Hamzah Khan: ‘How did a child starve to death in 21st-century England?’
Four-year-old’s mummified body was resting next to teddy bear in his mother’s house when discovered by police in Bradford
A mummified, stunted corpse of a four-year old boy lay undiscovered for nearly two years in his mother’s house before he was found by police resting next to his teddy bear, a court was told on Wednesday.
Hamzah Khan’s tiny body, starved by years of neglect, was clothed in a sleep suit designed for a baby aged six to nine months when police made the discovery at his home in Bradford, West Yorkshire.
His mother, 43-year-old Amanda Hutton, who on Wednesday at Bradford crown court denied manslaughter, was discovered surrounded by empty bottles, pizza boxes and faeces when police raided the property. Upstairs, under a pile of debris which covered his travel cot, lay the body of her son, the court was told.
Paul Greaney QC, opening the case for the prosecution, accused Hamzah’s mother of neglecting the infant. “In short, he starved to death. How had a child starved to death in 21st century England? Amanda Hutton failed to provide her child with the nourishment that he needed to survive, and in so failing, she killed him.”
When police entered Hutton’s property in September 2011, after complaints about the smell coming from the house, “what they discovered disturbed even hardened officers,” said Greaney. “Within a cot in the bedroom of Amanda Hutton, a police officer named Richard Dove made a dreadful discovery. Within that cot, beneath other items, he found the mummified corpse of a child.”
The mother, the court heard, was addicted to both alcohol and cannabis. That day Hutton was found surrounded by flies and rubbish piled so high the carpet in her living room was no longer visible. Pictures of the squalor shown to the jury revealed that only her bedroom – where the decomposing body of her son had lain for years – was relatively uncluttered.
In police interviews, Hutton said Hamzah became very unwell on 14 December 2009. She told police she had gone to a pharmacist the next day, but had received a phone call asking her to come home.
“She explained that when she returned Hamzah was near to death. She sought to revive him but to no effect,” said Greaney. “She described placing Hamzah into his cot, making plain that she had treated his body with dignity; and it is right that we should observe that when Hamzah’s body was found, it was found with a teddy.”
But Greaney added that instead of dialling 999 Hutton then abandoned the child. “She made no call for assistance, for a doctor or an ambulance. What did she do? Within hours, she was ordering a pizza,” he said.
Arguing that Hutton is guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence on two grounds, Greaney said she had either failed to feed her child adequately or seek medical help to prevent his death.
The prosecution added that while it expected Hutton’s defence lawyers to argue that Hamzah’s malnutrition could have arisen through “some naturally occurring condition”, the jury would have to consider whether her young child had become “a secondary and less important consideration than [Hutton’s] addictions”.
In the 21 months after Hamzah’s death, the jury heard that Hutton continued to claim child benefit for her son. The jury would have to decide whether this demonstrated “anything about her attitude towards Hamzah”, said Greaney.
There was evidence, he said, that Hutton had suffered domestic violence at the hands of the child’s father, her former partner Aftab Khan, who did not live at the property. Hutton, who told police she had started to drink a bottle of vodka a day after her son’s death, previously worked as a care assistant and had undergone some first-aid training, he added.
Greaney said the discovery of the child was thanks in large part to the diligence of police community support officer, Jodie Worsley, who had spoken to Hutton and visited the house several times.
The recently recruited officer visited the house a number of times after complaints from neighbours, demonstrating a “conscientious and tenacious approach [that] would have done a seasoned detective credit”, said the prosecutor.
Dead flies covered the windowsill, and when Worsley looked through the letterbox of the house “she could see nothing, but the smell from within made her gasp for breath”, he said.
When Hutton opened her door, officers “were not persuaded by Amanda Hutton’s claim that all was well”. He said: “On the contrary, they were concerned by Amanda Hutton’s appearance because flies were hovering all around her and by the terrible smell emanating from the house.”
Greaney told the court that as Hutton was being taken to the police station a police officer said to Hutton: “You know what’s been found, don’t you Amanda?” The jury heard that she replied: “He died two years ago on the 15th December.”
The case continues.