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Harrowing recordings of police calls made by neighbours before mum murdered her 9-year-old son

Harrowing recordings of police calls made by neighbours before mum murdered her 9-year-old son

Alfie Steele was killed by his mother and her partner at their Droitwich home in 2021

Warning: This article contains content which some readers may find distressing

A series of recorded phone calls made to police by concerned neighbours in the weeks leading up to the harrowing murder of nine-year-old Alfie Steele have been released in a chilling new documentary.

Airing on Discovery+ as part of the ongoing Deadliest Families series, the program looks back on that fateful day in February 2021, when the schoolboy was found dead at his home in Droitwich following months of abuse at the hands of those who were supposed to protect him.

On 18 February, 2021, mother-of-one Carla Scott dialled 999 after 'finding' her only child Alfie 'unresponsive' in the bath of their West Mercia home, claiming at the same time that he'd 'banged his head'.

After both police and an ambulance arrived on the scene, and Carla's family were alerted to what was originally considered a rescue mission, the lifeless youngster was airlifted to Worcestershire Royal Hospital.

It was during this journey, however, that Alfie's family were dealt the heartbreaking news that he'd passed away.

In the documentary, his maternal grandfather Paul Scott opens up about the moment he learnt that his precious grandchild had succumb to his injuries.

"I got really upset," he is seen tearfully admitting. "I went to punch a wall and then I stopped myself."

Alfie was killed in the bathtub of his home.
West Mercia Police

Alfie's auntie Sophie Watson then sobs as she tells viewers: "I got a text, 'He's in heaven'. I've messaged back, 'What do you mean?', and then I fell to the ground, I screamed.

"I went, 'No!'. Then, I just couldn't stop crying. It was my worst ever day in my life. He meant the world to me. I thought I was in a nightmare. I just wanted to wake up from it."

At Alfie's home, meanwhile, cracks soon began to show in Carla's story during her initial conversations with investigating officers.

Despite then having been informed that her son had died, and as opposed to an emotional display following the heart-wrenching update, body-cam footage shown on the documentary shows the mother speaking on the phone to her partner, Dirk Howell.

Carla was unable to give officers a straight version of events.
It became apparent that she was notably more interested in the whereabouts of her boyfriend - who was already on the radar for local authorities following a series of crimes and allegations of abuse - than her own son.

It was then that Carla, 35, slipped up in her explanation to investigating officers, accidentally telling them that she'd found her little boy 'an hour ago', as opposed to just before calling the ambulance.

She was subsequently unable to give a straight version of events.

Within hours of police arriving to her home, she was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

Dirk, 41, was then spotted in the local area attempting to get onto a train before he was apprehended by officers and arrested under the same suspicion.

The duo were then charged with a plethora of child cruelty crimes after medics noticed that Alfie's body bore countless other injuries, as well as having water in his airways.

Dirk Howell had attempted to flee the area after playing his part in Alfie's murder.

Even more horrific than the youngster's 'violent and brutal' death, however, was the mass of evidence later gathered by police, which indicated that Alfie had been subjected to stomach-churning abuse for as long as 18 months.

From around the time that Carla had begun to date Dirk, Alfie's family and neighbours living in the surrounding areas had voiced their concerns over his safety on countless occasions.

And during the time of the couple's 2023 sentencing, it emerged that over 60 calls had been made to both police and social services, alerting them to concerning behaviour being exhibited by Carla and Dirk.

In the distressing documentary, recordings of these phone calls have been released to be public for the first time, with one clip hearing a neighbour telling officers they could see Alfie being marched around the garden by Dirk, and made to stand to attention like a soldier, before cold water is repeatedly thrown over him.

Alfie had been subjected to up to 18 months of abuse before his death.

"They've had him in the garden disciplining him," the terrified neighbour can be heard saying. "He's standing like a statue. This lad we believe is called Alfie."

The officer then asks whether this is her first time reporting abuse in Alfie's case, to which the caller explains that her husband has called the police before.

In another incident, another neighbour reported that the school-boy had been locked out of the house, the recording of which hears Alfie screaming: "Open the door! Open the door! Open the door!"

Alfie's teachers also voiced their concern for his wellbeing, after sending him home for noticing a pool of blood in his ear one day and handing him a new uniform after his original one remained unwashed.

Throughout the duration of Carla's relationship with Dirk, her family were terrified that the punishments that the child was being subjected to were increasing in severity.

Dirk Howell was convicted of murder.
West Mercia Police/CPS

In the weeks prior to his murder, a neighbour once again called the police.

"Hello, it sounds like my neighbours are doing something bad to their kid in the bath, like they're hurting them," the recording hears. "He's being hit and held under the water or something. There's thrashing around."

In response to another neighbour calling the police, Dirk sent Carla round to confront them before he threatened to burn their house down.

Following a trial littered with the villainous couple's contempt, Carla was sentenced at Coventry Crown Court to a total of 27 years for manslaughter and child cruelty, and must serve a minimum of 17 years.

Dirk was sentenced to a minimum of 32 years for Alfie's murder.

Tyla contacted West Mercia police for an update, and was directed to a Child Safeguarding Practice Review of the child's vicious killing, carried out in January this year by Worcestershire Safeguarding Children Partnership.

Carla was convicted of manslaughter.

Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Jones said: "We continue to extend our deepest condolences to those who knew Alfie, who will forever miss his warm infectious smile and sense of humour.

"The loss his family has experienced is immeasurable. Alfie’s family and you, our local communities, deserve to have faith that authorities, including police, will do everything in their power to keep children safe and stop those intent on causing harm and suffering.

"This is why it is important that you understand the partnership’s actions prior to Alfie’s murder, and the measures put in place to ensure children are listened to and kept safe."

The statement went on to insist that 'enhanced training' has been put in place to assist frontline officers in fully understanding the signs of vulnerability, and that staff consider 'alternative measures' alongside criminal proceedings, 'such as civil orders.'

In investigation being carried out by the Independent Office for Police Conduct is still ongoing.
West Mercia Police

It added that the Independent Office for Police Conduct investigation set up during the trial is ongoing.

"It is with the greatest sadness that we will never be able to undo the dreadful abuse Alfie suffered. Our thoughts remain with all those who knew and loved Alfie."

The Tragedy of Alfie releasing Saturday 6th April for UK viewers on Discovery+.

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence regarding the welfare of a child, contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000, 10am-8pm Monday to Friday. If you are a child seeking advice and support, call Childline for free on 0800 1111, 24/7.

Featured Image Credit: West Mercia Police

Topics: Crime, True Crime, UK News, News, Documentaries, Parenting