November 2007

Addicts jailed over baby’s death

Two crack addicts have been jailed for five years over the death of their 10-month-old son.

Neo Craig died from a punch to the stomach that caused fatal internal bleeding, the Old Bailey heard.

The baby lay dead for several hours before emergency crews were called to Rush Green Gardens in Romford, Essex, in December 2006.

Sharma Dookhooah, 25, and James Craig, 26, both drug users, admitted causing or allowing the death of a child.

Judge Richard Hone told Dookhooah and Craig, who pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing, they were both equally culpable for Neo’s death.

“Such was the depth of your addiction that you put your own irresponsible and degrading lifestyle above the interests of your child,” he said.

“I do accept that you both did care for him and in your peculiar ways loved him, but the bitter truth is that you loved your crack cocaine more.”

The judge listed 10 occasions on which the baby was found to have suffered bruises, scratching and other injuries.

“This litany of injuries illustrates that Neo’s short life was one of unexplained and suspect bruises and injuries,” he said.

Dookhooah, who worked as a carer in an old people’s home, was spending a £60,000 inheritance on a £250 a day crack habit for her and Craig, the court heard.

Despite being on the “at risk” register, social workers failed to detect injuries on a visit two months before Neo’s death because he was covered in baby powder.

A post-mortem test showed that as well as his fatal injury he had suffered rib fractures and bruising and his head hair tested positive for cocaine.

‘Chaotic home life’

Craig admitted lashing out with a “clenched fist” at his girlfriend while she was holding Neo during a row on 24 December 2006.

“Sharma Dookhooah moved slightly and the blow impacted on Neo,” said Richard Whittam, prosecuting, during the trial.

The pair were also banned from working with children for five years.

A serious case review by the Havering Safeguarding Children Board found Neo’s parents had tried to hide his injuries.

The board said: “Neo’s home life was chaotic and his parents deliberately set out to deceive and confound the various child protection agencies in the lead-up to his death.”

The board has introduced a series of measures to strengthen child protection services including extra drug awareness training for social workers.