A chance to protect a 14-year-old boy from drugs gangs was missed when he was found in a crack den three months before he died, a report has found.
Jaden Moodie was murdered when he was knocked off a scooter and stabbed nine times in Leyton, east London, on January 8 last year.
A Serious Case Review published on Tuesday found that he had been groomed by criminal gangs for at least a year before he died.
In October 2018 he was found at a flat in Bournemouth with 39 wraps of crack cocaine, two larger packages of the class A drug, an unregistered mobile phone and £325 in cash.
Police believed the flat was a “cuckoo” property – one taken over by county lines drugs gangs to use as a base for dealing.
Jaden was arrested for possession of class A drugs with intent to supply. His appropriate adult during police interview said he appeared to be “a vulnerable young person frightened by what he was being groomed and coerced into by others”.
He asked to be allowed to call the Samaritans while he was still in custody.
After the interview, his mother, Jada Bailey, was contacted to go and collect him from where she was living in east London, but she cannot drive.
No-one was available from Waltham Forest Council to make the journey as it was 11pm, and so ultimately two Dorset Police officers drove Jaden home.
The review, which refers to Jaden as Child C, found that this was a “missed opportunity”.
It said: “The arrangements for responding to Child C and eventually returning him to London in particular represent a missed opportunity.
“Had it been possible for Child C to have met specialist child exploitation workers while still in custody, and then brought back to London by these workers, and ideally if they could have continued to work with him for a time after his return, I believe such workers would have been able to exploit the ‘reachable moment’ of this crisis in the police station, during the car journey, and then subsequently, and start exploring with Child C the risks to him of his vulnerability to exploitation.
“But this was not the brief of the Dorset Police officers who were providing a well-intended but basic service in driving Child C back to London.”
The review also found that there were delays in dealing with the family’s housing needs – at the time of his death Jaden was sleeping on his grandmother’s sofa.
However it concluded that his murder could not have been anticipated.
Waltham Forest Council said it accepted all the recommendations in the review and now has a service to respond within 24 hours when a child is identified as a victim of criminal exploitation.
It also called for greater powers to protect children who are home-schooled from falling prey to criminal gangs.
Jaden spent just three of the last 22 months of his life in school, with his mother trying to educate him at home and attempting to get him back into mainstream education.
Council leader Clare Coghill said: “We agree with the findings of the review that there is an urgent need for a national register of home-schooled children.
“We think that this should go further by ensuring minimum standards for children being home-schooled.
“Until this is in place, we cannot have full confidence that children are safe, receiving a decent education, and protected from criminal exploitation.”
Ayoub Majdouline, 19, from Wembley, north-west London, was jailed for life in December for Jaden’s murder. The police are looking for four other men over his death.