A baby was found malnourished with an empty bottle lying by the side of his dead mum. Eighteen-month old Adriel Ejikemeuwa was in his cot alone for almost five days following Mercy Bagum’s sudden death. Mother and son were only found when worried dad Eric Nnanna phoned the police for help after hearing Adriel crying through the front door, Glasgow Live reported.
He had become concerned when he couldn’t get through to Mercy, 34. When police entered the flat they found the toddler in his cot clutching an empty milk bottle. Adriel’s mum was lying dead in the hallway. A post-mortem revealed she had died of alcohol poisoning, but had no history of alcohol abuse. The Home Office and contractors Mears Group, which provide asylum housing, has been criticised for their role in the inquiry.
Campaigners have demanded a fatal accident inquiry be held into Mercy’s death. Eric said: “I had no idea something was wrong and when I think of what Adriel must have endured it just breaks my heart. If Mears had told Mercy where she was moving to then Adriel would never have been left for as long as he was because I would have gone to the new flat to look for them. I miss Mercy dearly and Adriel does too as sometimes he still calls ‘momma’ and I get upset when I can’t help him understand.”
Adriel now stays with his dad at another Home Office flat in the city. Devastated Eric, who is studying subsea and pipeline engineering at the University of Strathclyde, hopes the newly launched investigation will provide answers.He has also launched legal action against the Home Office.
He said: “I just hope this investigation helps provide answers, we can at least understand why things went wrong that way no one else will need to experience what we have.” The couple had lived in separate flats until March, when Eric began spending time at Mercy’s to help look after their son. Mears contacted the mum to say she was being rehomed on August, prompting Eric to return to his own flat.
He returned to Mercy’s to help her move on August 19, only to receive no reply. Eric assumed she had moved already, but then came back three days later when he had heard nothing. He heard his son crying when he opened the letterbox and contacted police, who uncovered the tragic scene. It is unknown if Mears Group employees ever visited the flat or contacted Mercy, from Uganda, on the scheduled moving day or any day after.
A spokesperson for Mears Group told Mirror Online that Mercy was not in the company’s care or accommodation at the time of her death. Robina Qureshi, director of refugee homelessness charity Positive Action In Housing (PAIH), said: “It would seem Mears Group did not take any steps to raise the alarm when Mercy was not answering the door at the pre-arranged time for rehousing.
“Mears Group also did not provide an address which resulted in Eric not having basic contact information for his partner and child. This resulted in a baby being left without food and water for several days after the death of his mother. The circumstances surrounding this tragedy is indicative of wider systemic issues where refugees and migrants are left vulnerable by the state. We are grateful to the press, public and fellow campaigners for their support as we work to improve this flawed system but as we do this we cannot be drawn into speculation. It would therefore be objectively prudent and just for the authorities to conduct a fatal accident investigation into Mercy’s death and other deaths which took place while under the duty of care of the Home Office and the UK Government.”
A Mears spokesperson said: “We are very sorry to hear about the tragic death of Mercy Baguma and our thoughts are with her loved ones”. Kim Leslie, partner at Digby Brown Solicitors, said Mercy’s death raised questions about the “systems of work that governed her life and the life of her child, Adriel.” “Although we are at a very early stage, we are now investigating the circumstances of Mercy’s death and any failings in processes that may have contributed to this which will involve looking into the Home Office and Mears Group,” she added.
“Should there be evidence of negligence, neglect or a failure to act on the part of those who were responsible for the welfare of Adriel then we will see to it that he accesses the justice he deserves.” If the case is successful all damages recovered will be placed in a trust for Adriel when he becomes an adult. The Home Office has been approached for comment.