NORTHAMPTONSHIRE CHILD DEATHS: “This Didn’t Need to Happen”
Natalie Bloomer and Samir Jeraj speak exclusively to a relative of Dylan Tiffin-Brown, who was killed by his father, despite the warnings she gave to the local authority.
Earlier this month, a serious case review into the death of two-year-old Dylan Tiffin-Brown was published. The findings were damning.
Now, speaking exclusively to Byline Times, the grandmother of Dylan’s half-sister asks why her warnings were repeatedly ignored by the authorities.
The murder of Dylan Tiffin-Brown could hardly have been more horrific. Killed at the hands of a father he had only known for a matter of weeks, the little boy’s body was found to have multiple bruises and injuries and contained high levels of several drugs.
For Charlotte (Not her real name), the grandmother of Dylan’s half-sister, his death is all the more painful because she believes it could have been prevented.
Dylan’s father, Raphael Kennedy, entered into a relationship with Charlotte’s daughter when she was just a teenager. She says it was the start of an ongoing nightmare.
“From the minute he walked into our lives it’s been a nightmare,” Charlotte said. “He was repeatedly violent towards my daughter, he’s a vile person.”
They offered me counselling and then advised me not to go to the press. They came out to me within days of Dylan dying – but when I was begging them to go out and check on him, nobody bothered.Relative of Dylan Tiffin-Brown
The on-off relationship between the two resulted in the birth of a little girl who now lives with Charlotte. The child was having supervised contact with Kennedy right up until Dylan’s death. “Contact with her father was always an issue for me,” she said. “I never wanted her to have unsupervised contact with him.”
It was during these contact sessions that Kennedy started to mention his son by another woman, Dylan. He had just started seeing the little boy after discovering he was his father.
As soon as Charlotte heard that he was caring for the child unsupervised, she raised it with her social worker. They told her they would pass on the information. Shortly after this, the police raided Kennedy’s flat and Dylan was found in the presence of drugs and was believed to have been left alone for long periods.
The police referred the case to Northamptonshire’s children’s services, but the local authority decided the threshold had not been met to show the boy was “suffering or likely to suffer harm”. A plan was made to assess the family, but no urgent action was taken to prevent Kennedy seeing his son. “I thought that when the police caught him that would be it,” Charlotte says. “But he was soon back with him.”
In the days and weeks that followed, she continued to raise her concerns with social services. She says it was well known locally that Kennedy was violent and involved with drugs.
In a text message, seen by Byline Times, which was sent to Charlotte just days after the police incident, the family’s then social worker said: “Dylan now has an allocated social worker who has been asked to look into what you said yesterday.”
Still, nothing happened.
what the papers don’t say
“I was telling them he wasn’t safe,” she says. “But they weren’t doing anything, I don’t know why they wouldn’t listen.”
One of the people Charlotte later spoke to about her concerns was an Independent Review Officer (IRO), who appears to be the only person who took action. According to the serious case review, in the month of Dylan’s death, an IRO sent information to the social worker dealing with Dylan’s case which showed that the father was still having contact with him. The officer noted that no observations on the child’s welfare had been recorded on his file for almost two months.
In December 2017, just 10 weeks after Kennedy began seeing Dylan, Charlotte received a phone call from a friend telling her that the little boy had been killed.
“I was in the car outside Tesco when I heard,” she says. “I was in a real state. Then, a few minutes later, my granddaughter’s social worker called and said contact with her father wouldn’t be happening the next day. I said: ‘I know it won’t, I know what’s happened, you’ve let him [Kennedy] kill Dylan’.”
Within days, two senior members of staff from Northamptonshire’s children’s services visited Charlotte at home.
The local authority decided the threshold had not been met to show the boy was “suffering or likely to suffer harm”.
“They offered me counselling and then advised me not to go to the press,” she says. “They came out to me within days of Dylan dying – but when I was begging them to go out and check on him, nobody bothered. They can act quickly when they want to.”
In October 2018, Kennedy was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Charlotte sat through his trial knowing that one day she will have to tell her granddaughter what her father did to her brother.
“She never got the chance to meet her little brother,” she says. “This will never end for us. At some point, she will have to deal with knowing what her dad has done.”
The serious case review found that the lack of observations made in Dylan’s file by staff had “seriously undermined” his safety and that the authority had failed to “fully appreciate the significance of [his father’s] chronic history of domestic abuse and history with the police for drug-related offences”.
“This didn’t need to happen,” Charlotte says. “I just don’t understand it, why didn’t they listen to me?”
In the weeks since the publication of the serious case review into Dylan’s death and that of another child in the county, there has been pressure on the leader of Northamptonshire County Council, Matt Golby, who was cabinet member for children’s services at the time, to resign.
“He should definitely resign,” Charlotte says. “I didn’t sense any real remorse coming from any of them [the council]. Who is going to be held accountable for this? We need closure, we haven’t even had a personal apology. I spent so much time trying to prove to them that Kennedy was a danger to Dylan, and look what happened. How can anybody have any faith in this council or Golby’s leadership?”
Northamptonshire County Council declined to comment on the case further, but referred Byline Times to statements made at the time the serious case review was published.