My Journey

From mind to paper and back again.

A Bump on the Head – End of Course Assignment.

on August 6, 2009

I’ll let you make your own mind up.

The television played another children’s programme as Ben sat watching; unmoving and unseeing on the sofa. Julie tidied the room around him singing along with the make believe characters as they followed the petty plot of sharing a toy through to the end of the show. As soon as one finished the next one started and she took no notice of the change, still singing the same song. The phone rang and disturbed her singing.

‘Hello?’

‘Is that Julie?’ A woman was on the other end of the line, concern oozed through her speech, the underlying emotion clear to all.

‘Who’s speaking?’

‘My names Louise, I’m calling from the nursery. We haven’t seen Ben for a few days and you hadn’t called to let us know that he wouldn’t be in. Is he okay?’

‘Oh sorry, he’s a little under the weather. I’m going to keep him off until he perks up a little.’

The worry dropped from Louise’s voice.

‘As long as he’s okay.’

Julie nodded, funny the other woman couldn’t see her but the reassurance was there.

‘Yes thank you.’

‘Okay, we’ll see you soon. Bye.’

‘Thank you for calling, bye.’

She replaced the receiver and began to tidy again. Moving things that had already been cleaned as well as things that had, Ben still stared at the television, his eyes glazed over and his body stiff.

‘Tea time soon son, I’ll go and get it started. What do you want? Pizza.’ She hardly paused for breath and didn’t wait for an answer as she left and went to put the tea on. Ben still didn’t move.

The nursery seemed quiet again, no Ben. He was the life of the group but he hadn’t been in for two weeks now. Surely if he was that poorly Julie would have called to let them know? Should she call them?

‘Do you think we should call Julie again, Ben’s been off for two weeks now and we haven’t even had a call to say what’s wrong?’ Louise asked as she paced across the staff room with a print out of the register.

Cammie shook her head and looked up. Her hair fell over her eyes and she scraped it back into her pony tail.

‘I don’t think you should, maybe we should contact the social workers?’ Cammie turned to the computer and started tapping on the keyboard. ‘Shit, I can’t find it. Who’s our child protection officer?’

‘Isn’t it Karl?’

‘I’m not sure. I think we should talk to someone though.’ She put down the register and went to the door. ‘My lunch break finishes in a minute or so. I’ll chat to Karl about it on my break.’

With that she shut the door and went back to the care room where the children were finishing up their dinner and lying down for their naps. Cammie turned back to the computer and re-entered the password onto the screen. She knew why Louise was worried, it wasn’t like Julie to just not come in with Ben, she always called if something was wrong; she called for the slightest cough or cold. Maybe they should call someone. Cammie resolved herself and went to see Karl.

‘Eat your tea sweetie, it’s getting cold.’ Julie pottered around the bedroom and then went for a bath. As she turned the tap, there was a knock at the door so she turned it off and went downstairs to see who was there. She wasn’t due any visitors that she knew of but she went to look anyway. ‘Who is it?’ She looked through the spy hole and didn’t recognise the two suits stood there.

‘My name is Anna Etain. I’m from social services. Can you open the door we need to speak with you please?’ Anna stepped nervously from side to side, if Julie didn’t open the door she would have to call for police back up, they needed to know that the child was safe.

‘What do you want?’

‘We just want to talk to you Miss Swain.’ The door opened slightly with the chain still attached. Two eyes peered expectantly around the door frame. ‘Can we come in Miss Swain, it won’t take long I promise.’ The door opened fully and the petite woman seemed to grow in size to fill the space where the door should have been.

‘Can I see some ID please?’

Anna promptly showed her a pass with identification on and also pulled her colleagues off him to show as well. Julie nodded and invited them in to the living room. As she took a seat on the sofa she noticed how clean the room was. Not a place where a child had been recently, no toys decorated the floor and no sign of a child ever having been there.

‘How can I help you, Anne was it?’ Julie asked as she offered them a biscuit.

