Inquest rules 10-year-old Derbyshire girl's death 'was not suicide'

An inquest into the death of a 10-year-old girl from Derbyshire has ruled that she did not take her own life – as she could not fully understood her actions would cause her death.

Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 2:17 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 3:23 pm
The inquest was heard at Chesterfield Coroner's Court, located inside the town hall

Oliwia Dankowska was found dead at her home on Snape Hill Crescent, Dronfield, on April 29 last year.

Coroner, Peter Nieto, sitting at Chesterfield coroner's court, said that Oliwia had experienced difficulties in her childhood that likely affected her emotional wellbeing.

According to a report from Derbyshire Police’s Child Protection Team, Oliwia’s father Dawid was physically violent to her mother, Agnieska Muckewicz, during their 14-year relationship.

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The report said he was convicted in 2019 of a violent assault on her, and was sentenced to 33 months in prison.

A paediatrician’s report also said that Oliwia’s father had attempted to commit suicide twice, although her mother said Oliwia did not witness this.

Mr Nieto also read a paediatrician’s report which said there were concerns about Ms Muckewicz’s diagnosis with schizophrenia. Her condition deteriorated around February 2020, and there were also concerns about her alcohol use and previous drug use.

According to the police report, Oliwia was described by staff at Stonelow Junior School as “open and honest, calm and kind.”

She was said to have had a good relationship with staff, and it was felt she could speak to them if she needed to.

Oliwia was also described as being “emotionally immature”, and was receiving extra help at school as she was “a bit behind in her learning.”

Oliwia was subject to a child protection plan in Warwickshire before they moved from Stratford to a refuge in Chesterfield, but this plan was not transferred to Derbyshire.

Sarah Wilmot, team manager at Derbyshire Children’s Services, said in her report that Derbyshire County Council were notified that she was subject to a CPP in Warwickshire.

However, the local authority there did not request any service or a transfer of the plan, and no additional information about the case other than the original notification was received.

The information about Oliwia was recorded, and it was noted that she was subject to another authority’s CPP, with the understanding that Warwickshire services maintained case responsibility at that time.

After allowing the allotted period for a transfer request, Derbyshire Children’s Services followed the procedure that, if no formal request for a handover of the CPP is made, the children are removed from the database.

Demi Robinson, a support worker at the Elm Foundation, was involved with the family during their time in a Chesterfield refuge.

Mr Nieto read her report, which said Oliwia felt some responsibility when her mum was sad.

The report also said that Oliwia had mixed feelings about her father, saying she missed him at times, but also sharing worries about his release from prison. Oliwia also said she wanted to protect her mum.

The coroner said a ‘parenting assessment’ was conducted at the refuge, which concluded there were no parenting concerns, and that Ms Muckewicz had a positive and supportive relationship with her daughter.

Mr Nieto agreed with the post-mortem report that Oliwia died from compression to the neck, and said she could not have accidentally carried out the actions which led to her death, nor was there any evidence to show someone else had done this. He also said there was no record of Oliwia harming herself deliberately before her death, and that she gave no indication to anyone she was going to do what she did.

Mr Nieto said that, due to Oliwia’s emotional immaturity, it would be “quite a stretch” to say she fully understood her actions would result in her death.

In his concluding statement, he said: “It is clear to me there were a number of events and circumstances throughout Oliwia’s childhood which are likely, it seems to me, to have caused her some emotional upset and affected her emotional wellbeing.

“The violence from her father, her mother’s difficulties with mental health problems and alcohol use - they cannot have failed to have affected Oliwia to some degree.”

He added on the evidence, Oliwia must have deliberately carried out the actions which led to her death but added: “Given her young age, it is not possible to find that she fully understood that her death would result from the act - I cannot find that her death was suicide.”