Teen phoned to say 'goodbye' before being found hanged

DISTRESSED CALLS: Dana Baker.

DISTRESSED CALLS: Dana Baker.

First published in News
Last updated

TEENAGER Dana Baker phoned a foster care agency boss just before she was found hanged to say "goodbye" because he had "taken away" the foster family she desperately wanted, an inquest heard.

An earlier text message - saying how "alone and abandoned" she felt - went unanswered because the agency social worker who received it had been ordered to have no more contact with her.

Howard Verran, deputy head of service at the Child Care Bureau, described how Dana's foster care placement had been ended because of mounting tension and friction in the household over the previous few days after the youngster took a dislike to an extended member of the family.

On March 3, 2011 - the day Dana was found hanging from a tree near the Worcester Road island in Kidderminster - staff at the Child Care Bureau received a series of distressed calls from her.

Mr Verran passed on the information to Dana's own Worcestershire County Council social worker, who had insisted that their department should be the ones to deal directly with the teenager, while the bureau's responsibility was to the foster carers.

Finally, at 5.06pm, Mr Verran took a call from Dana, in which she said, before hanging up: "I just wanted to tell you that all I wanted was my family and you have taken that away from me so I am calling to say goodbye. So goodbye."

Mr Verran immediately called the council's social services department and he heard soon after that the police were looking for Dana.

Child Care Bureau social worker Clare Baxendale sobbed as she told the inquest how she had taken a call during the morning from Dana in a distressed state and she tried to reassure her, saying someone would call her back.

She reported her concerns about Dana's emotional state to Mr Verran.

Dana, a Stourport High School and VIth Form Centre student, later continued to contact her on her work mobile phone but Miss Baxendale had turned it off and it was not until she switched her phone back on at 5.17pm on that she read a text message from Dana saying: "You have no idea how alone and abandoned I feel. All I want to do is talk to you."

Mr Verran then told her to make contact with Dana but a short time later Miss Baxendale, who had previously been social worker to the teenager's foster parents, discovered that Dana had been found hanged.

Miss Baxendale had been instructed by Mr Verran to have no further contact with Dana after Worcestershire County Council social services raised concerns she had been overstepping her role in looking after the teenager but Mr Verran said he investigated and concluded at the time there had been no breach of her remit.

The inquest heard that, in July the previous year, Miss Baxendale had tried to set up a meeting for Dana and her foster carers with the prosecuting barrister in a court case against Riat Jaspal, the youngster's karate instructor, who was eventually jailed for eight years for sexually abusing her.

Miss Baxendale thought Dana needed to see the person who would be talking to her about her evidence in court.

Eventually the meeting took place at the barrister's home on July 2,9 2010 but it was later found that it breached the rules because neither the police nor a representative of the Crown Prosecution Service was present.

When the case came to court the following week, the judge adjourned the case because of the breach of protocol.

The inquest had heard earlier that Dana had been upset by the delay.

The hearing continues.

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