‘Anna, we came to see Ben. There are some concerns that he hasn’t been to nursery because he’s poorly. Can we talk to him?’

‘He’s upstairs, he’s been very tired recently. He’s not really talked much. I’ll take you to his room.’ With that she stood up and bounced up the stairs. ‘Ben! There’s somebody here to see you. Ben!’ She turned back to the two social workers. ‘See what I mean Anna? He’s very quiet at the moment.’ She went into the bedroom and clicked her tongue. ‘You haven’t touched your tea Ben, it’s gone cold now.’

‘Could we have a moment with him Julie?’ Anna’s eyebrows furrowed as she glanced from Ben to the television and back to Julie. The young mum nodded and went back into the bathroom leaving the two social workers alone with her precious son. ‘Are you seeing this as well David?’ Her co-worker nodded.

Anna approached Ben with a half fearful and half expectant look on her face. The boy hadn’t moved since they walked through the door. He was pale and there was no noise in the room other than CBBC and Roley Mo the character reading a story about going to bed.

‘Phone the police. He’s gone.’ Anna picked up the cold wrist and felt how rigid he was. ‘He’s been gone a while, we need to talk to the mother.’

David nodded his head and dialled the number.

‘Police please.’

‘My name is David Barbara, I’m a social worker. We need assistance at a call out we’ve got, we arrived to find a little boy passed away.’ David gave the address and ended the call. ‘Let’s go and find her.’

The pair left the little boy set straight with the horrid stench of death looming around him. They found her in the bathroom running the bath.

‘Julie can we talk to you?’ Anna gently placed her hand on her shoulder and guided her back to the bathroom; David followed slightly behind ready to answer the door to the police. ‘Have you noticed anything different Julie? With Ben I mean?’

She sat down and shook her head before answering.

‘He’s been a little quiet but he is poorly.’

‘How long has he been poorly?’

‘About two weeks now, I can’t get him to eat or drink or even sleep. He just keeps watching C Beebies. I know all the songs off by heart now.’

David opened the door to the police quietly and explained about the young boy upstairs. Anna was still talking to Julie in the living room and the police carried out their duties calling for someone from the forensics department and also the mortuary to remove the body and assess the situation. Anna came out of the living room into a busy stairwell. A detective came over to introduce himself.

‘I’m Detective Byron Kane; I’m the lead detective on the case. I understand you have been talking to the deceased’s mother?’

‘Yes sir, she doesn’t even seem to realise that he’s passed. She keeps saying he’s poorly and that he’ll be better soon. She had even put tea out for him when we first arrived.’

‘We’re going to have to take her in for questioning. Can you and David come down to the station please; we’ll need to take a statement from both of you?’

‘Of course Detective.’

Anna collected her belongings and pulled her mobile phone out of her handbag to call work and let them know that they were going to the police station to give statements so would likely be out of the office all afternoon. Her manager said she would rearrange their appointments for them and hung up the phone to deal with the rearrangement of the staff rota while Anna sat and waited for Detective Kane to come back across to her to find out what he wanted them to do. As she waited, two men from the mortuary arrived to take Ben’s body away. She knew that he would have to have an autopsy to find out exactly what happened to him; such a shame for something so small to have to go through that. The stench as they carried him out was unbelievable and both Anna and David had to cover their nose and mouth to stop from heaving.

‘Ah, detective Kane, would you like us to go across to the station in our car and meet you there? I know you’re busy.’ Anna needed to get out of the house before she was physically sick. She needed some fresh air, well as fresh as you can get in a town centre.

‘That would be great Anna, thank you. I’ll call ahead for you so someone is there to take your statement. Unfortunately it looks like the forensics will be here a while. I need to take his mother into custody so won’t be able to take your statement myself.’

‘Not a problem detective. Although you might need a councillor for her, she doesn’t seem to even realise that he’s dead.’

He nodded as Anna and David stood to leave.

‘Thank you Anna.’

