September 2007

Seven missed chances to save boy tortured to death by sadistic stepmother

A toddler tortured by his stepmother was seen by a string of doctors in the weeks before his death but they failed to spot that he was being abused.

Talha Ikram was treated in hospital seven times for a broken leg but each time he was examined by a different medic.

He died in his cot in unbearable pain last September aged 16 months due to complications relating to another fracture.

Talha had a cigarette stubbed out on his skin, suffered three broken ribs and had his leg sliced open so the tendons could be seen.

Sumaira Parveen and Talha’s father, Abid Ikram, also broke his thigh and shin and left the injuries untreated so the bones ground together, causing Talha to scream out in agony.

A pathologist who examined his body said his injuries resembled those of a car accident victim.

Yesterday, 24-year-old Parveen and Abid Ikram, 30, were each jailed for nine years for causing or allowing Talha’s death.

Ikram was given a further year for perverting the course of justice by sending Parveen to Pakistan after Talha’s death.

Southwark Crown Court heard that Talha was placed with his father in Ealing, West London, after his mother Habibah became unable to care for him because of depression following her split from the boy’s father.

The catalogue of abuse began in January 2006 after Parveen began a relationship with Ikram and moved into his home.

She was jealous of Talha and instigated his torture in the hope that social services would remove him, the jury was told.

The boy was taken away from Ikram that March after Ealing social services, alerted by a friend, found him left at home alone lying on the living room floor while his father went out drinking with Parveen.

Talha was placed with foster parents where he thrived, learning to walk and say his first words.

But in what proved to be a catastrophic decision, a family court ruled that Talha should be returned to his father.

The boy went back to live with Ikram and Parveen at the end of June last year, by which time she had given birth to a daughter from a previous relationship.

A few weeks later, Talha’s foster carers visited him at home in Ealing.

He had a black eye and seemed “quiet” and unable to walk or move comfortably.

Parveen claimed he had fallen down the stairs.

After being urged to do so by the carers, Ikram took Talha to the casualty department at Ealing Hospital the next day.

Doctors diagnosed a broken shin and his leg was put in a cast.

They also noticed a black eye and bruises but did not spot the signs of abuse.

Talha returned six more times over apparent problems with his cast and on one occasion staff noticed a cut on the back of his leg.

But probably because he was seen by a different doctor each time, the alarm was not raised.

While lavishing love on her own daughter Parveen subjected Talha to weeks of abuse.

On one occasion, she ordered Ikram to beat him with a plastic cricket bat.

On September 6 last year Ikram called paramedics to say his son had stopped breathing.

His death was caused by one final brutal attack in which he is believed to have suffered the broken thigh and three broken ribs.

Ikram helped his lover flee to Pakistan while on bail.

She was arrested at Heathrow airport when she returned to the UK.

Both were cleared of murder and manslaughter but the jury found them guilty of causing or allowing Talha’s death.

Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith ordered that Parveen, who had her lover’s baby in prison, be deported to Pakistan after her sentence.

He said the final assault on Talha ? breaking a leg that had already been fractured ? “must have been a brutal attack by somebody intending to cause really serious harm to that poor child”.

He added: “You both know what really happened and to protect yourselves and each other have chosen not to tell the truth about it.”

A spokesman for Ealing Hospital said the “catastrophic injuries” which caused Talha’s death had not occurred when he was seen seven times at the A & E department.

“We did, of course, consider non-accidental injury,” he said. “His father was very plausible in offering reasons for the injury.

“We checked the child protection register and he wasn’t on that.”