A social worker has claimed a mother accused of fatally neglecting her seven-year-old son did not disclose her drug addiction to her because she was “embarrassed”, a court has heard. Stuart Sanders said he was ‘concerned’ Laura Heath didn’t tell him she was on a methadone program.
He said when he challenged her about it, she got “upset” and said she didn’t want to lose her son Hakeem Hussain as her other children were taken from her care. Hakeem was found dead in the garden of an address in Cook Street, Nechells on Sunday November 26, 2017.
Heath, 39, is on trial at Coventry Crown Court where she denies a charge of manslaughter. It is alleged that she was sleeping after smoking heroin the night he suffered a severe asthma attack and died.
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She admitted four charges of child cruelty related to neglect by failing to provide him with proper medical supervision as well as exposing his son to heroin and crack cocaine. Today, Monday April 4 – day six of the trial – prosecutor Matthew Brook read statements from Stuart Sanders, a social worker who was assigned to Hakeem in May 2017 after being identified as a child in need.
The court heard at some point that year that Mr Sanders learned that Heath was seeing an addiction support worker and was on a methadone program. His statement read: “I was really shocked to hear this. I believe I visited Laura that day to talk to her about it.
“She got really emotional and didn’t like that she didn’t tell me. She was really embarrassed being in a methadone program and having a drug worker.”
Mr Sanders added: “I was worried that Laura hadn’t told me she was on a methadone program. She often said she didn’t want to lose Hakeem and got upset. I told her to just be open and honest and to work with all professionals.”
He recalled Hakeem telling him he ‘didn’t want a social worker anymore’ during a visit to Heath’s home in Long Acre, Nechells, in mid-October 2017, after which the defendant told him close the door. The social worker said that at one point the schoolboy became ‘much more reserved and seemed like he didn’t want to say anything to anyone’.
Mr Sanders detailed various conversations he had with Heath and said: “Laura said the school did not believe how sick Hakeem was. She said she loved her boy and would like going to school but his health was not good.
“She would love to have him homeschooled but wouldn’t be able to give him the social interaction. She got emotional talking about Hakeem. She said he was her world.
“She said her other children were taken away and it won’t happen again. I observed that Hakeem and Laura had a close relationship. There was never any suggestion that Hakeem didn’t want to be home .”
Mr Sanders described Heath’s house as ‘never cluttered’. He said he was unaware that the defendant had recently engaged in sex work and was unaware of the Cook Street address where Hakeem died.
Mr Sanders said: “I thought I had a good relationship with Laura, but towards the end she was frustrated as things went to child protection. Things would go up and then down again. He there were periods of consistency and then it would taper off and pick up again.”
He said Heath had never appeared ‘under the influence’ and there were no signs of drug use in her home. Mr Sanders said that after Hakeem died there was a meeting where he learned “a lot of information that I didn’t know”.
He said he “knew nothing” about Hakeem’s asthma management plan or that he shouldn’t have used a nebulizer. Mr Sanders also said he was unaware that Heath obtained inhalers from the local chemist or that she regularly visited the doctor without an appointment.
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