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Behind Closed Doors

Nearly 2,500 NI children are on the Child Protection Register, but more are at risk. Stephen Dempster reports on the disturbing death of baby Cameron Leslie.


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This programme contains some scenes which some viewers may find

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 58 seconds

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Every parent's joy, the new baby. Cameron Leslie was 6lb 70z. He was

:01:11.:01:19.

born in Belfast Mater Hospital. paid him, held him in my arms, and

:01:19.:01:29.
:01:29.:01:30.

he was so tiny. And the first time I took him home, I realised I was

:01:30.:01:33.

leaving the hospital and this little thing is coming with me and

:01:33.:01:38.

it is not going back. Sheree counterpart no Ryan Leslie lived in

:01:38.:01:44.

the New Mossley estate just outside North Belfast. She was only 17 when

:01:44.:01:48.

she became pregnant but they were both happy to become parents.

:01:48.:01:53.

Cameron was a brilliant baby. He slept, he was good. He had a

:01:53.:02:00.

routine. I was happy, over the moon. Ryan also appeared to be a loving

:02:00.:02:06.

father. When we were all together, he was very hands on. He would have

:02:06.:02:10.

helped to the bottles, do the nappies, do his fair share of

:02:11.:02:20.
:02:21.:02:22.

Looking at these pictures, you see a happy, healthy child. There is

:02:22.:02:27.

nothing to suggest that a short time later while in his father's

:02:27.:02:37.
:02:37.:03:09.

care, this little boy would be at The first Sheree knew something was

:03:09.:03:15.

wrong when she got a call from Ryan, saying he was going to the hospital.

:03:15.:03:20.

He was in an ambulance with Cameron. I was completely shocked. I thought,

:03:20.:03:25.

what is going on? He told me not to worry. He had a little chest

:03:26.:03:31.

infection or something. When he reached hospital, Cameron's

:03:31.:03:40.

condition deteriorated and Ryan's Dad arrived afterwards. Ryan was

:03:40.:03:46.

distressed. He basically said, Daddy, I do not know what is going

:03:46.:03:52.

on. When Sheree got there, she found her son fighting for his life.

:03:52.:03:58.

I walked past Cameron's bed and didn't even recognise my own son

:03:58.:04:03.

because there was all wires and tubes coming out of him. I turned

:04:03.:04:09.

back, actually, and there was a doctor pumping air into his chest

:04:09.:04:14.

because he was a day did. Cameron had bleeding on the brain and his

:04:14.:04:20.

condition was critical. Doctors transferred into the Royal Victoria

:04:20.:04:27.

Hospital in Belfast. Events were to take a dramatic turn there. Ryan

:04:27.:04:35.

caught me. He said, look, John, what are the police doing there? I

:04:35.:04:38.

didn't even notice but he seemed concerned about the police being

:04:38.:04:44.

though. I was just holding his little hand, talking to him, and

:04:44.:04:48.

Ryan came in and went over and kissed him on the head and said,

:04:48.:04:53.

good night. He looked at me and said, everybody is going to think,

:04:53.:04:58.

everybody is going to think I did this. Ryan was right to feel

:04:58.:05:02.

concerned at seeing the police. Doctors examining the baby decided

:05:02.:05:08.

Cameron's injuries were not accidental. I was standing outside

:05:08.:05:16.

with his father, having a smoke, and he said to me, there is my

:05:16.:05:20.

rhyme coming. And I looked at him and he was coming out with

:05:20.:05:23.

detectives. Ryan Leslie was arrested on suspicion of harming

:05:24.:05:27.

his son but there was a more shocking and devastating moment to

:05:27.:05:34.

come. Cameron was not going to live and two days after being taken to

:05:34.:05:39.

hospital, Sheree was asked to a cream for his life support machine

:05:39.:05:47.

to be switched off. I chose to switch the machine off at 4:07pm.

:05:47.:05:55.

