Star Hobson’s bereaved auntie has slammed authorities for letting them down and says that she can’t even bring herself to speak the killer’s name.
Frankie Smith’s half-sister and devoted auntie to the tot, Alicia Szepler, said that she warned social services countless times and told police that the toddler was at risk but “no-one was listening.”
Star Hobson tragically passed away in September 2020 from severe injuries after months of violence and abuse at the hands of her mum’s partner Savannah Brockhill, Yorkshire Live reports.
A postmortem examination revealed that Star had suffered abdominal injuries, as well as more than 30 separate injuries including rib fractures, two breaks in her right tibia bone caused by forced twisting, and a fracture on the back of her skull from days before her death.
Following the Keighley toddler’s tragic death, Star Hobson’s family said that they can no longer utter the name of her killer, she is referred to only as “the monster”.
Alicia said the whole family feels let down by authorities
Family and friends contacted social services on several occasions from January 2020 and up until the month Star died.
Alicia says she contacted social services three months before the murder, as well as the police, after growing increasingly concerned for Star’s welfare.
Alicia has shown Sky News an email she sent to the police, with images of Star’s bruised face and testimony in text messages from another sister that she had seen Smith “slap her across the face.”
According to Alicia, police never responded and her exchanges with social services were equally unsuccessful.
This is a transcript of the Snapchat conversation sent to police
SISTER: “I’ve just seen Frankie slap her across the face. X”
SISTER “I’m fuming x”
ALICE: “Tell lullaby x”
SISTER: “K x”
ALICIA: “Something bad is going to happen. Why did she hit her?”
SISTER: “Coz she was playing with her shoe.”
Around this time, police and social services took the child to hospital to be checked up, but accepted her injuries were accidental.
This was already the second time police had seen Star with bruising. Family and friends made a total of five referrals, but Alicia now says she wishes she had taken things into her own hands from her.
“I was just angry, every day, because no one was listening to me,” she said.
“I felt like all I could have done was taken her and run off with her.”
Alicia gave evidence against her sister in court.
Although they were eleven best friends, she said: “I just can’t ever speak to her again.
“I was literally screaming at Frankie, ‘You don’t have to be with that girl, we can call the police, we can get a restraining order.’
“I don’t know if she didn’t believe me, or she didn’t want to.
“I just feel angry because I think if that was me, if that was my child, I would have got away. I would have got out of that situation, no matter what.
“So, I can’t forgive that.”
One of the complaints to social services was dismissed as malicious despite bruises being found on Tiny Star.
In January 2020, a friend of Smith raised concerns about Star to social services. The case was closed a month later.
Between February and April, Star was living with great grandparents Anita Smith and David Fawcett where she was content and happy.
In April 2020, Smith took Star back. Just a month later, Anita contacted social services who paid Smith a visit the same day.
Anita had contacted social services in May after she had been told that Brockhill had been ‘slam-choking’ Star – lifting by her neck and thrown on the bed – in order to ‘toughen her up’.
Anita said that, after making the referral, she was not contacted by anyone from social services and was not told when the social services inquiry had been closed.
After she had made the referral, Anita said she David had their access to Star restricted and were only able to see her a couple more times before she died.
During the trial, disturbing details of the toddler’s short life emerged, including a clip captured on CCTV of Brockhill repeatedly punching Star in the face and stomach over a three-hour period, nine days before the murder.
The toddler was also filmed being dragged through Bradford city center by Smith and crawling painfully up the communal staircase to her mother’s flat.
Brockhill, was convicted of murdering the little girl and jailed for life with a minimum term of 25 years.
Smith was convicted of causing or allowing the death of her 16-month-old daughter and sentenced to eight years in prison.
Like all of those who loved Star, Alicia said her niece was a very special girl who loved music, dancing and chocolate.
She previously said: “She had the best personality I have ever known. She loved chocolate especially Twirl – they were her favourite!
“She was cheeky she used to do a little fake laugh and it made me laugh every single time.
“We were very close I loved her so deeply I felt very connected to her.”
The last time Ms Szepler saw her niece was in August 2020, the month before she was killed.
She said: “Star just looked tired. There were eyebags. She wasn’t as chunky. She looked sad.”
The little girl died after suffering catastrophic internal injuries on September 22 in 2020.
Both Brockhill and Smith initially claimed they weren’t nearby when it happened and that they’d heard a bang.
Ms Szepler said: “I said to my mum, ‘I know that’s a lie’, I said to my mum, ‘you do know they are going to arrest Frankie now?’ A few days later she got arrested and from that day I just decided I can’t speak to her.”
Ms Szepler said the whole family feels let down by the authorities.
“It’s not like just one person reported it,” she said. “There were five different people from Star’s family or close friends who reported it… that seems like a big failure.
“They just thought that all of Frankie’s family were being malicious, and they’d just decided they’d taken their side. That’s what it felt like, it felt like the social services were against us.
“I think they need to be more on the ball, and time is crucial. Frankie was texting her social worker saying ‘we’ve got a sickness bug, can we rearrange’.
“And she was just replying, ‘no worries’ – whereas they should be like, ‘no, you can’t rearrange – this needs to be followed up, I need to see you today.'”
On the day Star died, she’d had a social services visit delayed by her mother.
Last week, Bradford Council had the responsibility for running children’s social care taken off it.
A top councillor apologized to children in the district, and admitted the council had failed them and needed to make sure failings did not continue.
Councillor Brendan Stubbs (Lib Dem, Eccleshill) said: “It was not our intention, but we have failed them and collectively we need to accept responsibility and made sure the failings don’t continue for another three or four years.”
Last month, the Attorney General, Rt Hon Suella Braverman QC MP, referred the sentence of Frankie Smith to the Court of Appeal under the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme.
This means she could be jailed for longer.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.