’ by Stoke-on-Trent Social Services.

David Mellor, the board’s chairman, apologised to the children.

‘One of the children repeatedly tried to report the abuse, which all the siblings suffered, to social workers and police,’ he said. ‘Time and time again they were let down.’

He added: ‘I would stress that the children are now safe, being protected and helped to recover from their terrible ordeal. We want all children … to be reassured that when anyone comes to us for help in the future, they will be listened to and appropriate action will be taken.’