Maria Colwell
March 26, 1965 - January 6, 1973
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At the age of eight Maria Colwell was murdered by her stepfather, William Kepple. William was an evil man with children of his own who he favored over Maria. He would do things such as buying ice cream for his own children and making Maria watch them eat it, buying none for her.

Maria had been in foster care at an early age. He foster parents love her and thought she was a happy, normal child. Life was good for Maria until her  mother, Pauline Colwell, was no longer living with her biological father and instead was living with William Kepple. Maria went back to live with her mother on October 22, 1971 and would be living with  the man known as her stepfather, William Kepple

Maria was forced to do chores including carrying coal into the house. She was beaten by her stepfather and she was forced to stay in a room that had no door handle on the inside so she could not get get out unless he allowed it. Maria also rummaged through trash bins in order to find food when she was hungry. Where was her mother during all of this? How could ANYONE allow their child to be treated this way? 

On January 6, 1973 at about 11:30 p.m., William came home and immediately became angry to see that Maria was watching television. He beat her and kicked her until she died. Maria was taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital with injuries to her brain, her ribs were broken she had two black eyes and was suffering from external injuries as well as internal injuries. The pathologist on her case said it was the worst case of abuse he had ever seen Maria died a short time later.

William Kepple was charged and found guilty of manslaughter and his sentence wasn't nearly enough to pay for what he did to Maria. A judge sentenced him to eight years in prison and that sentenced was cut in half after his appeal.

The death of Maria did NOT go unnoticed and the public and the press called for action. A book was written so that the public would not forget. In spite of the book and the attention the case received, it took over 30 years for the laws to be changed so that agencies would be required to share information.

The Report Of The Committee Inquiry into the care and supervision provided in the case of Maria Colwell was chaired by Thomas Gilbert Fisher. Three main factors were attributed to the death, 1. The lack of of communication between the agencies aware of what was going on with her situation. 2. The inadequate training for social workers in charge of children's cases. 3. Changes in the 
make up of society.

"It is not enough for the State as representing society to assume responsibility for
those such as Maria"

Thomas Gilbert Fisher

The local authority commissioned it's own response to the Thomas Gilbert Fisher's findings. Children At Risk was the study done by the East Sussex  County Council to investigate the problems that came to light because of the death of Maria Colwell. "It must never happen again" was repeated throughout the report. Several other high profile cases came to light before the law was actually put into place, including the cases of Heidi Koseda, Jasmine Beckford, Toni-Ann Byfield. The Victoria Climbie case brought about the legistration known as "Every Child Matters".

This page was created on June 18, 2014
Death occurred in England

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