How do you explain that to anybody, I can't explain it... I'm sorry. It

:05:55.:06:05.

is just really emotional. At the end, it was just my mummy

:06:05.:06:12.

and my daddy and me. Just talking to him. I will never ever forget

:06:12.:06:17.

them last minutes with Cameron, and how much he changed. How much he

:06:17.:06:26.

scared me. 20 minutes I held him. His heart didn't stop beating until

:06:26.:06:36.
:06:36.:06:39.

4:27pm. The nurses had to take him Billy Lesley says his family was

:06:39.:06:44.

affected, too. What was it like to have to say goodbye to Cameron?

:06:44.:06:51.

wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. Not on my worst enemy. I do not

:06:51.:06:56.

even want to answer that. I can't. How could it be that 14 week old

:06:56.:07:01.

Cameron was dead and had -- and his father was accused of killing him?

:07:01.:07:11.
:07:11.:07:11.

There was good reason to think, in fact, the baby was at risk.

:07:11.:07:15.

Sheree met Ryan on the New Mossley estate. She grew up a short

:07:15.:07:19.

distance away at Whiteabbey and had plans to study travel and tourism.

:07:19.:07:26.

I had just left school at 16. I was in New Mossley. My first impression

:07:26.:07:31.

was that he was funny and outgoing. There was another side to her new

:07:31.:07:37.

boyfriend. Ryan Leslie was 23 and unemployed, and had a history of

:07:37.:07:41.

violence. He had three convictions for assault, including two on

:07:41.:07:48.

police officers. Ryan Leslie is a cold, manipulative person. During

:07:48.:07:52.

our investigation, we discovered a number of areas which showed his

:07:52.:07:57.

propensity to violence. His violent nature was exacerbated by his heavy

:07:57.:08:04.

drug use. I could not deal with it when Ryan came in height as a kite.

:08:04.:08:10.

He was abusive to me, to his mother. It was unacceptable. I would slap

:08:10.:08:16.

him. Throw him out. But I have lived at, seeing my son suffer

:08:16.:08:23.

through wit. My child grew up to us -- to be somebody even will.

:08:23.:08:33.
:08:33.:08:34.

wasn't long after they moved in together that is violence appeared.

:08:34.:08:39.

He punched me when I tried to walk out of the door. He automatically

:08:39.:08:43.

apologised for what he'd done, he said, sorry, sorry. He didn't mean

:08:43.:08:50.

it. They abused each other verbally. Ryan went overboard physically. I

:08:50.:08:58.

told him that. I threatened to slap him myself if he ever slapped a

:08:58.:09:03.

girl. As the rows increased, so did the cuts and bruises which Sheree

:09:03.:09:08.

hit from family and friends. Why did you stay with him? I felt I had

:09:08.:09:17.

no way to go, even though I did -- even though I had my mum. It was

:09:17.:09:22.

kept behind closed doors. I wanted to make things work and I didn't

:09:22.:09:29.

want to believe what was really happening to me. Research reveals a

:09:29.:09:33.

staggering statistic. One in four women in Northern Ireland have

:09:33.:09:38.

suffered one -- some sort of domestic violence. Sheree's story

:09:38.:09:42.

is a common one in that there is a great stigma associated with

:09:42.:09:48.

domestic violence. The police are called out to an incident every 20

:09:48.:09:51.

minutes, but we also know from other research that actually only

:09:51.:09:55.

about half the incidents of domestic violence ever notified --

:09:55.:09:59.

I have ever notified to the authorities. Ryan Leslie also

:09:59.:10:04.

became controlling but Sheree said she loved him and hoped things

:10:04.:10:08.

would change when the couple got some unexpected news. Cameron was

:10:08.:10:13.

unplanned. I was on contraception and just threw partying and being

:10:13.:10:20.

stupid and forgetting to take my pill, I fell pregnant. Because Ryan

:10:20.:10:23.

was delighted at the prospect of being a father, Sheree believes the

:10:23.:10:29.

violence would stop. I can understand why she felt that. But

:10:29.:10:34.

the opposite is true. We know that men that are violent towards their

:10:34.:10:38.

partners, whenever their partner becomes pregnant, they feel they

:10:38.:10:42.

have a greater claim over their partner and child. Therefore, their

:10:42.:10:47.

behaviour becomes much more controlling, and they are more

:10:47.:10:52.

likely to use physical force as a way to impose that controlling

:10:52.:10:57.

dimension to the relationship. Therefore, whether somebody stays

:10:57.:11:02.

or leaves, then the introduction of a child into a situation increases

:11:02.:11:08.

the risk to both the adult and also the child, whether born or unborn.

