The brutal murder of a two-year-old boy by his stepfather could not have been predicted, a review has found.
Chevaze McGregor, 27, struck Jeremiah Regis-Ngaujah at his Wolverhampton home citing his Christian faith as the reason for physical punishment.
He was jailed for life in June.
A so-called “exorcism ritual” Jeremiah’s mother underwent when four months pregnant was only seen by council officials after a video was published by a national newspaper.
Wolverhampton Safeguarding Children’s Board has made a number of recommendations to authorities and agencies involved, but said the “severe level of violence” Jeremiah suffered could not have been predicted.
Jeremiah, described as a “smiley, happy toddler… who enjoyed hugs”, died in November 2016 from multi-organ failure after his abdominal injuries caused septic shock.
He had been hit with a rod and a belt causing more than 100 injuries.
During proceedings, Birmingham Crown Court heard he was left “broken and battered” by McGregor, who inflicted numerous injuries, including a skull fracture, broken ribs and a bite wound.
He had defensive wounds to his hands and arms, which showed he tried to shield himself from the beatings.
McGregor told investigating officers his strong Christian beliefs meant he believed it was necessary to use physical punishment when Jeremiah misbehaved.
Evidence of his explosive temper was captured on film and shown in court.
The review said the boy’s mother Sindyann Regis, 25, and grandmother also had strong religious beliefs.
Regis underwent the “exorcism ritual” by a London pastor, although she and the other family members described it as being “prayed over”, or a deliverance, rather than an exorcism.
“All the adults in this family had strong religious beliefs… there is no evidence that Child G [Jeremiah] was subject to violence by Mother’s Partner because of these kinds of beliefs,” the report said.
Regis was jailed for three years and four months for allowing her son’s death. Her sentence was cut on appeal to two years four months after judges ruled it “too long”.
She arrived as a migrant in the UK from the Caribbean in 2003 and lived in London with her grandmother. She met McGregor at a Pentecostal church when she was about seven months pregnant.
Analysis – BBC Midlands correspondent Phil Mackie
This case does raise concerns about the professional curiosity of the many staff from different agencies who knew Jeremiah and his mum Sindyann.
Somehow they failed to realise that Chevaze McGregor had become involved in their lives and presented a danger to them both. If social workers had known they may have been able to intervene.
It also raises questions about Wolverhampton. Five young children killed in less than 10 years.
Nothing similar has happened in the neighbouring Black Country authorities, which are similar in size and make up.
Is it just bad luck? Or is there a more serious problem with the way children are cared for in the city?
In 2014 she was given accommodation in Wolverhampton at the same time a second application to remain in the UK was submitted to the Home Office, but returned to a London hospital for the birth a few weeks later.
McGregor “effectively moved in with the family” in September 2016, two months before Jeremiah’s death.
The report said Regis told a midwife she did not want to return to her partner’s home in London because he was controlling and she was scared of him.
The midwife reported this to the community midwife and GP. They also highlighted other claims Regis had made previously to social workers in Croydon about alleged domestic abuse by an ex-partner, but this was not kept in her health records.
The review also said information was not passed on quickly enough to authorities in Wolverhampton after Regis had moved.
‘No safeguarding concerns’
It said the city’s children’s services did not know the family had moved there for several months as the information was not passed on by authorities in Croydon.
The Wolverhampton Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub had also concluded there were “no safeguarding concerns” for them.
Recommendations in the serious case review include calling for improvements in how information is gathered around domestic abuse and gaining a better understanding of the needs of families who do not have leave to remain in the UK.
Linda Sanders, independent chair of Wolverhampton Safeguarding Children Board, said the recommendations had been accepted.
“We are also ensuring that learning from this review is widely disseminated so that we can reduce the likelihood of this tragic situation ever being repeated,” she said.
Di Smith, chair of Croydon Safeguarding Children Board, said the report had given the board “the opportunity to reflect on the services we deliver to families and children”.
“We will implement the recommendations relating to our local safeguarding children board,” she added.
Four serious case reviews have been published since 2008 after an adult took a child’s life in Wolverhampton:
- Ryan Lovell-Hancox died in December 2008 from a brain injury he received at Christopher Taylor and Kayley Boleyn’s home in Bilston. They were jailed for murder and child cruelty in July 2010
- Daniel Jones, 23 months, died from a heroin overdose in 2012. He collapsed at a house in Penn. Hair samples revealed the presence not only of heroin, but also amphetamines, cocaine and cannabis. His parents were jailed in 2013
- Rebecca Kandare died in January 2014 after being found malnourished and having one of the worst cases of rickets seen in a UK infant. Her parents Brian and Precious Kandare, from Wednesfield, failed to seek urgent medical care for her because of their religious beliefs and were jailed in 2015
- Joshua Millinson died after being shaken by his father, Daniel Sanzone. Sanzone was jailed in 2015 for shaking his two-week old son so violently the baby went blind and deaf