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Published: 9 August 2007

Mystery revelation sparks child abuse investigation

THE private diary of 12-year-old Salma ElSharkawy, who died in a car crash while in care last month, is at the centre of a shock new police investigation.
A mysterious revelation, her family say was discovered in Salma’s journal, has prompted an inquiry by the police child abuse investigation team.
Specific details of what Salma had written in the diary are not being released by the authorities and at this stage no person or institution has been asked to answer any allegations.
Former Haverstock School pupil Salma died alongside her key worker, Elizabeth Fitton, in a car crash in ­Derbyshire last month.
She had been staying at a private residential centre after being taken from her parents’ care two years ­earlier.
The New Journal has previously reported how Salma was known to put her thoughts down in writing.
Her parents have revealed that ­letters written by Salma pleaded with a family court judge to let her return to them. On her website, she called herself “lil NW5 runaway”.
Salma’s belongings have now been returned to her parents, Walid ElSharkawy and Mary O’Sullivan, but, most significantly, her diary has been retained by police.
Her distraught father is now fighting to see the diary’s contents but says he has been told these will only be disclosed once the investigation is complete.
Salma’s family said they only learned about the investigation on Thursday, when called to an emergency meeting with a police officer, social worker and a representative from the National Society for the ­Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
At the half-hour meeting they were given Salma’s belongings but not any of her diaries.
Mr ElSharkawy said: “When I got there an NSPCC independent social worker said she’d just been appointed by Camden social services to investigate an issue of concern.
“The purpose was to tell us that there was something peculiar in her diaries and they were very keen on investigating it. I said if they don’t let us have the same amount of freedom to the information as Camden Council I will release it to the media. I asked what it said, but they told me ‘you might be incriminating your own child’.”
Mr ElSharkawy said: “The woman at the NSPCC said they’ll give me the information after they have written the report. We insist the diary is released to us. Camden social services are not the legal inheritors.”
Mr ElSharkawy said: “I left the meeting first. They were giving her clothes to her mother. They were clothes I had bought her – a shirt from Belgium with Brussels on it – and I couldn’t look at them because it would be too distressing.”
Mr ElSharkawy said Salma had told him by email that she had complained about her treatment in letters to social services but that nothing was done.
He said: “She begged on the net come and take me home please. She used to write to me every day. She told me a social worker told her she’ll never go back to her parents again and that destroyed her emotionally.”
Her father only learned after her death that he had passed an assessment into his fitness to be a parent - bringing him one step closer to getting his daughter back.
Salma’s untimely death is at the centre of four investigations – an independent inquiry into her care at the hands of Camden Council, an internal council probe, a police inquiry into the car crash and the fresh investigation linked to the diary.
Her father is pressing for a public inquiry and wants an independent investigator, agreed by the family, to be involved in the investigation into her care.
Salma was one of a number of children needing homes who were featured in a publication from The Fostering Network which was sent out to a restric­ted mailing list, including registered foster carers.
Pictures of Salma appeared in at least two editions of Family Finder, with the comment “her carers describe Salma as ‘a kind and loving girl’”.
As well as listing her interest in tai kwando, dance, reading and outings to a city farm, the publication adds: “Salma benefits from consistent boundaries and clearly defined expectations. She was able to form good attachments in her previous placement and has gained self-confidence and self-esteem.”
A police spokeswoman said: “We are not discussing whether any allegations had been made by the victim prior to this allegation being received. We are also not confirming or discussing any involvement of a diary in this case.
“We’re investigating an allegation of abuse as a result of information received by us. The nature of the abuse is part of the investigation.
“We have liaised closely with the family of the alleged victim and kept them fully updated on the investigation. We would encourage them to raise any concerns they may have with the investigating officer.”
A Camden Council press official said: “A thorough investigation into Salma’s care is being carried out by the council and there will also be an independent review of her case.
“We will decide if any further action needs to be taken once we have the findings of those reports. In the meantime we are keeping the family fully informed of all developments and will respect Salma’s privacy by not discussing specific details of her care in the media.”

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