:11:08.:11:14.

About 30% of all violence starts when someone is pregnant. During

:11:15.:11:20.

2009-2010, we had 11 babies born to mothers with in our refuges and

:11:20.:11:23.

mothers because they had to get away from home and find somewhere

:11:23.:11:28.

safe. Ryan hit me throughout my pregnancy and before, when I wasn't

:11:28.:11:31.

pregnant, but I did tell him and made him aware that if he ever

:11:31.:11:38.

lifted his hands to me when Cameron was born that was it. In the spring

:11:38.:11:46.

of 2008, six months into the pregnancy, Ryan kicked her between

:11:46.:11:54.

the thighs. Worried about the baby, Sheree and her mother told the

:11:54.:11:58.

midwife about the violence. asked me whether I wanted it

:11:58.:12:03.

reported, which I said that I didn't. I didn't want any social

:12:03.:12:07.

services to be brought in. That would be another big regret I would

:12:07.:12:11.

have. It would have prevented things. The guidance to health

:12:11.:12:15.

professionals could not be clearer. Whatever Sheree said, the midwife

:12:15.:12:19.

could have been recorded. If that happened, three months later when

:12:19.:12:23.

Cameron was born, social services would have been a where there was a

:12:23.:12:27.

child at risk, but no record of that abuse appears in her medical

:12:27.:12:31.

notes. An important opportunity to alert those that could have

:12:31.:12:35.

intervened appears to have been missed. According to Northern

:12:35.:12:38.

Health Trust policy, social services could have -- should have

:12:38.:12:43.

been told of Ryan Leslie's violence towards his partner has a

:12:43.:12:47.

potentially the couple and baby would have been monitored. And Ryan

:12:47.:12:51.

Leslie's fitness to care for his child questioned. We asked the

:12:51.:12:56.

Northern Health Trust what should have happened once Sheree told the

:12:56.:13:00.

midwife of the assault. They said it would have expected -- expected

:13:00.:13:04.

the midwife to take appropriate action to ensure the patient's

:13:04.:13:14.
:13:14.:13:14.

It also confirmed it has no record of domestic violence in her notice.

:13:14.:13:20.

The trust said it was always open to learning lessons if appropriate.

:13:20.:13:24.

The earlier the professionals identify the family is having

:13:24.:13:29.

difficulty, and are able to provide support, the less likely children

:13:29.:13:33.

will be harmed. In cases like this one, if people had been able to

:13:33.:13:41.

respond to some of the Father's aggressive behaviour in other

:13:41.:13:45.

aspect of his life, it may have reduced the likelihood he would be

:13:45.:13:50.

aggressive towards his partner and Until madly his son. When Cameron

:13:50.:13:58.

was born, the home was found to be clean and tidy. Ryan took on his

:13:58.:14:01.

fatherly responsibilities. Neighbours would also hear him

:14:01.:14:11.

screaming at the child. That old rage had returned. Local community

:14:11.:14:20.

worker, Jackie come up also remembers Ryan's aggression flowing

:14:20.:14:26.

up over his housing. I explained he was way down the chain, he has a

:14:26.:14:30.

flat and one partner, it was sufficient. They will put you on a

:14:30.:14:35.

list but you could be there for four years or longer, unless you

:14:35.:14:39.

have another family. He was very angry. Things came to a head when

:14:40.:14:44.

the baby was 11 weeks old. Ryan starter shouted at him from the

:14:44.:14:50.

bathroom because he was crying, and then me and Ryan got into an

:14:50.:14:56.

