Tragic dad never got answers he needed over daughter left to die in squalid bedroom

Debbie Leitch. See SWNS story SWLEstarved. A mother accused of starving her own disabled daughter to death has pleaded guilty to her unlawful killing. Elaine Clarke, 49, admitted killing her daughter Debbie Leitch, 24, who had Down's Syndrome and was died from severe emaciation and neglect. A post-morterm examination found she also had an extensive scabies skin infection. Debbie's emaciated body was discovered inside a house in Blackpool, Lancs., by emergency services on August 29, 2019.
Debbie Leitch died aged 24 -Credit:SWNS

The dad of a disabled daughter who was killed by her own mum died as he fought for answers over her death.

Elaine Clarke had been awarded custody of the three daughters she shared with Tom Leitch after the couple, then from Sussex, split up in 1997. Clarke later moved to Leeds with her children including Debbie who had Down's Syndrome. When the family moved to Blackpool in 2016, social services weren't informed about Debbie, despite her disability.

At their home in Garden Terrace she was cruelly starved by her mum who used the benefits intended for Debbie to splash out on handbags and shoes. On August 29, 2019, her emaciated body was found in her bedroom. She had been neglected to the extent that paramedics couldn't even determine if she was a female.


Tom had wanted to arrange his daughter's funeral but instead Debbie's cruel mum opted for what was once known as a 'pauper's funeral' paid for by the local council. He was able to get half of Debbie's ashes which he later buried alongside his own father.

Three years later, at Preston Crown Court, Clarke pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of her daughter and was jailed for nine years and seven months. She will be eligible for parole in 2028.

At the time, Debbie's dad Tom Leitch, who lives in East Sussex, criticised the length of Clarke's sentence and said "is that all my daughter's life was worth?" To say she should be allowed out in just six years is not appropriate. It’s not right,” he said.

Elaine Clarke abandoned her daughter Debbie (pictured) to die in her squalid room -Credit:MEN MEDIA
Elaine Clarke abandoned her daughter Debbie (pictured) to die in her squalid room -Credit:MEN MEDIA

In an interview with The Sun, after Clarke pleaded guilty, Tom said: "Every time she saw me her face lit up. All I can do now is try to remember the good times, but the good times have been marred forever by what happened."

A pre-inquest review, held today at Blackpool Town Hall, heard that Tom had been due to attend but he has recently died and will therefore never get the answers he fought for. Senior Coroner Alan Wilson said: "Sadly the court was contacted a few days ago with confirmation that Thomas Leitch, Debbie's father, has recently passed away."

Among the local authorities that will give evidence at the inquest into Debbie's death, due to be held this October, are councils in Sussex, Leeds and Blackpool. After Debbie's death dad Tom claimed that Clarke made it "impossible" for him to see his daughter and he remained angry that social services had left Debbie in her mum's care.

Even when his daughter begged to move in with him as she got older Tom said he was still blocked. "She asked to come and live with me, but because of the social's involvement, it didn't happen," he told The Sun at the time.

"Of course, she was still under the care of the social and a care company too. If all these organisations were doing a proper job, why is she not here now?"

But with Tom's death, at the age of just 56, he will now not hear the reasons for why his daughter was not monitored. If she had been then her rapid deterioration, including the way in which the 24-year-old's weight had plummeted to just 3st 10lb, was allowed to go unnoticed.