Archie Spriggs murder: Dad 'asked social workers if it would take son being killed before they would act'

The father of murdered schoolboy Archie Spriggs asked social workers if it would take his son being killed before they would act, he has told the youngster's inquest.

Lesley Speed murdered her son Archie Spriggs
Lesley Speed murdered her son Archie Spriggs

Mr Spriggs made the allegation on the first day of an inquest into the seven-year-old’s death.

In a statement read at the hearing by Mr Spriggs’ representative Stephen Clark, he listed the repeated concerns he raised with Shropshire Council’s social services team from 2013 up until a few months before Archie’s murder at the hands of his mother Lesley Speed.

Mr Spriggs reported concerns about physical abuse perpetrated by Lesley that Archie had disclosed to him, and said his son, aged four at the time, had reported being sexually abused by another man.

But Mr Spriggs, who was involved in a long-running dispute with Ms Speed over access to Archie, said his concerns were not acted on.

In the summer of 2017, he again contacted social services to report abuse Archie had disclosed.

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Mr Spriggs said he was told there were “no grounds to investigate”, as the previous investigation in 2014 had not concluded Archie was in danger.

He said he was given the “unbelievable” answer that the previous investigation had consisted of a single phone call to Rushbury Church of England Primary School, where Archie was a pupil.

Mr Spriggs said: “I pleaded with them to protect my son.

Police at the murder scene

“I even asked them to put him in care so he would be safe, but they repeated that they would not investigate and there would be no further action.”

“I can clearly remember asking them towards the end of the conversation, ‘What is it going to take for you to investigate? Bruises? Broken bones? Or my son to be killed by her?’

“And their response was, ‘It won’t come to that’.”

Dismissed

Three months after that call, on September 21, Archie was murdered by Ms Speed at their home in Rushbury, near Church Stretton.

In the months before his death, Mr Spriggs said he contacted other agencies including Rushbury School, police, the NSPCC and others, “in desparation for the protection of my son”.

But, he said: “My concerns were repeatedly dismissed.

“Throughout my son’s life, everything I did was for him.

“I love my son and wanted him safe.

“I contacted many organisations and I do not believe that any of the organisations took my concerns seriously.”

Social workers gave evidence at the inquest and said there was no record of Mr Spriggs asking “what is it going to take?”.

Colleen Male, former head of safeguarding at Shropshire children’s services, was on the panel which undertook a serious case review following Archie’s death.

Circumstances

Ms Male said the concerns over sexual abuse in 2014 should have triggered a multi-agency meeting between social services, police, the school and others and that this would probably have been taken further with a visit to Archie.

She said that in August 2017 the family courts requested social services produce a report on Archie’s circumstances after Mr Spriggs applied for custody.

This should have triggered a home visit to see Archie within seven days, but due to a safeguarding letter not being received from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), a member of staff being off sick and an Ofsted inspection at the same time, the visit was not carried out.

Senior coroner John Ellery said: “So Archie should have been seen two years before he died, and just before he died.”

On September 14, a member of staff at Rushbury Scool contacted social services to report Ms Speed had raised concerns about Mr Spriggs, and had said: “The only thing that will stop this is a shotgun and a shovel.”

On September 19, Archie’s GP made a referral to child mental health service CAMHS after Ms Speed said Archie had said he wished he was dead so he did not have to see his father any more.

On September 21, Ms Speed failed to attend a family court hearing over custody of Archie, and he did not turn up to school.

The inquest heard police were called at 6.13pm that day by Ms Speed’s partner, after he returned home to find Archie dead in his bed and Ms Speed injured in the bathroom.

Ms Speed denied murdering her son but was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in March 2018.

The cause of Archie’s death was given by pathologist Dr Sacha Kolar as pressure to the neck.

The inquest is expected to last up to two weeks.

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