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Call for probe after Brandon death

PUBLISHED: 10:20 26 June 2009 | UPDATED: 21:36 07 July 2010

Calls for an urgent investigation have been made after it emerged that a teenage girl found hanged in Suffolk had been housed miles from her home county.

Calls for an urgent investigation have been made after it emerged that a teenage girl found hanged in Suffolk had been housed miles from her home county.

Rebecca Watkins was placed by Essex County Council at a children's home in Bury Road, Brandon, where she was found by paramedics unconscious last week. She died the next day at West Suffolk Hospital, Bury.

Questions have now been asked about why the 16-year-old was housed more than 40 miles from her native Essex and whether more could have been done to help her prior to her death.

One of those demanding a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death is Julie Young, the lone Labour county councillor on the Tory-run county council.

“I am really concerned to hear about this case and am asking for an investigation into the circumstances which led to this tragic outcome,” Mrs Young said.

She has called on the council to justify its use of out-of-county establishments to home some of Essex's most vulnerable children.

Her demand for information comes in the wake of information revealed under the Freedom of Information Act that the county council spent more than £11m in 2007/2008 housing vulnerable “looked after” children from Essex outside the county's boundaries.

Of this sum, £7m was spent on “mainstream” children and £4.5m on children with disabilities.

“I will also be finding out how many children are placed out of county and whether these placements are absolutely necessary,” Mrs Young said.

Bill Bishop, Tory member for Brandon on Suffolk County

Council, backed Mrs Young's call for a full investigation.

“It is a tragedy,” Mr Bishop said. “Let's have a full investigation. Having said that, this particular home has been going for several years without any problems.”

Rosie Carter, of the charity Safechild, said all child deaths had to be investigated under what are called “serious case reviews” under Part VIII of the Children Act 1989.

The purpose of these reviews, she said, was to establish whether there were any child protection issues and to identify any lessons which might be learned.

But the county council has refused to state whether an internal investigation will be held into the circumstances surrounding Rebecca's death.

Suffolk police has concluded its investigation into the matter and is in the process of passing all witness statements relating to the case to the coroner's office in Bury St Edmunds.

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