There are many ways that someone could be eligible
A tragic 10-year old Derbyshire girl had been left isolated at home while handling the news that her violent father could soon be released from prison and while her mother was restarting her heavy alcohol dependence. Oliwia Dankowska had been watching violent horror films, including scenes showing strangulation, before she was discovered dead after tying a home-made ligature round her neck.
The tragedy, on April 29, 2020, came on the same day social services had made attempts to speak to her mother about Oliwia’s situation. A child safeguarding practice review published by the Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Partnership has now detailed that there were key missed opportunities for intervention and oversight of Oliwia and her family.
The review also found that Oliwia had regularly been exposed to highly inappropriate violent horror films, including a film the night before her death containing scenes involving strangulation, and internet history showed she had routinely viewed websites of a sexual nature involving asphyxiation for pleasure.
It found that a key decision to scrap Oliwia’s child protection plan in the months before her death, and not replacing it with any sort of oversight for a particularly vulnerable child, was “premature” and demonstrated “over optimism”.
As a result of this decision, Oliwia was not in school during lockdown like other highly vulnerable children and her school had no knowledge of far wider issues throughout her childhood, including domestic abuse from her father and alcohol dependency from both her parents.
This decision had been made by Warwickshire County Council, with Oliwia and her mother and sister being moved from Stratford to a Derbyshire refuge in May 2019 to escape extremely violent domestic abuse.
It was a decision made against the advice of the family’s social worker.
Warwickshire had retained oversight of a plan aimed at supporting Oliwia’s welfare, in an agreement with Derbyshire County Council.
In May 2019, Derbyshire said it would close Oliwia’s case entirely if it did not get any updates from the out-of-county authority overseeing their plan for three months.
This has seen criticism from the review, saying the process to “just close cases” “could do with refinement”.
The report details that in March 2019 Oliwia’s father, Dawid Dankowska, had strangled her mother Agnieska Muckewicz until she lost consciousness and kicked and punched Ms Muckewicz, breaking her nose and damaging her kidneys, causing her to be hospitalised.
He was sentenced to 33 months in prison.
A few days before Oliwia died, a letter had been sent to the family’s Dronfield home, which they had only recently moved to after leaving a refuge for domestic abuse victims, the report says.
The report says that this letter is widely believed to have been translated by Oliwia for her mother and it detailed that Mr Dankowska would be eligible for release from prison on an electronic tag.
This incident was felt to be a “trigger of concern” for Oliwia and her mother, the report details, saying: “This would have undoubtedly caused unnecessary worry to Oliwia for their family safety.”
It says that such news should be shared with vulnerable victims by a social worker or other authority support figures.
The report says the letter detailing her ex-partner’s potential release from prison may have caused Ms Muckewicz’s increased alcohol consumption.
As a result of the scrapping of Oliwia’s protection plan and deletion from Derbyshire’s vulnerable children listings, Oliwia was not classified as meeting the requirements to be kept in school during the first period of lockdown.
This meant Oliwia was isolated at home while handling the news that her violent father could soon be released from prison and while her mother was restarting her heavy alcohol dependence. Oliwia died a month into the first period of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Ms Muckewicz is also said to have struggled without a close network of family and friends from their previous home in Stratford, having largely cut ties to avoid her ex-partner or anyone who knew him from finding the family’s new home.
The child protection plan ended in September 2019 and the family moved from a refuge to a private home in October, with Oliwia joining a new school in November.
Closing the protection plan without giving the family time to adjust in a private home was also criticised by the review.
Oliwia’s school, Stonelow Junior School, had not been told about any previous concerns in relation to the family, so when staff noticed what they suspected may be signs of neglect, they did not have any indication of wider issues and implications at play, and as a result these concerns were not shared with local authorities.
When interviewed by the police after Oliwia’s death, Ms Muckewicz detailed that she was consuming half a bottle of vodka a day, starting before midday and finishing at 9pm.
On attending the scene for Oliwia’s death, the report details that the police were “concerned about the home conditions” finding evidence of “significant alcohol consumption and vomit evident over the downstairs of the property, though no alcohol bottles were found.
