Thursday 19 October 2017

Malnourished and lice-covered Danny had no chance

Colin Murphy

Danny Talbot, who died aged 19 last summer of a suspected drug overdose while in the HSE aftercare system, was born into circumstances of extraordinary deprivation.

His mother, Linda Lamb, was intellectually disabled, and spent much of her life in and out of the care system. She drank heavily, regularly went missing and had nine children by various men in both England and Ireland. All her children were placed in care. Danny was Linda's sixth child.

She left his father, Paddy Talbot, shortly after he was born, and Danny lived with him in Dublin, along with his elder brother, Joe, who has a severe learning disability.

Reports by social workers from the time reveal that Paddy was ill-equipped to care for the boys.

On one occasion in 1999 when a social worker called, they found Danny, then aged 10, and his brother Joe (11) at home alone. Another time, the social worker noted that Joe was wearing just a T-shirt and that his lower body was "soiled" and there was "a strong smell of faeces".

Social workers regularly noted the poor hygiene and condition of the boys, particularly of Joe.

In October 1999, Danny's father, Paddy, died at home and was found by Danny. According to his aunt, Sandra Lamb, Danny and Joe were undernourished and filthy. Joe was like "a feral child", she said, infected with lice and with his body "covered in urine and faeces".

Though there is no record of any complaints of sexual abuse at this time in the documents, later Health Board documents reveal that staff assumed the boys had been abused.

Danny was placed with a foster family, and Joe was taken in by Sandra Lamb. Danny didn't settle and, aged 12, began running away from his foster home.

Meanwhile, Danny's mother Linda, who had a further child, who was taken into care.

In November 2000, Linda Lamb's sisters attended a case conference at the Northern Area Health Board to discuss her situation. Linda was then pregnant with her eighth child. She had no antenatal care and was homeless.

Linda's sisters said they wanted her to be sterilised. Linda was not capable of giving informed consent, and they discussed making her a ward of court. This never happened and Linda subsequently had another child, who was also taken into care.

Linda's sisters sought to have her placed in care. However, she was placed instead in a series of B&Bs. In May 2006, she was the subject of an attack where, according to her sisters, she was raped and pushed into an open fire, sustaining horrific burns to her back. No prosecution was ever taken.

According to Sandra Lamb, gardai told them at the time that Linda was not competent to give a statement.

Safe

Linda was then placed in St Ita's Hospital, Portrane. She was safe there, but her sisters again sought to have her placed in sheltered accommodation.

However, in April 2007, Linda suffered a brain haemorrhage and died. Her sisters allege she was neglected in the period leading up to her haemorrhage.

Two years later, in August last year, Danny Talbot, Linda's sixth child, was found dead in a flat in Dublin's inner city, apparently of a drug overdose. His teenage years had been marked by consistent difficulties.

It had taken his family a year of legal action to secure a proper assessment of his care needs, which eventually culminated in an aftercare plan being put in place; the plan, clearly, came too late.

Sandra Lamb and her sisters, Donna and Debbie, said their family "has been treated with disrespect for too long now. We were dismissed as if we were a burden when we went looking for help".

They said they were seeking a full inquiry into the circumstances of the deaths of Danny and of Linda. They said they had had no contact from the HSE since Danny's death.

The HSE said last night it was conducting a review into the circumstances of Danny's death.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News