Murdered Mother And Kids Were 'Neglected And Ignored'
Adeline Yvette Wilson-Rigney and her daughter Amber Rose, six, and son Korey Lee Mitchell, five, were killed by Steven Peet at the family’s Hillier home in May 2016.
The South Australian Ombudsman has found child protection agency Families SA “neglected or ignored” multiple opportunities to assess the safety of two young children, who were murdered by their mother’s partner north of Adelaide three years ago.
Peet pleaded guilty to their murders and was sentenced in prison with a non-parole period of 36 years.
The children's grandparents Steven Egberts and Janet Wells had custody of Wilson-Rigney’s eldest son at the time of the murders.
They asked the Ombudsman Wayne Lines to investigate whether Families SA failed to notify them of any concerns over the care and protection of his younger siblings, Amber and Korey.
“It’s one thing for all this to happen, but (there’s also) the reality of knowing we were robbed of any possible chance,” the grandfather said.
“We had no information to make a judgment on. Without that we’re useless... to (the children).”
The agency received the first of 18 child welfare notifications relating to the family in August 2008.
Those notifications primarily concerned allegations of substance abuse, excessive physical discipline and neglect within the mother’s home,” Mr Lines wrote.
In November 2014, the agency received a report from the children’s grandmother relating to the eldest child.
However, Lines found the agency closed the file two days after the notification was made, without informing the grandparents, and failed to assess the safety of the two children.
“I...do not understand why the agency did not proceed to assess the safety of (Amber and Korey) in light of the November 2014 notification,” Lines wrote.
Families SA received a total of 11 notifications raising concerns about Amber and Korey’s welfare.
Lines found six of those were incorrectly ‘screened out’, five were assessed as needing a child protection response, but of those, four were never investigated.
“Those notifications should never have been screened out. I simply cannot understand why they were,” he said.
“What this means is that the agency neglected or ignored a succession of opportunities to meaningfully assess the risk to which (Amber and Korey) were being exposed.”
The notifications increased in severity, including concerns that Ms Wilson-Rigney was using the drug ice in front of the children, regularly had no food in the home, was not sending Amber to school, was leaving the children with a stranger, driving intoxicated and unlicensed.
“What emerged from those notifications was a clear picture of disarray, substance abuse and neglect within the mother’s household,” wrote Lines.
The last call to the Child Abuse Report line made three weeks before the murders, claimed “the mother is using ice daily… and is dealing drugs herself.”
“The (caller) holds concerns for the children due to the mother’s heavy use of ice and erratic behaviour.”
Families SA agents visited the family home on the morning of the murders but left when no-one answered the door.
The agency never received any notifications raising concerns about Ms Wilson-Rigney’s partner’s involvement with the family.
The investigation found that, although the grandparents offered the “best prospects of protecting the children”, Families SA failed to notify them of the escalating welfare concerns.
Lines also criticised the agency’s approach to information sharing, which he said “prioritised considerations of privacy and confidentiality over the safety and well-being of the children.”
“(The grandmother) was left in the dark as to the agency’s determination to take no action,” Mr Lines wrote.
“Perhaps partly as a consequence, the situation proceeded to spiral out of control.”
Lines made three recommendations, including that the law be changed to authorise the disclosure of information where necessary to prevent a serious risk to the health and safety of a child.
That recommendation is under consideration by the State Government.
The Department of Child Protection has undertaken to implement two of the recommendations.