Suspected child abuse death to be treated as murder, Hong Kong police say
Officers also arrest victim’s step-grandmother after young girl died on Saturday
The step-grandmother of a five-year-old girl who died in Hong Kong on Saturday was arrested on Sunday, and it is understood police will now treat the case as a murder investigation.
It followed the arrest on Saturday of the victim’s father, 26, and stepmother, 27, for suspected child abuse. All three were detained on Sunday night, and a police source said the couple were likely to be charged with murder on Monday morning.
“We suspect that the grandmother was also involved in the child abuse. But it is unclear if she was linked to the death of the girl,” the source said. “She has been arrested on suspected child abuse.”
Earlier on Sunday, it was revealed the Social Welfare Department had known since November about possible child abuse in the home where the five-year-old girl died, but the case was not considered worthy of consultation at that time.
Yvonne Siu Lai-shan, principal of Hing Tak School in Tuen Mun, said the girl’s eight-year-old brother studying in the school had since November shown “unusual signs”.
She added that the school immediately referred the boy to a social worker, who then referred the case to the Social Welfare Department’s Family and Child Protective Services.
“Our teacher found unusual signs with the child, around November 6 or 7, and we immediately handled the issue,” Siu said.
She noted the teacher spotted the signs when the boy wore short sleeves.
A department spokesman said the school consulted it about the boy’s welfare in November but did not refer the boy or his family to the department after consultation.
He said the department’s social workers had never handled the boy’s case.
“The department, after [learning of the girl’s death], has sent social workers to contact the other two young children in the family involved,” he said. “We will provide proper services and care for their welfare.”
The boy also has a seven-year-old sister.
On Saturday, the five-year-old girl was rushed to Tuen Mun Hospital unconscious and covered in bruises, some as wide as 10cm all over her body. Some of the older wounds had been infected.
They also found bruises, wounds and swelling all over the boy’s body.
Officers described the two as being malnourished compared with other children their ages.
The girl had not been to her kindergarten since August.
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At the flat, police seized medicine, pairs of flip flops and scissors after the girl’s death.
Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, who focuses on social welfare issues, said he needed to further understand what happened between the department and the school.
He believed the government should set up a team of social workers to identify and follow high-risk family cases, and work with entire families instead of just individuals.
Cheung said no such system existed currently.
Additional reporting by Ernest Kao