A mother accused doctors yesterday of ‘ignoring the obvious’ when they failed to alert police and social workers about abuse her daughter suffered before she was murdered.
Ella-Rose Clover, who died aged 22 months in January 2018, had been taken to hospital nine times in the previous seven months with bruising and internal injuries.
Her bruises included a black eye and marks to her ear and legs, and one occasion she required emergency surgery to her bowel.
But an inquest heard doctors believed there may have been a rare medical cause.
Now the trust that runs the hospitals where Ella-Rose was treated has admitted it should have raised the alarm two months before her death.
The toddler was put in the care of her godmother Sharleen Hughes while her mother Pagan Clover was at work.
Ella-Rose Clover, who died aged 22 months in January 2018, had been taken to hospital nine times in the previous seven months with bruising and internal injuries (pictured with her mother Pagan Clover)
Hughes’s partner Michael Wild (pictured), now 32, repeatedly beat and punched Ella-Rose. She died after he inflicted a blow to the stomach so serious it caused internal bleeding and cardiac arrest
The inquest heard from six doctors (five pictured) and surgeons who saw Ella-Rose at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and Wythenshawe Hospital, each of whom apologised or admitted they should have acted differently
Hughes’s partner Michael Wild, now 32, repeatedly beat and punched Ella-Rose.
She died after he inflicted a blow to the stomach so serious it caused internal bleeding and cardiac arrest.
Each time the little girl suffered serious unexplained bruising and was taken to hospital, she had been looked after by Hughes.
Her mother did not suspect Wild or Hughes and sought an explanation for the injuries from doctors, who said they were not deliberately inflicted, the inquest was told.
Independent experts told the inquest the injuries were clearly the result of abuse and the link should have been made as early as July 2017 when Ella-Rose was admitted to hospital with bruising.
Manchester Hospitals Foundation Trust accepted that it ‘should have alerted Greater Manchester Police and Manchester Children’s Services to a suspicion Ella’s life was at significant risk’.
After the four-day inquest at Manchester Coroner’s Court, assistant coroner Nick Stanage concluded yesterday: ‘The failings admitted to by the trust possibly caused or contributed to the unlawful killing of Ella-Rose.’
He said that had the trust alerted the authorities, ‘a chain of events could have resulted in the removal of Ella-Rose to a place of safety’.
The coroner found that at least two months before the murder, ‘the trust ought to have known that Ella Rose’s life was at significant risk from physical abuse at the hands of a criminal third party’.
At that point, Ella-Rose had been admitted to hospital with life-threatening internal injuries.
Murdered toddler Ella-Rose Cloveris pictured with a black eye
A Home Office pathologist said that she had struggled to think of any explanation other than non-accidental injury.
In a statement read to the coroner’s court by solicitor Diane Rostron, Ella-Rose’s mother Miss Clover said: ‘Doctors failed to see what was staring them in the face.
‘They chose to ignore the obvious and test for increasingly rarer diseases. As each test proved negative, they searched for another one.
‘Two junior doctors raised concerns about possible abuse but they were ignored and a consultant couldn’t even recognise a black eye when [a photograph] was presented to him in the inquest.
‘If they had done what they should have done, Ella would be alive today. There were so many opportunities to save Ella.’
Miss Clover, of Manchester, paid tribute to her ‘wonderful little girl’, recalling her smile and laughter and adding: ‘It tears me apart to think what Ella went through.’
The inquest heard from six doctors and surgeons who saw Ella-Rose at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and Wythenshawe Hospital, each of whom apologised or admitted they should have acted differently.
Stephen Hughes, a consultant immunologist, said he was ‘ashamed’, while Daniel Mattison, a consultant paediatrician, said: ‘I’m truly sorry.’
Heartbreaking photos show the extent of the injuries Wild caused little Ella-Rose, pictured here with severe bruising around her ear and on the side of her face
Other medics who admitted shortcomings included paediatricians Claire Wilkins and Asim Ahmed, and surgeon Ross Craigie.
Elspeth Rose, barrister for the hospital trust, said it accepted ‘gross failings’ were made but denied they had a ‘clear and direct’ link to Ella-Rose’s murder.
The girl’s family were angry the coroner decided against ruling that neglect contributed to her death.
Mr Stanage said he could find no evidence the abusive conduct would have stopped immediately had the hospital contacted police or social services, adding: ‘A number of potential obstacles could be put in the way of investigative processes – primarily, lying adults who may deceive investigators.’
But Miss Rostron said after the inquest that Ella-Rose had been subjected to continuing assaults ‘under the noses of nine consultants over seven months’.
She added: ‘The family utterly disagree with the findings on neglect. Ella has been failed in life and now she has been failed in death by this coroner’s court.
‘This was not a hidden child. Ella was at hospital so often with escalating injuries. Multiple medical professionals were presented with very obvious signs that this young girl was being abused.
‘They had a duty to escalate any suspicion that Ella’s injuries – including a black eye – may have been deliberately inflicted. Ella was let down with catastrophic consequence.
‘Hundreds of children are routinely saved from significant harm by the intervention of social workers and the police. Ella’s family maintain Ella would have been saved by a similar intervention.’
The family are planning to make a civil claim against Manchester Hospitals Foundation Trust.
Wild was jailed for life in June 2019 with a minimum term of 20 years after being convicted of murder.
Hughes was jailed for five years after being convicted of causing or allowing the death of a child, and two charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice.