Tracey Connelly, Stephen Barker and Jason Owen: The Death of Baby P

by Peter Stubley

The famous picture of baby Peter Connelly shows a happy, smiling boy with blond hair and blue eyes. But by the time of his death he had suffered some of the most appalling abuse ever heard in a British court.

His injuries included a fractured spine which left him paralysed from the waist down,eight fractured ribs, bite marks, missing finger- and toenails, and bruises to his forehead, cheek, nose, lips, chest, shin,lower back and right buttock.

The fifteen month-old boy had also been punched in the face so hard he had swallowed one of his front teeth.

He had already been dead for several hours when paramedics arrived at 37 Penshurt Road, Tottenham, north London, at 11.30am on August 3,2007.

As they tried to rush him to hospital, his mother Tracey Connelly, then 26, demanded the ambulance wait until she collected her cigarettes.

Her boyfriend Stephen Barker, 31, and his brother Jason Owen, 35, calmly stood at the front door, apparently unconcerned.

The investigation that followed would expose a series of shocking blunders by careworkers, doctors and police over the previous eight months.

HOUSE OF HORROR

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Mother of evil …Connolly

Born on 1 March, 2006, Peter was only three months old when his natural father walked out after the mother began an affair with Barker, a racist thug obsessed with Nazi memorabilia and pornography.

Shortly after the new lover moved into the family home in Finsbury Park, north London,Peter was seen with bruises and scratches on his skin on a visit to his GP Dr Jerome Ikwueke.

Tracey Connelly deflected any questions by claiming that the boy’s skin ‘bruised easily.’

But on December 11 Peter was taken to Whittington hospital with a head injury, bruising to the bridge of the nose, sternum, right shoulder and buttocks.

Asked about fingermarks on the boys body, the mother said they were from ‘holding him and throwing him up in the air.’

She also claimed that the boy liked ‘rough and tumble play’ when she was under police questioning on suspicion of assault.

Haringey social services placed Peter on the ‘at risk’ register and visited the family home to find it filthy and smelling of urine – but had no idea Barker was living at the house.

It was decided to let the child stay with Angela Godfrey, a churchgoing therapist and Tracey Connelly’s best friend, instead of a foster carer.

A month later on January 26, 2007, with no decision made on any charge against the mother, Peter was allowed back home.

The family was moved to a new flat in Penshurst Road, Tottenham, and Peter was visited regularly by social worker Maria Ward and health visitor Paulette Thomas.

Haringey Social Service accepted explanations from both Tracey Connelly and Angela Godfrey that the boy liked to ‘headbutt things.’

Gilly Christou,team manager at Haringey Social Services, reported at a review meeting in March that ‘he appears to have a high pain threshold.

‘ She added: ‘It is concerning he does not seem to react to danger or pain. Only his mother can stop him, he does not seem to stop himself.’

THE SECOND VISIT TO HOSPITAL

On April 9, Peter was taken to hospital with a large swelling to his head and bruises to his eyes and cheek.

Despite the injuries – which Connelly claimed were caused by another boy pushing him into a fireplace -doctors focused on treating the boy for possible symptoms of meningitis.

The mother later explained: ‘I had been told in March that if there were any more accidental injuries they were going to take him away.’

Social services took no action other than to buy the family a fireguard.

Then on June 1 the social worker made an unannounced visit to the home and found Peter with bruises under the chin and a red line under his eye.

Tracey Connelly claimed that another 18 month-old child had hit the boy during a squabble but was ordered to take him to hospital.

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Stephen Barker

An examination by doctors revealed more bruising in 12 different areas of his body including a ‘grip mark’ on his leg.

The mother was interviewed by police four days later but again released on bail for the second time.

Disregarding the mounting evidence, it was decided jointly by police and social services to allow Peter home on condition his care was supervised by Angela Godfrey.

The police officer investigating both assaults, DC Angela Slade, did at first object to returning the child but it was decided there was not enough evidence to start care proceedings.

Peter’s condition deteriorated even faster when Jason Owen and his 15 year-old girlfriend moved into the house in late June.

He lost weight and his scalp and ear infections became so bad that the childminder refused to look after him any more. His GP only prescribed anti-bacterial cream.

‘DADDY, DADDY, DADDY’

By the time Peter spent a night with his natural father, he had lost nails on his finger and toe.

The father,who cannot be named, told the court: ‘Peter had a bandage on his left hand, his head was shaven and scarred and he looked very thin and withdrawn.

Tracey said he had pulled off his finger nail. She didn’t seem that concerned.’

Fighting back tears, he told the court how he returned the boy to his mother the next day, Sunday July 30, adding:’As she walked away he screamed “daddy, daddy, daddy”, so much so that she brought him back so I could say goodbye. That was the last time I saw him.’

Later that day Tracey Connelly covered up Peter’s bruises with chocolate to fool the social worker during a scheduled visit.

The last chance to save Peter’s life came on August 1, when Dr Sabah Alzayyat examined him at the Child Development Clinic in St Anne’s Hospital, Tottenham.

She failed to spot his fractured ribs and ignored a series of bruises to his back and legs. Peter may even have already been paralysed by having his back snapped over a hard surface such as an adult knee or cot.

Dr Alzayyat later told the Old Bailey: ‘He didn’t look any different from any child with a common cold.’

The next day, August 2, 2007, Tracey Connelly was told the assault investigation against her was being dropped and offered a free trip to the seaside as a treat.

THE FINAL ASSAULT

Peter spent that evening face down in his cot, wrapped tightly in a blanket ‘like a cocoon’ while his mother and stepfather celebrated.

He was already dead when Tracey Connelly finally got out of bed at 11am.

Because Connelly, Barker and Owen all denied all knowledge of the abuse it was impossible to prove who caused the fatal injury to Peter.

Only the 15 year-old girl staying at the home admitted witnessing the attacks during the trial at the Old Bailey.

She said: ‘Stephen used to like hit Peter on the head and make him scream, and like squeezing his fingernails.

He used to pick him up by his throat and chuck him on the cot and hit his head and shake him.

‘When he wouldn’t sit still Steve would like shake him about, just make bruises on him, pinches and stuff, swing him round by his legs while he was screaming.

He had a bruise on his eye and that was because Steve used to do that stuff to him.

‘He would put him on a computer chair and spin him round so he falls and hits his head.

Peter used to sit for hours with his head between his legs and whenever he used to get up because he was hurting Steve used to push his head down.

‘Whenever he was crying he used to poke him in the head hard.’

HEAR NO EVIL, SEE NO EVIL, SPEAK NO EVIL

Tracey Connelly, giving evidence at the Old Bailey trial in late 2008, denied witnessing any abuse at all.

Cross-examining her,prosecutor Sally O’Neill QC summed up the case in a sentence:’That child had been used almost like a punchbag by adults who were supposed to be looking after him.

You as his mother did nothing about it.’

Connelly,of Penshurst Road, Tottenham, north London, was cleared of murder on the direction of the judge but admitted causing or allowing the death.

She was sentenced to indefinite imprisonment for public protection with a minimum of five years before being considered for parole.

Connelly had already served nearly two years on remand.

Owen, of Wittersham Road, Bromley, Kent, was cleared of murder on the direction of the judge and convicted of causing or allowing the death of a child.

He was sentenced to indefinite imprisonment for public protection with a minimum of three years behind bars before being considered for parole.

Barker, previously of  Arndale Close, Ferry Lane Estate, Tottenham, north London, was cleared of murder and manslaughter by jurors but convicted of causing or allowing the death of a child.

The verdicts, and the revelation that Peter had been failed by Haringey Social Services just like Victoria Climbie, led to a massive outpouring of public anger.

NAME AND SHAME

Part of the fury centred on the inability of the media to identify either Connelly or Barker, sparking a web hate campaign to name and shame the pair.

The reason for the news black out was that Barker was also facing a second trial for raping a two year-old girl during the same period Peter was being abused.

Following his conviction in April 2009, he was given a life sentence and told he would serve a minimum of ten years behind bars.

Finally, on August 10, 2009 – just over two years after Peter’s death, both Barker and Connelly could be fully exposed.

TRACEY CONNELLY

Overweight Tracey Connelly was brought up by a drug-addicted prostitute and was almost taken into care herself.

Connelly never had a full-time job and spent most of her time chatting online, giving herself the tag ‘need choc got pmt.’

She was more devoted to her dogs, a German Shepherd called Ladyand a Staffordshire Bull Terrier called Lucky, than her son Peter and three older daughters. Pornographic magazines and videos were found littering the house.

Police recovered a series of notes made by Connelly which displayed only self-pity for herself.

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Jason Owen

In one she wrote: ‘Life is bullshit…. I’m fed up with letting people down.

‘All my life I have messed up. When will I ever get it right. Sometimes I wonder why I am here as I always feel I’m useless and worthless.

People should stay away from me as I have always messed up everyone who’s close to me. I’m a jinx to all I know.’

In another message she said: ‘Jason speaks to me like s***, Steve don’t back me up.

Jason pisses me off, Steve laughs about it. Steven starts changing the way he speaks tome. Steve stops kissing me and hugging me.

We have sex that goes wrong, Steve stops saying he loves me. He shouts at me and makes pig noises.’

JASON OWEN

JasonOwen -nicknamed ‘Fat Boy’ as a child – was accused of raping a girl of 11 when he was only 13.

He was also a member of the National Front and had been investigated for a suspected racist attack on an Asian family.

After the death of Peter Connelly, he helped Barker get rid of the bedsheets and Babygro by dumping them in the canal.

Owen then went on the run from police and hid for nearly two weeks in Epping Forest with the 15 year-old girl.

He was finally arrested and interviewed on August 15 and blamed Barker for the injuries,claiming that his brother had admitted trying to ‘toughen him up for when he was older.’

Owen was given conditional bail but was locked up half-way through the trial after detectives heard he was trying to apply for a passport to flee the country.

STEPHEN BARKER

Sadistic Stephen Barker had no previous convictions despite being suspected of absuing two other children in the past.

The 6ft4 in, 18 stone thug and his brother Jason Owen are also thought to have terrorised their own grandmother into handing over her cash.

Police found hunting knives and Nazi memorabilia including swastika-decorated helmets and daggers in the house he shared with Connelly, alongside martial arts weapons and a crossbow.

Questioned by police,Barker said: ‘If anyone says that I admitted killing Peter they are lying and now trying to cover their own a***.

There are lots of things that I could tell you about Jason and what he’s done in the past and what he’s like but I’m scared to because I really believe he will try to have me killed.’

He also told his sister during a prison visit: ‘Six weeks with Jason and he’s f***ing ruined my life.’

 

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