Warning signs in CYF reports before Leon Jayet-Cole's alleged murder

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.

Child, Youth and Family (CYF) received a "critical" report recording urgent concerns about Leon Jayet-Cole and his siblings weeks before the 5-year-old boy was allegedly murdered.

The three children, then aged 10, 7 and 4, were found home alone by a Ministry of Social Development employee who visited their state house in Redwood, Christchurch, in April last year.

The children, two of whom were autistic, had been left to fend for themselves for about an hour. Leon's sister reported their stepfather, James Roberts, and mother, Emma Jayet, often left them home alone.

Emma Jayet and her late husband, James Roberts. The couple married three weeks before Leon's death.

Emma Jayet and her late husband, James Roberts. The couple married three weeks before Leon's death.

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

Concerns raised with CYF before Leon Jayet-Cole's death

 

The incident is among 10 alerts received by CYF from 2012 to 2015, which relate to concerns about the children's care. It was still being investigated by the agency when Leon was rushed to Christchurch Hospital on May 27, 2015. He died the next day.

Roberts was charged with the child's murder. The 35-year-old was found dead in a suspected suicide on Monday. He was on electronic bail awaiting trial.

Stuff has obtained a copy of the family's CYF file from Leon's father, Michael Cole. It contains hundreds of pages and paints a picture of a dysfunctional family environment.

In the documents, Roberts and Jayet acknowledge using drugs and there are references to incidents of domestic violence. 

Jayet was emotionally fragile and struggled to cope with the stresses of looking after Leon and his older brother.

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Roberts was regarded by social workers as a positive influence, but there were plenty of warning signs to suggest he was abusing the children.

The file highlights three incidents where Leon's older brother was assessed at Christchurch Hospital for head injuries.

They were explained as accidental by their mother. In some cases her explanations were checked with a specialist and deemed plausible.

Other incidents where Leon was taken to hospital with a split tongue in 2012 and a head injury in late 2014, do not appear in the file, suggesting the Canterbury District Health Board never alerted CYF.

Both those incidents were explained as accidental by Jayet. The latter was blamed on a fall from a trampoline. A similar explanation was given for one of the brother's head injuries.

Cole is unhappy with the District Health Board's handling of the case. He believes the injuries were written off as accidental without enough scrutiny.

After the "critical" report in April last year, a CYF social worker visited the family home in Redwood unannounced. The file notes Jayet said she and Roberts were at a property nearby when the children were found home alone. They were only meant to be gone 10 minutes.

The children were rarely left on their own, she said. Her daughter knew where they were and to phone if needed.

CYF continued to investigate because the family had a long history with the agency and there were concerns about neglect. Roberts had recently been trespassed from Work and Income after threatening to kill a staff member.

On May 22, the agency contacted Northcote School principal Neil Baker to see if he had concerns about Leon, who had only been a student for a few weeks.

Baker said staff had recently noticed the child had a sore foot and marks on his face. They were unable to ask Leon what happened because he couldn't speak, but kept an eye on him.

This week, Baker said the incident would have "triggered a greater alarm" if the school had been aware of the family's history with CYF.

"We did not get any alarm bells from an outside agency to suggest the child could be harmed by his parents."

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

 - Stuff

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