The station was busy with uniformed officers and detectives alike rushing from case to case. Julie didn’t know what to make of it, someone from the hospital had taken Ben, they’d make him better she was sure of it. They hadn’t told her why she was here, they hadn’t said much really. Anna had left the house with her colleague before the detective came into the room. She had offered him a cup of tea or coffee, to which he shook his head, and explained the Ben and had been taken to the hospital and they needed her to come to the station.

She agreed to go readily and within minutes she was in a cold room with little light and a recording machine in the corner.

‘Julie, do you know why we’re here?’ She shook her head. ‘What can you tell me about Ben?’

‘He’s poorly.’

At that point another woman walked into the room.

‘Julie this is Patricia, she’s going to sit in and listen. Is that okay?’ She nodded. ‘Now about Ben, when did he get poorly?’

‘About two weeks ago. He just stopped doing stuff, he hasn’t even eaten. I thought he was a little under the weather because he was cold, so I wrapped him up and put the television on for him to watch. He’s not done anything else since.’

Detective Kane nodded his head and looked at Patricia, she was the next to speak.

‘Julie, did anything happen to Ben to make him poorly? Did he trip or fall, or did you argue with him at all?’ Julie shook her head. ‘Tell me what you and Ben did on the day before he got poorly.’

Julie started to describe their day all the mundane family stuff pouring out, how he didn’t want to go to nursery, the argument about putting shoes on so she could go to work and him crying when she left him with the staff.

‘I hate leaving him when he gets upset like that but I had to go to work, what else could I do?’ She spread her hands across the desk inviting the detective and Patricia to answer.

‘Did anything happen in nursery? Did they tell you about any accidents?’ Detective Kane interjected.

‘I don’t remember.’ She shook her head. ‘I can’t think.’

‘Would you mind if I called the nursery and ask? They’ll be able to tell me won’t they?’

‘Yes that’s fine.’

‘Do you mind waiting here while I do it Julie?’

‘Not at all.’

Two hours later and Detective Kane had found out Ben had fallen off the play equipment in nursery on the last day he was there. He’d bumped his head but they hadn’t called an ambulance or even his mother but just given him a cold compress for five minutes. He’d had a call off the hospital as well from the autopsy team; the only injury they could find was a bleed to the head. It had caused him to eventually black out and he’d never come around from it. The nursery was at fault for his death, but his mother still didn’t want to accept that her little boy wasn’t poorly but was dead.

Kane called a police councillor to speak with Julie and explain to her exactly what had happened and then the nursery for a copy of their accident log. They faxed it to him straight away and he could see that the bump to the head that was recorded matched the same place that the autopsy team had found the bleed to the brain. The next thing to do was speak to the nursery staff; they would charge the people who dealt with the accident with a charge of Manslaughter at least. Mean while the councillor had arrived to speak to Julie, he could hear her sobs coming from the room she had been waiting in. No wonder she hadn’t accepted it, her little boy was gone.

‘Louise Ashbury I am arresting you in connection with the death of Benjamin Clayton. You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you may later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence. Do you understand?’

Louise shook her head, ashen grey. How could she have had anything to do with the little boy’s death? She didn’t even know he was dead. They bundled her into a car and took her to the station where Julie was coming to terms with the loss of her son. There were a lot of arrangements to make and she wasn’t going to be able to make them. The councillor had called her parents who were currently on their way across from the other side of town.

The desk Sergeant took her details and she was taken to a cell to await a police lawyer. The wait took its toll on Louise and she broke down, how could she fight this? She couldn’t see a way out, she didn’t know that Ben was poorly. She was the one that called to see if he was okay because he hadn’t been in nursery for two weeks, she was the one that had the social workers called. How could it be her fault?

An hour later the lawyer arrived ready to speak to her before the police took her statement; the Sergeant unlocked the door for him and left. As the door opened her body came into full view, swinging limply from the ceiling by a belt. It was the only way out she had seen, so she’d taken her own life to prevent it being smeared across the papers.

‘Sergeant!’

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