argument over the way he spoke to him. Woman went to her mother's

:14:56.:14:59.

house to live and told Ryan the relationship was over, but she

:14:59.:15:04.

still wanted her son to spend time with his father. Ryan bombarded

:15:04.:15:14.
:15:14.:15:15.

with -- Sheree with text messages. He was constantly ringing me and

:15:15.:15:19.

texting me. One minute he was crying and crying about how he

:15:19.:15:25.

wanted me back, he loved me so much, then he changed, calling me off the

:15:25.:15:32.

names under the sun and threatening me. Roy and Leslie's temper was so

:15:32.:15:37.

bad his GP had referred him to Mater Hospital in 2007 to assess

:15:37.:15:42.

both his anger and his mental state, but he later repeatedly failed to

:15:42.:15:48.

turn up for anger management appointments, concluding in the

:15:48.:15:52.

week Cameron was injured. He had also twice gone to local police

:15:52.:16:01.

station in a rage, demanding help for his anger. The Police say he

:16:01.:16:08.

had not committed a crime. He was trying to kick the class in. They

:16:08.:16:15.

said there was nothing they could do for him. It is not us you need,

:16:15.:16:20.

you need to see somebody. It is only then he turned round and said

:16:20.:16:24.

if you do something, I am telling you now you will find me hanging.

:16:24.:16:28.

The second visit at the police station was on the day Sheree had

:16:28.:16:34.

left, taking Cameron with her. Ryan was warning that he was angry and

:16:34.:16:39.

suicidal because they had moved out. It was just three weeks before

:16:39.:16:44.

Cameron was killed. Police directed him to an on-call social worker,

:16:44.:16:49.

but the trusts says it can't discuss Ryan Leslie's personal

:16:49.:16:54.

medical records and so will not comment on his contact with social

:16:54.:16:59.

services or of the GP. Experts say after a couple splits, the

:16:59.:17:03.

potential for more violence increases further. But despite

:17:03.:17:12.

Ryan's volatility, Sheree agreed to having -- him having his son alone

:17:12.:17:18.

overnight. The baby was dropped back to Sheree the next morning.

:17:18.:17:24.

noticed a bruised inside Cameron's ear. The phone rang straight away,

:17:24.:17:29.

and I asked him how Cameron got the bruise. His automatic reaction was

:17:30.:17:35.

I didn't hit my child, are you accusing me of hitting my child? I

:17:35.:17:39.

said I wasn't but that he had been in his care and I was asking how he

:17:39.:17:45.

got the bruise. Sheree has gone over and over in her mind this

:17:45.:17:51.

conversation with Ryan. I wish I had been more on the ball about

:17:51.:17:56.

things. I approached Ryan about this but I should have pushed him,

:17:57.:18:01.

questioned him more. I shouldn't have let him go back into his care.

:18:01.:18:08.

I do have guilt for not doing that, but I wasn't suspecting Ryan have

:18:08.:18:13.

anything. When it came to Cameron, to be honest I trusted him.

:18:13.:18:18.

living as a single mother, Sheree admits she was glad of the break

:18:18.:18:22.

and took Cameron back to stay with Ryan on the following Tuesday,

:18:22.:18:28.

again for one overnight stay. However, the next morning, Ryan

:18:28.:18:35.

called Sheree. He called me at about half-past 11, saying Cameron

:18:35.:18:44.

was brilliant, that he wanted to keep him for another night. Ryan

:18:45.:18:49.

kept Cameron, and the next significant contact was from the

:18:49.:18:53.

ambulance on the way to Antrim Hospital. A post-mortem found that,

:18:53.:18:58.

as a result of a heavy blow to the head, Cameron had massive bleeding

:18:58.:19:02.

on the surface of the brain, which caused extensive and fatal brain

:19:02.:19:08.

damage. He also had 14 fractured ribs and his body had bruising to

:19:08.:19:14.

many areas. Throughout questioning and around 15 hours of interviews,

:19:14.:19:20.

Ryan Leslie maintained he didn't attack his son. But two days after

:19:20.:19:27.