However, on a second visit by police, officers found 11 empty one-litre bottles of vodka under the kitchen sink in the family’s Snape Hill Crescent home, the report details.
The report says that Ms Muckewicz did not find the body of her daughter until the early afternoon after a day of heavy drinking.
Ms Muckewicz had said she had not checked on Oliwia earlier because her daughter did not usually get up until midday, with professionals saying this brought “further concerns about neglect”.
Ms Muckewicz said she drank alcohol to cope with schizophrenia, which she said she was diagnosed with while living in Poland 15 years before.
The report details that Oliwia was exposed to and allowed to watch horror films which were rated 18, an activity Ms Muckewicz said her daughter enjoyed.
It says that the evening before Oliwia died, she had watched a horror movie which was rated 18 with her mother, in an incident dubbed as “completely inappropriate” in the safeguarding report.
The report details: “This movie had graphic violent scenes, including killing, and including images of being grabbed around the neck and strangulation.
It also details that the search engine history on the family laptop, regularly used by Oliwia in her bedroom at night, contained websites which “were not age appropriate”.
This includes a site pinned to the bookmark bar that involved “sexual activity that involved asphyxiation”.
The report said that the knowledge of Oliwia accessing age-inappropriate websites was “not a recent issue” and had been known to Warwickshire authorities before the family was moved to Derbyshire. However, it is said that social workers did not know the “extent” of the content being accessed until the police informed them of their findings following Oliwia’s death.
Health professionals overseeing Oliwia’s case are said to have been “really shocked” at the 10-year-old accessing such content and were “very worried about what could have amounted to long-standing neurological damage”.
Two days before Oliwia’s death, an anonymous referral and a matching one from Oliwia’s school was made to Starting Point, Derbyshire County Council’s children’s contact and referral service.
The school said they had received information from one of the family’s neighbours that: “The mother could be heard crying, screaming and vomiting at home and that there was a two-year-old child in the home who was often heard upset.”
A Starting Point team manager assessed the report and a decision was made that the case met the threshold for a child-in-need plan to be enforced.
Two days later, on April 29, three attempts were made to contact Oliwia’s mother in order to enforce the plan.
On one of the calls, Oliwia’s younger sister answered the phone but professionals were not able to speak to the mother.
Later that same day, the county council’s children’s services department received a notification from Derbyshire police that they had attended an emergency at the Dronfield home and that Oliwia “had been found deceased”.
In December 2021, a Derbyshire coroner ruled that Oliwia did not have the mental capacity to have knowingly committed suicide, due to her age.
The child safeguarding practice review concluded that there was a “missed opportunity” to provide extra support to Oliwia”.
It said: “There is no information seen by the review author or panel that would suggest that Oliwia intended to take their own life.
“As already mentioned earlier in this report Oliwia had suffered several adverse childhood experiences.
“There is evidence that Oliwia viewed on a regular basis very age-inappropriate internet content that included asphyxiation.
“The voice of Oliwia has not always been sought or strongly heard as often as it could have been.
“The family were isolated from their own community – it is thought by the review panel – by the mother for safety reasons.
“Ms Muckewicz had, until October 2019, a consistent circle of a professional network but no personal or family support.
“When living alone this support had finished, leaving Ms Muckewicz and family isolated in particular when the first Covid-19 lockdown occurred and Oliwia was not in school.
“The level of viewing age-inappropriate internet content by Oliwia was thought by professionals at the practitioner event to be a major emotional experience for Oliwia that they would have found it hard to neurologically process.
“The review author highlights that though it is difficult to know the impact on Oliwia, their alleged level of familiarity with this sort of content is highly inappropriate.”
A Derbyshire County Council spokesperson said: “We are deeply saddened by the death of a 10-year-old child and express our sympathy for family and friends in these very difficult circumstances. We have already identified and addressed key learning areas arising from this case and will continue to make changes where practice could be improved.”
Warwickshire County Council was approached for comment but has not responded as of this article’s publication.
The Samaritans offer a listening service for anyone who wants to talk – phone 116 123 or email email@example.com
Childline can be contacted on 0800 1111.
Written by: Admin
There are many ways that someone could be eligible