Bronson Battersby: Police watchdog to investigate if there were 'missed opportunities' before toddler's death

The two-year-old is believed to have died of dehydration and starvation (Facebook)
The two-year-old is believed to have died of dehydration and starvation (Facebook)

The police watchdog will investigate whether there were "missed opportunities" that could have prevented the tragic deaths of two-year-old Bronson Battersby and his father.

Bronson was found dead along with his father Kenneth at their home in Skegness, Lincolnshire, last Tuesday.

A social worker from Lincolnshire County Council had tried on two occasions – January 2 and 4 – to visit Mr Battersby and his son but got no answer, alerting Lincolnshire Police both times.

The father and son were found dead when the landlord let the social worker into the flat on January 9,

Derrick Campbell, regional director for watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), said on Thursday: "The harrowing circumstances in which Kenneth and Bronson Battersby died are truly shocking. Our sympathies go out to everyone affected by their sad deaths.

"It is appropriate we carry out an independent investigation to consider the police response to any prior welfare concerns that were raised.

"We will be examining whether there were any missed opportunities by police to check on Mr Battersby and Bronson sooner.

"We will be in contact with Bronson's mother and Mr Battersby's family in due course to explain our role and how our investigation will progress."

Bronson's heartbroken mother Sarah Piesse, 43, earlier on Thursday paid an emotional tribute to the toddler, describing him as "all smiles".

Kenneth Battersby and his son 'had a special bond' (Facebook)
Kenneth Battersby and his son 'had a special bond' (Facebook)

"[He was] just too cute and sweet," she told The Sun, breaking down in tears. "I know everyone says that, but the little things he did...he was just amazing."

Ms Piesse previously said Bronson was “two inches too short to reach the fridge”, and said she was haunted by images of him hungry and trying to reach food after his 60-year-old father Kenneth died around New Year.

The family had only just moved Bronson’s snacks from a lower cupboard – to stop him from helping himself treats.

Ms Piesse told The Sun: “A typical, cheeky, little two-year-old. He was always trying to get his favourite pink wafers. And then when we said no more, he’d smile and shout, ‘Yeah! More, more, more!’

“Kenny moved all the snacks higher up so he couldn’t get to them without asking. Now all I can think of in my head is him, starving, reaching up and trying to get them. I can’t bear it.

“He was about two inches off being able to reach the fridge to open it. His last moments were spent alone and he must have been so thirsty and hungry. He will have been crying. He will have been so confused.”

Policing minister Chris Philp on Thursday morning told BBC Breakfast the "terrible image" of Bronson's death "brought tears to the eyes".

"All of us want answers to what happened quickly," he said.

He added that investigations into the deaths "would get to the bottom of this really heartbreaking tragedy".

It is not known exactly when Mr Battersby died but the last time anyone saw him alive was on Boxing Day, when a neighbour checked on the pair.

A social worker went to visit the house on January 2, in one of the regular visits Bronson received because he was reportedly classed as vulnerable, but there was no answer.

Lincolnshire County Council said their staff cannot legally force entry into a property, so the social worker then made enquiries at other addresses and called the police.

Ms Piesse said she was asked if she had received any messages from Mr Battersby, but was given no indication that anything was necessarily wrong.

The social worker tried a second time on January 4, and called the police when there was again no response.

Five days later, she arranged a key from the property’s landlord and discovered the two bodies, with Bronson clutching the legs of his father.

Landlord Maria Clifton-Plaice told the MailOnline that one of the tenants living above the Battersbys said she had heard Bronson crying out for his father early on New Year's Day.

“She said she heard a little boy repeatedly say ‘daddy’ as if he was trying to wake him up” at around 4am, Ms Clifton-Plaice said.

Bronson Battersby with his heartbroken mother Sarah Piesse (Facebook / Sarah Louise Piesse)
Bronson Battersby with his heartbroken mother Sarah Piesse (Facebook / Sarah Louise Piesse)

The tenant also reported the sound of pots and pans clashing in the kitchen which “may have been Skylar the dog rummaging for food”.

They believe they might have heard Mr Battersby shouting at Skylar, a boxer who managed to survive the ordeal, on New Year’s Eve but the resident is not sure of this.

The last time Ms Piesse saw her son was in November because, after an argument with Mr Battersby, she had tried to “back off a bit and give him space”.

Ms Piesse and Mr Battersby, who also share a three-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son, had an on-off relationship after splitting up in 2019.

They decided Bronson would live with his father because Ms Piesse’s home has a high staircase with no bannister. Mr Battersby also had a “special bond” with his youngest son.

Lincolnshire Police has since referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct which will review its actions.

The force said: "Police were made aware of the deaths of a 60-year-old man and a two-year-old child at a property in Prince Alfred Avenue, Skegness, at around 3.25pm on Tuesday, 9 January.

“Investigations have been carried out and the deaths are not being treated as suspicious. The matter has been passed to the coroner’s office.”

Lincolnshire County Council has launched a “rapid review” of the case. It said the social worker involved has not been suspended, but has taken time off “following this traumatic experience”.

Heather Sandy, executive director for children’s services, said: “This was a tragic incident, and we are supporting the family at this difficult time.

[object Object] (facebook)
[object Object] (facebook)

“We are currently carrying out a review of the case alongside partner agencies to better understand the circumstances, and we await the results of the coroner’s investigations as well. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those involved.”

Matt Warman, Conservative MP for Boston and Skegness, said the news of Bronson’s death has “saddened” many people, particularly in the seaside town where they lived, a place that has “immense community spirit”.

He said the tragedy "should make everyone consider what could have been done differently", and urged those involved to conclude their investigations into Bronson’s death “as rapidly as possible”.

“The tragic news of the death of Bronson Battersby in Skegness has shocked the nation," said Mr Warman.

“No child, not least one already known to the authorities, should die as he did in this country in 2024.

“My thoughts are with his mother and his family at what I can only imagine is an impossibly difficult time.

“It appears that social services and the police were involved, but Bronson’s death, following his father Kenneth’s heart attack, should make everyone consider what could have been done differently.

“Lincolnshire County Council has launched a rapid review into social services’ performance and the police have referred themselves to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

“I know the social workers and officers involved will be deeply traumatised by what has happened after they repeatedly tried to make contact with Bronson and Kenneth.

“This tragedy also underlines the importance of neighbourhoods. Skegness is a place of immense community spirit, and I know how saddened many local people will be.

“I share that sadness, and have urged all those involved to make sure their investigations are concluded as rapidly as possible.”