Cameron died, he was charged with murdering his own child. The baby's

:19:27.:19:31.

death had a massive impact on the tight-knit community, which raised

:19:32.:19:37.

�2,000 to help pay for his funeral. But what the hundreds of mourners

:19:37.:19:42.

didn't know was the distressing effect of the post-mortem on

:19:42.:19:47.

Cameron's small body. I wish Ryan had seen Cameron in his coffin for

:19:47.:19:51.

what he had done to him, because having to look at Cameron and

:19:51.:19:55.

knowing that things he had been through in the post-mortem is just

:19:55.:20:01.

not fair. Nobody should have to bury their own child. In January,

:20:01.:20:05.

writes Leslie's trial began. The court heard how he had delayed

:20:05.:20:09.

calling an ambulance for his son even though he said the baby had

:20:09.:20:15.

looked dead seven hours before he dialled 999. Jurors were also told

:20:15.:20:20.

Healy began to offer any explanation for the baby's state as

:20:20.:20:24.

the injuries emerged. When he was told of the fractured ribs, he said

:20:24.:20:28.

it must have happened when he tried to resuscitate his son by giving

:20:28.:20:33.

him CPR. Ryan never mentioned CPR until he was told about the

:20:33.:20:40.

fractured ribs, which was about 6 o'clock on Thursday night. Ryan had

:20:40.:20:44.

spent all day not mentioning it wants to any doctors, any medical

:20:44.:20:50.

staff whatsoever. Even when he had been asked for an account of what

:20:50.:20:54.

happened. The court heard that the 14 fractured ribs were not

:20:54.:21:01.

inflicted by CPR, but by Ryan squeezing Cameron with both hands.

:21:01.:21:05.

From the outset, the evidence points to the fact that he has lied

:21:05.:21:11.

to medical staff, he has lied to Sheree, to his family, and during

:21:11.:21:14.

extensive interviews with police, he continued to lie about his

:21:14.:21:20.

actions. Ryan's story changed depending on what evidence was put

:21:20.:21:25.

to him, again only when he discovered the nature of his baby's

:21:25.:21:28.

head injuries did he have a story about the child knocking his head

:21:28.:21:33.

on a plastic bath. But medical experts concluded Ryan Leslie had

:21:33.:21:39.

inflicted some sort of heavy blow to the side of Cameron's head

:21:39.:21:44.

severe enough to cause a blood clot and trigger bleeding on the brain.

:21:44.:21:50.

The jury decided the things he had said were all lies. After six weeks

:21:50.:21:55.

of evidence, they took just two hours to find Ryan Leslie guilty of

:21:55.:22:04.

murder. Billy Leslie still refuses to accept his some's guilt. I did

:22:04.:22:10.

question myself, could he have done something in a fit of rage? I know

:22:10.:22:15.

Ryan has got anger and an attitude. I have an attitude. If I started

:22:15.:22:20.

pushing your buttons, you would be bound to react. Is he capable of

:22:20.:22:25.

doing these injuries? Yes, to an adult. To his own baby, definitely

:22:25.:22:31.

not. Ryan has been found guilty in a court by a jury, they have

:22:31.:22:37.

accepted he is guilty of the murder of his baby. The investigation

:22:37.:22:40.

never focuses on one individual, any investigation will ensure

:22:40.:22:45.

nobody else is guilty as well as the suspect, however Ryan was the

:22:45.:22:50.

only suspect from the outset. is riotously during one of his

:22:50.:22:54.

court appearances. Sentencing him to 17 years for the murder of his

:22:54.:22:58.

baby, the judge said he had shown no remorse and was a deeply

:22:58.:23:03.

dishonest and manipulative individual. The judge also made it

:23:03.:23:08.

clear Ryan Leslie was a man who could not control his temper.

:23:08.:23:13.

temper was a key factor in the case. It is my belief that Ryan was

:23:13.:23:19.

unable to cope with looking after his baby on his own, and at some

:23:19.:23:23.

point something has happened which has caused him to lose his temper.

