'If they had just listened to us, Daniel would still be here'
THE family of a murdered teenager whose body was found in a ditch have claimed that he was let down by the Health Service Executive (HSE) while he was in state care.
The HSE last night said Daniel McAnaspie's death would be reviewed, in accordance with recently published guidelines, to ensure that lessons could be learnt from "this tragic event".
But opposition politicians said the HSE's response to date had been inadequate.
Daniel (17) went missing in the early hours of February 26 and his body was found last Thursday by a farmer walking at Rathfeigh, between Kilmoon Cross and Duleek, Co Meath.
The decomposed remains were found at the bottom of a drain. A post-mortem confirmed he had been stabbed up to six times.
Gardai have been trying to trace anybody who had been in contact with Daniel in the 24 hours before his death.
During that time, he had been spotted near the Erin's Isle GAA club in Finglas and Whitestown Avenue in Blanchardstown, Dublin, where he was last seen alive.
His sister Caitriona last night accused the HSE of failing to cater for Daniel's needs and said he was never given a chance to settle down after he had been placed in care.
One of six children whose parents were dead, he left school at 14 and had difficulties with reading and writing. He had been living at an HSE property in Donabate, in north Co Dublin.
His sister claimed that after entering HSE care, he spent time on the streets and had to call into garda stations to seek a bed for the night. She understood he had been beaten and robbed during that period.
"You're talking about a 17-year-old fellow, who has come from a proper family and doesn't know anything about the streets," she added.
"He wanted a proper home. They just threw him around from place to place. He wanted help, but they wouldn't give him as much as he needed."
She said that before Daniel went missing, she had a meeting with the HSE and had warned that Daniel would be injured or injure somebody if he spent more time on the streets.
"I blame these people", she said. "If they had just listened to us, Daniel would still be here."
The family's solicitor, Michael Finucane, said they wanted a prompt and fully independent inquiry that would bring about changes to prevent other deaths.
He had grave concerns about the independence of the inquiry to be set up under the guidelines, which required that a panel of childcare experts and an independent chairperson be appointed to review such a case.
Mr Finucane said this inquiry should include the family to the greatest extent and he believed that the HSE had some difficult questions to answer.
He pointed out that the McAnaspie family had undergone an unimaginable nightmare. Mr Finucane claimed that whenever problems arose with Daniel, his family were expected to take him into their care because there was no state place to put him.
Confirming that a review would be held into the circumstances of Daniel's death, the HSE said any concerns raised by family members, and other relevant parties, would be addressed.
It said it was in the process of appointing the independent chairperson and panel of experts to conduct the review, which would then begin without delay.
But Fine Gael spokesman on children Alan Shatter, who had previously raised the case in the Dail, said the response of the HSE was inadequate and called for a fully independent investigation into the care, or lack of it, afforded to Daniel.
He said: "This should include not only a review of documentation and records held, but also interviews with social work personnel involved, including those in managerial positions and with members of the McAnaspie family."
Mr Shatter said there was widespread concern that the HSE had failed to learn lessons from what went wrong in the case of Tracey Fay, who died in 2002, and David Foley, who died in 2005, "and it has failed, and is failing, other children, who have either died while in the care system or who have been left at risk, without their circumstances being adequately investigated".
Labour TD Roisin Shortall said that on many levels Daniel was failed by people who were supposed to be looking after his interests and there were many questions to be answered.
She asked how did a boy, who was under HSE care, end up in a situation where he had to present himself at a local garda station every evening in the hope that there would be a bed there for the night.
She also wanted to know why, given that he had absconded on numerous occasions, he had been able to come and go with such ease from the HSE-run residential home in the days before his death.