Christchurch schoolboy Leon Jayet-Cole hospitalised with head injury months before death

Leon Jayet-Cole died last year after suffering a serious head injury while in the care of his stepfather, James Roberts.
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Leon Jayet-Cole died last year after suffering a serious head injury while in the care of his stepfather, James Roberts.

Slain schoolboy Leon Jayet-Cole and his older brother were treated at Christchurch Hospital at least six times between them before the 5-year-old was allegedly murdered by his stepfather.

The children's father is concerned the incidents, which included several head injuries, were not handled correctly by the Canterbury District Health Board and written off as accidental by medical staff without enough scrutiny.

The children's mother, Emma Jayet, is now suspicious about some of the explanations she was given by her late husband, James Roberts, who was the only one present in at least two of the cases in 2014.

Emma Jayet, Leon's mother, and her late husband James Roberts, Leon's stepfather.
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Emma Jayet, Leon's mother, and her late husband James Roberts, Leon's stepfather.

The involvement several agencies had with Leon and his siblings is expected to be scrutinised by the coroner.

Child, Youth and Family (CYF) was alerted to concerns about their care - neglect, abuse and suspected drug use in the home - at least a dozen times in the three years before Leon's death last year.

CYF says investigations found no evidence of physical abuse.

Roberts, 35, the man accused of killing Leon, was found dead at a home in Riccarton, Christchurch, on Monday. Roberts was on electronic bail awaiting trial.

His death is a suspected suicide.

Michael Cole said his autistic sons, Leon and his older brother, were taken to hospital for treatment at least six times in the three years before the alleged murder.

On one occasion, when Leon was very young, he was treated for a split tongue. Hospital staff were told he had climbed up on a chair and hit his head on a windowsill.

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All the injuries were written off as accidental without enough scrutiny, Cole said.

He believed Leon's death could have been prevented if the agencies involved did their jobs properly.

"There was no clever Kiwi looking closely enough to make a good decision about what might have been happening," Cole said.

Jayet confirmed Leon was treated for a head injury shortly before Christmas in 2014 after apparently falling from a trampoline.

Several months earlier, the child's older brother was taken to hospital with a head injury, suffered when he supposedly fell over.

On both occasions Roberts was the only adult present. Jayet accepted Roberts' account of what happened at the time, but had become suspicious.

On another occasion, the older boy was taken to hospital after he swallowed some of Jayet's migraine tablets, which he retrieved from on top of the fridge. In another incident he fell and hit his head on the television.

Jayet said she did not witness any abuse in her home. She did not use drugs, but she could not be sure about Roberts.

"I've never claimed to be [a perfect parent]. I loved my children and I did the best I could with what I had. It was pretty full on. I was happy to take any help I could."

The Canterbury District Health Board declined to comment while the case was investigated by the coroner.

Northcote School principal Neil Baker said Leon attended the school for several weeks before his death.

"We didn't see it coming," Baker said. "I don't think there was much that indicated any issues."

Leon was rushed to Christchurch Hospital after he suffered a serious head injury at his family's home in Lambeth Cres, Papanui, on May 27, last year. He died the next day.

Roberts was charged with the boy's murder. His trial was scheduled to begin on October 31.

Jayet was initially charged with failing to get Leon medical treatment on the day of his death. That charge was later withdrawn.

It is understood Roberts had previous convictions for drugs and aggravated robbery.

 - Stuff

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