:23:23.:23:27.

His anger has been raised and as a result he has inflicted horrific

:23:27.:23:32.

injuries on his own 14 week-old baby some. In the week of the

:23:32.:23:37.

conviction, there is a review of the case. It will have to ask

:23:37.:23:40.

whether there could have been any intervention to protect Cameron

:23:40.:23:46.

from the violence of his father. What is clear is, had the midwife

:23:46.:23:49.

recorded when Sheree had been attacked, social services would

:23:49.:23:55.

have had to have intervened and Cameron would have been saved.

:23:55.:24:00.

Research suggests this case may not be unique. I think a vast majority

:24:00.:24:04.

of professionals are aware of the guidance, but we also know from

:24:04.:24:09.

work we do that there are cases when that guidance does not appear

:24:09.:24:17.

to have been followed. Like many children at risk, Cameron never

:24:17.:24:20.

appeared on the child protection register. One case found that the

:24:20.:24:25.

vast majority of people physically abused as children never made it

:24:25.:24:32.

onto the register. Only a tiny proportion of those were known and

:24:32.:24:35.

placed on child protection registers. In some cases that was

:24:35.:24:38.

25 times higher than what would have been known to social services

:24:38.:24:43.

at the time. In this case it was not just social services left

:24:43.:24:47.

unaware. The night before Cameron came into his care for the last

:24:47.:24:52.

time, Ryan Leslie says he tried to take his own life but nobody had

:24:52.:25:01.

told Sheree. Ryan tried to commit suicide on the Monday, but if I had

:25:01.:25:05.

known what Ryan had tried to do, I would never have let Cameron be in

:25:05.:25:10.

his care. What is known is that there is a higher percentage of

:25:10.:25:14.

children on the child protection register in Northern Ireland than

:25:14.:25:21.

in any other part of the UK. The numbers have risen 50% since 2004.

:25:21.:25:26.

As of 31st March this year, there were around 2400 children on the

:25:26.:25:32.

register. So why are the referrals rising? I think it is a good sign

:25:32.:25:36.

that the number of referrals about children who need support and

:25:36.:25:39.

protection has increased. It doesn't necessarily mean there are

:25:40.:25:48.

more children at risk, it shows the system has been improved. Parents

:25:48.:25:53.

are more likely to pick up the telephone and tell social services

:25:53.:25:58.

about problems. This means more pressure on social services. Over

:25:58.:26:02.

the last few years, we have seen a pretty big increase in terms of the

:26:02.:26:06.

demands being placed on social services and social work in

:26:06.:26:11.

particular. In some trusts, the amount of referrals have gone up by

:26:11.:26:18.

30%. In the last 10 years there have been 35 children killed or

:26:18.:26:24.

injured mostly by their carers in Northern Ireland. The NSPCC are

:26:24.:26:28.

researching how social services and others reacted in those cases. But

:26:28.:26:34.

whatever their findings, it won't bring back Cameron Leslie. The

:26:34.:26:38.

judge made it clear that the father Rolo and was responsible for the

:26:38.:26:44.

child's death, but Sheree admits to feeling some guilt. Do you in any

:26:44.:26:49.

way blame yourself? Not for his death, but I blame myself for the

:26:49.:26:54.

choices I made in life. Maybe if I hadn't made certain choices to live

:26:54.:26:58.

with Ryan and rush into things, I wouldn't have ended up pregnant and

:26:58.:27:03.

things wouldn't have happened the way they did. Sheree has now got a

:27:03.:27:08.

job and is also modelling, but she can't move on in her mind. I try to

:27:09.:27:13.

block out a lot of my emotions. I am not ready to deal with what has

:27:13.:27:22.

happened. I don't know when I will be ready. I think it is Cameron

:27:22.:27:26.

that gives me the strength to be so strong, because I am not going to

:27:26.:27:35.

Nearly 2,500 NI children are on the Child Protection Register, but many more are at risk. Stephen Dempster reports on the disturbing death of baby Cameron Leslie.


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