A REVIEW into the murder of a Droitwich nine-year-old has identified missed opportunities to keep him safe after concerns were raised by family members, neighbours and his school. 

However, the report also said the lies and cover-ups of his mum and partner prevented professionals from doing their jobs.

And the Covid lockdown also played a role in preventing usual actions being taken to keep him safe. 

Alfie's mother Carla Scott, 35, and Dirk Howell, 41, of Princip Street, Birmingham, were jailed for the killing of nine-year-old Alfie Steele last June.

Alfie died at his home in Vashon Drive, Droitwich - where he lived with Scott - on February 18, 2021, after suffering abuse and cruelty inflicted by the pair over an extended period of time. 

The findings of a long-awaited multi-agency independent review (Child Safeguarding Practice Review) were published on Friday, (January 26), highlighting the missed opportunities by professionals from various agencies involved with the family prior to Alfie's death. 

Worcester News: POLICE: Police at Vashon Drive, DroitwichPOLICE: Police at Vashon Drive, Droitwich (Image: Sam Greenway/Newsquest)

The report said: "This review has found that professionals working with Alfie were hard-working, showed care, and commitment to Alfie and the family, but were often hampered by two adults who sought to deliberately lie, mislead, and cover up what was happening."

The review said the Covid pandemic led to agencies being forced to change and develop their standard operating procedures while also dealing with "depleted resources" in terms of staff.

"The Covid pandemic also enabled Scott to keep Alfie at home, despite advice not to do so, and despite considerable support and reassurance from the school she did not change her mind," the report said.

"Covid also provided Scott and Howell an opportunity to isolate Alfie from family, friends and neighbours under the guise of shielding and his poor health. It meant those usual safety mechanisms were absent."

The report says there had been "no evidence" Scott was the victim of coercion and control by Howell.

"Scott consistently failed to report that Howell was behaving aggressively to Alfie," the report said.

"She constantly lied about what had happened, and her assertion that he (Howell) posed no risk to her, or Alfie never wavered."

The report is critical professionals became fixed in their thinking and the risk Scott presented to Alfie as a perpetrator "should have been recognised earlier". 

It found there was intelligence of drug dealing by both Howell and Scott, with reports of drugs being sold from the address, not shared with other professionals. 

And in October 2020 after Howell assaulted a train guard he was given a community order with an electronically monitored curfew. 

Worcester News: FLOWERS: The flowers left at the home for AlfieFLOWERS: The flowers left at the home for Alfie (Image: West Mercia Police/SWNS)

"This was never put in place, despite the multi-agency group believing that this provided some certainty about where he was," the report said. 

There were six known incidents of concern raised with police or children’s services about physical abuse or Dirk Howell’s harsh and cruel practices to Alfie.

The review found friends, neighbours and people in the community took "great risks" to ensure Alfie could be safe, and abuse and neglect addressed.

When Dirk Howell threatened neighbours with violence and arson they said they did not want to pursue a complaint because they were worried about repercussions. 

"More could have been done to support them through a discussion of bail conditions and protective action," the report said.

"Once again Dirk Howell was not held to account for his actions."

Stephen Eccleston, independent chair of Worcestershire Safeguarding Children Partnership said: “On behalf of the partnership, I would like to express our heartfelt condolences to all those who knew Alfie and thank the family for their involvement in this review.

"Professionals from a number of agencies were involved with Alfie over an extended period of time.

"This report reflects the amount of contact professionals were having with Alfie, his carers and the local community, and has identified those occasions where practice should have been stronger.

"Whilst the investigation and trial were ongoing, the immediate learning from both this case and other child safeguarding practice reviews has resulted in a change of safeguarding practices and activities. We are determined, both as a partnership and as individual agencies, to ensure the recommendations in this report are also now used to make a real difference to the safety of children and young people."

Howell was jailed for life for murder with a minimum term of 32 years.

Scott was jailed for 27 years, serving at least 17.

Worcester News: JAILED: Dirk Howell and Carla Scott JAILED: Dirk Howell and Carla Scott (Image: West Mercia Police)

The trial had heard Scott had tried to cover up the death from the moment she made the first 999 call on the day of Alfie's death in February 2021, claiming Alfie had fallen asleep in the bath.

Howell tried to flee the scene attempting to board a train at Droitwich Railway Station when police caught him.

The grandad of Alfie Steele, Paul Scott said in a statement after the trial: "It fills us with immense sadness that we will never be able to see that same cheeky smile again.

Worcester News: BOY: Alfie Steele rememberedBOY: Alfie Steele remembered (Image: West Mercia Police)

“Losing Alfie has left a massive void in our lives, to think that we will never be able to hug him and watch him grow into an accomplished young man causes much anguish.

“We miss him so much.”