Hannah Leonard: Murdered mother was failed by care system, report finds

Hannah Leonard had been a victim of cuckooing

Thursday, 4th November 2021 — By Tom Foot


Hannah Leonard died after 55 knife and scissor stab wounds

A VULNERABLE woman who was brutally murdered in her flat was let down by a flawed system that failed to take responsibility for her, a report has found.

The body of Hannah Leonard, who had been a victim of “cuckooing” – when a person’s home is taken over, often by drug dealers – was discovered in February 2018 by builders who were stripping dangerous cladding off her home in Bray tower on the Chalcots estate.

She had 55 knife and scissor stab wounds and the shoe-print of her killer, a woman she had met in a pub, was found on her face.

A 40-page, in-depth adult safeguarding review has revealed how various departments “failed to share responsibility” for Ms Leonard.

The 55-year-old was suffering from an incurable disease and had become known as a “repeat caller” to the emergency services.

There had been too much focus by the NHS and local authority on her alcoholism at the “expense” of her mental health needs, the report suggested.

“The system failed to piece together the jigsaw,” the report said, adding that the set-up was vulnerable to miscommunication, administrative errors and could allow a case to fall through the gaps.

Ms Leonard was traumatised by the Chalcots fire safety evacuation

The review, which was mentioned in an annual report discussed by councillors this week, has recommended social services and emergency services com­bine better in the future when faced with complex cases.

Ms Leonard had in 2016 fallen into a fortnightly pattern of binge drinking, depression and suicidal thoughts.

She made dozens of 999 calls, including on one night when she threatened to jump from a window of her home, leading to “a night-long deployment of emergency services and an out-of-hours GP”, the report said.

In another example, she had reported a sexual assault outside her flats and that a man was in her flat aggressively asking for sex. She also complained of chest and leg pain to paramedics.

“Hannah was known to health and social care services in Camden and was a frequent caller to emergency services,” the report added.

“She had a diagnosis of Huntington’s disease, recurrent depressive disorder, and was known to use alcohol.”

She had reported a series of falls at home before her death in 2018. Despite her calls to the emergency services, the NHS and the council, she did not meet the criteria “for a social care response”, the report said.

The review specifically focuses on a flaw that can leave vulnerable people denied help, which they are legally entitled to under the Care Act, because they are also regularly intoxicated with alcohol.

The report said: “The organisational view seemed to have settled: Hannah was making decisions to drink alcohol, was making decisions about risk, and that she could therefore protect herself from the adverse effects of both.

“Hannah may well have had mental capacity in relation to patterns of alcohol use and social risk-taking, however, it would appear there was sufficient concern about this to have been more fully assessed.”

Ms Leonard had grown up in the Irish care system and had been a victim of sexual abuse and childhood trauma. But the care “system” in Camden had “demonstrated a limited understanding of her adverse childhood experiences”, the report said.

In June 2017 the Chalcots tower blocks were evacuated over fire safety fears, affecting hundreds of residents.

This caused a “tremendous disruption” to Ms Leonard and may have affected her drinking and access to anti-psychotic medication, the report said.

“Due to the unprecedented scale of the evacuation, Hannah’s GP surgery was unable to support her while she resided temporarily in another area,” it added.

“This was a traumatic time for Hannah and may have contributed to her use of alcohol as a coping mechanism.”

A review of Ms Leonard’s death was launched in 2019. A series of recommendations were made including better training of social workers and a need “for the system to consider the whole person”.

Lucy Casey was convicted of murder

“Health, social care, and emergency services needed to work together, sharing their own experiences to offer Hannah a holistic service that was as unique as she was.”

The report said her daughter had “demonstrated compassion and understand­ing” throughout the process and had a “genuine wish for organisations to heed the lessons of Hannah’s cases and make changes to practice to ensure that lessons are learned”, the report said.

In a statement, the independent chair of Camden Safeguarding Adults Partner­ship Board, James Reilly, said: “On behalf of Camden’s Safeguarding Adults Partnership Board, I express our sincere condolences to Hannah’s daughter and family. My thanks to her for her contributions to this Safeguarding Adult Review and to the partner agencies who also participated.

“Our Board appreciates the clarity of the comprehensive report and we are committed to fully considering his findings and to improving our future responses to become demonstrably more holistic, informed, proactive and integrated in keeping with the recommendations of this Safeguarding Adult Review.”

Hannah met killer in pub

LUCY Casey, from Kilburn, was convicted of murdering Hannah Leonard in 2018. The 43-year-old had met Ms Leonard in the Sir Colin Campbell pub in Kilburn High Road before going back to her home in Bray tower with a man.

After she was sentenced, Ms Leonard’s daughter Caroline Snowling said there had been a lack of professional support for her and her family following the tragedy. Ms Leonard, who was born in Cork, Ireland, moved to London in the 1980s.

Ms Snowling described her as a “true Irish lady” who was “a very strong and independent woman who loved her community”.

At the time of her mother’s death, she asked for floral tributes to be left outside her door at number 73, adding: “I know for sure that she was known in the community and loved. “She was really sentimental about things and I know she’d like them at her door.

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