Brave toddler survives alone in flat for two weeks

Last updated at 13:42 19 October 2005

A three-year-old toddler survived on scraps of food for two weeks as his mother lay dead beside him.The body of Anne-Marie McGarrity, 33, was found in her home with her distraught son Michael nearby. The emaciated youngster was suffering from malnutrition.

The little boy had managed to feed himself by

scavenging food from the fridge, miraculously keeping himself alive for a fortnight.

The badly dehydrated and soiled toddler is even believed to have covered his mother’s body after she died in the tower block flat in Leith, Edinburgh.

Last night the child was being treated at the city’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children where medics said his condition was poor, although he is expected to survive.

Neighbours said the boy had failed to turn up at nursery for the last three weeks, prompting managers to contact a relative, believed to be the child’s maternal grandmother.

She rang police who forced the door of the third-storey flat in rundown North Fort Street last Saturday afternoon.

It is believed the mother was a heroin addict who died from an overdose, leaving her terrified son to fend for himself.

Locals said the authorities failed to check on the little boy’s absence from nursery for around three weeks – even though he is believed to attend the council-run establishment directly opposite his home.


Last night it was unclear whether the boy or his mother had been under the care of social workers.

One neighbour said the nursery had initially got in touch with the block’s caretaker before alerting the grandmother.

The 19-year-old, who herself has a three-year-old son and declined to be named, claimed another male addict had died in the same flat a year ago.

She told the Scottish Daily Mail: “McGarrity had lived there for a few years. She always had her son with her and would say hello to me, but it was obvious she was on drugs.

“I heard her little boy had not been to nursery for three weeks – it is shocking to think of the little boy sitting there in the dark while I was here with my own son.”

The neighbour said other tenants living in the flat next door to Anne-Marie McGarrity had moved out recently without notifying the local authority, forcing council staff to break down the door.

She added: “They were making a terrible noise so I went out to ask them what was going on. It’s ironic that was going on while the little boy was in there, helpless.”

It is believed the child attended the nursery in

the grounds of Fort Primary School, opposite his mother’s flat.

A Lothian and Borders police spokesman said: “Police attended an address in North Fort Street in Leith on the late afternoon of October 15 after concern was raised for the householder.

“A body of a 33-year-old woman was found but there appear to be no suspicious circumstances.

“A report will be submitted to the procurator fiscal in relation to this death.

“A three-year-old child was also found at the house and taken to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children.

“A post-mortem has taken place but there are no results as yet.”

Council bosses under fire

Edinburgh City Council has undergone major social work reforms in recent years.

In October, 2003 council bosses faced intense

criticism when social workers who sent a baby home to die at the hands of his violent father kept their jobs after a ‘whitewash’ inquiry left them in the clear.

Eleven-week-old Caleb Ness was placed on an ‘at risk’ register within days of his birth, with a recommendation that he should never be left alone with his parents – a former heroin addict mother and a brain-damaged father.

But on his release from hospital, his mother was allowed to take him back to her home where, a few weeks later, he was shaken to death by his father.

A report, compiled by leading QC Susan O’Brien, found that “no single individual should be held


But the scandal led to the resignation of social work director Les McEwan.

In April this year, a health chief appointed after a shake-up at Edinburgh’s under-fire social work department pledged to “drive forward even better services”.

Peter Gabbitas was hired in the newly-created role of Health and Social Care Director following a study published under the direction of council chief executive Tom Aitchison.

It recommended abolishing the social work department and creating two new departments in its place.

Mr Gabbitas said in April that he wanted “to ensure that the important contribution of front-line health and social care staff is more widely recognised.”

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