Jailed Brighton mother tries to keep dead baby’s father out of inquest

Posted On 24 Nov 2022 at 11:28 pm

A Brighton mother who was jailed for the manslaughter of her 20-month-old daughter has objected to the baby’s father having any involvement when an inquest takes place next year.

Verphy Kudi, 20, also objected to her care records being made available to the coroner’s court when the inquest into Asiah Kudi’s death is held.

Asiah Kudi died almost three years ago. Asiah Kudi was found dead at Flat 3, Gochers Court, in Islingword Road, Brighton, on Wednesday 11 December 2019 when her mother, Verphy Kudi returned after six days away.

Verphy Kudi had travelled to London on Thursday 5 December to spend her 18th birthday with her boyfriend. She went to a gig the next night and then to Coventry for a party.

Spacewords Brighton

When the teenager returned home to her YMCA Downslink supported housing on the afternoon of Wednesday 11 December, her daughter had died from a combination of starvation and flu.

Verphy Kudi was jailed for nine years by Judge Christine Laing at Lewes Crown Court in August last year after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

At a pre-inquest review at Brighton and Hove Coroner’s Court today (Thursday 24 November), coroner Penelope Schofied said: “This inquest cannot make any findings that are inconsistent with the criminal proceedings.

“It’s tricky because a lot of the evidence that the family want to have explored is interwoven with the criminal matters.”

The coroner said that Brighton and Hove City Council and YMCA Downslink would have the status of interested persons at the inquest, given their involvement in Asiah Kudi’s life.

She also said that Sussex Police would have the same status, having investigated the baby’s death before the prosecution of Verphy Kudi.

Despite her responsibility for Asiah Kudi’s death, Verphy Kudi was also automatically granted the status of an interested person in line with the law governing inquests. So were Verphy Kudi’s parents Muba Kudi and Asia Betrane as close family members.

But Verphy Kudi’s barrister, Philip Dayle, said that she objected to her child’s father having anything to do with the inquest.

A safeguarding review said that he was 21 when Verphy Kudi became pregnant at 15 in 2017.

Verphy Kudi with Asiah on the tot’s first birthday in March 2019

Mr Dayle said: “It is hard to see any value that such a person would be able to bring to these proceedings given the circumstances in which Asiah was conceived and the fact that he remains unknown. We can’t conceive of any value in him being involved.”

The coroner said: “We know that he must exist. (The law) entitles him to interested person status.”

She also set out the scope of the inquest which is expected to look at the circumstances that led to the death of Asiah Kudi.

The coroner said that the inquest would look at the involvement of social workers from December 2016 despite objections from the council.

Verphy Kudi objected to her social care records being disclosed – not wanting others to have access to the personal and sensitive information.

But Tom Stoate, representing Verphy Kudi’s parents, said: “The safeguarding review has identified issues and concerns in the period leading up to Asiah’s mother’s pregnancy.

Verphy Kudi

“The obvious starting point (is) when these concerns were known to a local authority. More inevitable scrutiny will be required for the later period.

“The safeguarding report did not comment in much detail on the key period leading up to the pregnancy and the birth.”

Mr Dayle said that it was important to establish whether there was “joining up” of what was happening within the council’s children’s services department.

Martin Downs, representing the council, said that the focus of the safeguarding review was not the same as the focus of the inquest.

He suggested giving an overview given that Verphy Kudi’s social care records ran to about 3,000 pages and Asiah Kudi’s to about 2,500 pages.

Mr Stoate said: “Brief is less important than relevant.”

And the coroner said that those taking part in the inquest “would want to know what (the council) knew … whether there should have been more probing”.

Asiah Kudi

Laura Johnson, for YMCA Downslink, said that the inquest should look at, among other things, the nature of the support provided to Verphy Kudi while she was living at Gochers Court.

Mr Stoate said: “The family’s concern is not just the nature but the adequacy of the support.”

The court was told that Verphy Kudi’s YMCA Downslink key worker was absent in the final week of Asiah Kudi’s life when her mother was away partying.

And the safeguarding review, published last week, said that Asiah Kudi no longer had her own social worker from September 2018.

The inquest, which is likely to be held next June and last for a week, will consider whether any other help should have been available.

The coroner will summons Verphy Kudi so that she can join the hearings by video link from prison. She is currently believed to be at Bronzefield, in Surrey, and awaiting a move to another prison.

The barristers for the council and YMCA Downslink said that there might be difficulty ensuring that former staff attended the inquest.

Separately, outside the inquest, a family friend asked how a baby could have been left alone in the flat for six days without anyone hearing her cry.

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