April 2006

Two life terms for family killer

A man has been given two life sentences for murdering his girlfriend and her six-year-old daughter.

Mark Nicholas, 30, admitted stabbing to death Nicole Batten, 33, and suffocating Ukleigha Batten-Froggatt, who was on a child protection register.

The bodies were found at their flat in Camden, north London, on 3 March, 2005. Nicholas, from Pembrokeshire, was told he must serve a minimum of 30 years.

An inquiry found no evidence of negligence by Camden agencies involved.

Nicholas began his relationship with Ms Batten in September 2004 and went to live with her and her daughter the following February after being released from prison for driving-related offences.

Benefits stolen

It was just a week later that the murders took place as Ms Batten tried to end the relationship.

Judge Paget said Nicholas had stabbed Ms Batten forcefully in the chest with a large kitchen knife.

“Mercifully she died within seconds. You then murdered her daughter, almost certainly by putting a cushion over her face,” he said.

After concerns were raised that Ukleigha had not been to school for more than a week, police forced their way into the flat in Ossulston Street where they discovered the bodies.

Nicholas later withdrew his dead girlfriend’s social security benefits and spent the money on heroin and crack cocaine.

He also acquired a car in which he intended to drive to Wales – but was arrested in Hackney, east London, six days after the killings.

It emerged in psychiatric reports that Nicholas suffered a dangerous and severe personality disorder and was a potential danger to any woman with whom he had a relationship.

It also became known that Ukleigha was on the child protection register following concerns about her mother’s lifestyle, in particular alleged heavy drinking.

An inquiry commissioned by the Camden Area Child Protection Committee found no evidence to suggest “that individual members of staff, or agencies were negligent or careless in carrying out their duties”.

It also found the two deaths could not have been anticipated and praised staff at Ukleigha’s school for their commitment to the family.

It did find, however, that Ms Batten’s alcohol problem could have been tackled more effectively and communication between police, Ms Batten’s health visitors, her GP and social services could have been improved.