Missed chances to help murdered youngsters Maya Chappell and Dwelaniyah Robinson revealed in report

Maya Chappell
Maya Chappell -Credit:Durham Constabulary

Chances to help murdered toddlers Maya Chappell and Dwelaniyah Robinson may have been missed.

Two-year-old Maya was shaken to death by her mum's new boyfriend, Michael Daymond, at her home in Shotton Colliery, County Durham, in September 2022. Daymond was convicted of her murder, while her mum, Dana Carr was found guilty of child cruelty by neglect and allowing the death of a child.

Then just two months later, in an unrelated case, three-year-old Dwelaniyah Robinson also died after being shaken violently at his home in Ushaw Moor, County Durham. His mum, Christina Robinson, was convicted of murder and a series of child cruelty charges that happened in the weeks leading to his death.

Maya Chappell was murdered in September 2022
Maya Chappell was murdered in September 2022 -Credit:Durham Constabulary

Following the youngsters' deaths a Child Safeguarding Practice Review (CSPR) was commissioned by the Durham Safeguarding Children Partnership (DSCP) to consider lessons that could be learned by partner agencies in the County Durham area. The report, which was was published today explains how neither child was involved with social services and there is no evidence that their deaths could have been prevented.

However, it highlights a number of moments where agencies could have stepped in to offer help their families, had professionals shown more "professional curiosity" to understand what was going on in the children's lives better. The report also highlights the fact that staff shortages among health visitors could have had an impact on the families. And it stresses that concerns made by fathers must be taken seriously.

Christina Robinson, convicted of murdering her three-year-old son
Christina Robinson, convicted of murdering her three-year-old son -Credit:Northumbria Police

The review says: "There were a number of opportunities where additional support and services could have been offered and helped to gain a clearer understanding of the children's lived experiences. There are pressures across the partnership in terms of staffing for health visiting services that are impacting on continuity of care particularly at a universal level and access to help when families may need additional support. These are tragic events, and the partnership has through this review sought to consider what if anything could have been done or known differently, there is learning for the partnership to take away in relation to children and families who are not seen to need additional help. However, there is nothing to say this could have prevented the tragic deaths of these two young children."

Today Dave Ashton, chair of the Durham Safeguarding Children Partnership, said changes were already being made. He said: “These are deeply distressing cases resulting in the tragic deaths of two young children, and our thoughts and sympathies are very much with all those who loved and cared for them.

Maya's mother Dana Carr has been jailed for nine years
Maya's mother Dana Carr has been jailed for nine years -Credit:Durham Constabulary

“We are committed to learning from the circumstances of each case and commissioned a joint Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review, led by an independent author, to look at the responses of the agencies involved in detail and identify any themes around learning and practice. The learning arising from the review has been shared across the partnership and we are working together to implement the recommendations.”

As Daymond and Carr stood trial at Teesside Crown Court last year jurors heard how, the couple had a short but intense relationship and had moved in together in Shotton Colliery at the end of August 2022. Family members, including Maya's father James Chappell, had noticed bruises on the little girl's body and asked Carr about it.

She claimed that Maya had fallen and had been hurting herself by nipping and walking into things. At one point, she even blamed her own mother, with no justification whatsoever. The court heard how she also kept Maya off nursery and told James she was too ill to stay with him.

On September 28, 2022, Carr left her daughter with Daymond while she went to work. Later that day, Daymond contacted his partner to tell her that Maya had collapsed and he rang 999. The youngster had suffered severe brain trauma as well as internal haemorrhaging, and she died in hospital two days later.

The court heard how Daymond, had drug debts and had found out that day that his Universal Credit payment had been stopped the day he shook Maya. Daymond, 27, was jailed for life with a minimum of 20 years, while Carr, 24, was locked up for nine years. Both their sentences were later referred to the Attorney General's office for being too lenient.

Newcastle Crown Court heard how sadistic Robinson subjected little Dwelaniyah to a shocking campaign of cruelty during which he was beaten with a cane and burned with scalding water.

Robinson, who submerged her son in the scalding bath as a punishment for soiling himself, repeatedly hit him with a bamboo cane for disobedience, claiming she was following the Bible. She then then left him with fatal brain injuries in one final attack at their home.

The 30-year-old, of Bracken Court, Ushaw Moor, County Durham, was found guilty of murder and four child cruelty offences by jurors at Newcastle Crown Court. She will be sentenced later this month.

The review highlights how both children were known to have moved house many times during their short lives. Maya moved several times within County Durham, while Dwelaniyah moved between different local authority areas.

And in Dwelaniyah's case there were periods of time when his whereabouts were not known. The report also tells how the father's of both children raised concerns about domestic abuse in their homes.

Dwelaniyah's dad sought advise reported to police that he had ben abused by Robinson, where Maya's dad used the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (Clare's Law) to ask about Carr's new partner. Both these instances could have triggered further investigation by agencies into the children's lives.

The report says: "Across both cases, there were opportunities or acute moments where some support may have helped the families, and these relate directly to predisposing vulnerabilities experienced by the parents around mental health, domestic abuse, and parenting experiences. Whilst these were hidden vulnerabilities and it is not reasonable to expect they were knowable or could be attributed to events, there were critical moments where the vulnerability around these issues could have been explored by different professionals.

"Opportunities to enquire further and offer support are identified in the review and relate here to knowledge and awareness of the impact of adult issues on children and family functioning."