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Rebecca Kandare tragedy: Religious sect parents jailed for killing baby daughter who was left to starve to death

Wolverhampton | News | Published:

A couple whose baby daughter was left to starve, suffer and die because of their strict religious beliefs have been jailed for a total of more than 17 years.

Brian and Precious Kandare belong to a religious sect that meets in a converted garage in the Black Country and discourages medical treatment, instead relying on the power of prayer. They believed 'evil spirits' were making their child ill.

This afternoon, they were jailed for nine-and-a-half years and eight years respectively after what a senior police officer described as the worst case of its type he'd seen.

As a result, their eight-month-old daughter, Rebecca suffered one of the worst cases of malnutrition a doctor had seen in 33 years of practice.

Little Rebecca died at New Cross Hospital on January 6 last year, weighing just 11lb 11oz - only 4lb heavier than when she was born. She had no teeth, hardly any hair, had loose folds of skin because she weighed so little and was suffering from both rickets and pneumonia.

Nottingham Crown Court, where her parents were sentenced for her manslaughter today, heard she could have been saved if taken for treatment right up until the last few hours of her life.

Brian and Precious, aged 30 and 37 respectively, are members of the Apostolistic Church of God which prefers prayer to medical treatment and preaches a 'strict religious moral code'.

The couple were among a 20-strong congregation worshipping in a converted garage in the back garden of a house in Nine Elms Lane, Park Village, Wolverhampton, revealed Mr Jonas Hankin QC, prosecuting.

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The couple were sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court on Tuesday

Brian, who the court heard had an affair with another woman during the couple's five-year relationship, eventually became a pastor at the church. He wife had also finished part of a nursing course at Wolverhampton University in 2008 before quitting her studies.

Mr Hankin said: "Rebecca's death was preventable and was the direct consequence of a prolonged course of wilful neglect that included denial of access to medical aid.

"Rebecca's condition would have been abundantly clear and medical investigations found that if she had been treated sooner she would most likely have survived.

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"By not seeking help her parents allowed her to become severely ill and she subsequently died.

"The fact she was failing to thrive was obvious to them, neither is unintelligent. They ignored NHS help and voluntary organisations to rely on faith healing, ritual and the power of prayer. They continued to reject modern healthcare, preferring strict adherence of the church's teaching.

"The defendants placed higher value to the adherence of the church's teaching than to their daughter's welfare."

Mr Justice Edis told the parents today: "I regard the role of the church as having some relevance in this case, but you are both old enough to know how to care for your children.

"No creature trusts another as much as a small baby trusts its parents. Neither of you cared enough if she lived or died and lost sight of where your true duties lay.

"The disastrous decision to keep her away from life-saving care was not that of the parents alone, but they are fully accountable for it.

"My task is not to condemn or judge the church itself, its influence did have a part to play but the defendants remained free to do what they wanted. But all they did to get help with her was to leave her, on the weekend when she died, with a faith healer and she was dead by the time assistance was sought."

Rebecca was born a healthy baby on April 22, 2013, and for the first weeks of life gained weight at a normal rate. She was born at the family's home in South Avenue, Wednesfield, with no professional medical support.

But a community midwife visited the address on several occasions until May 15 when the baby was discharged from her care. The couple never sought further professional medical advice.

They turned a deaf ear to repeated advice to give Rebecca much-needed vitamin supplements. They also ignored information on the tell-tale signs of illness in the baby detailed in an official health pack given to the family by the midwives.

Rebecca missed vital appointments for screening, health checks and immunisations and the court heard her parents believed 'evil spirits' were the cause of her ill health.

"This was an exceptionally legally challenging case, concerned with conduct that lies on the boundary between criminal acts of omission and commission.

"When Rebecca passed away she was extremely emaciated and medical expert's reports stated that severe malnutrition of the severity seen in Rebecca, for practical purposes, is not seen in the United Kingdom today

"Both parents had a duty to ensure their child was adequately fed. Not only had Rebecca failed to gain weight, she had in fact lost weight, and her parents could not have failed to notice both this and the bony abnormality that had developed in her chest.

"There can be no doubt that they were well aware of her condition and the need for medical treatment. In breach of their duty to care for their daughter, Brian and Precious Kandare are guilty of the most serious abuse of trust."

She eventually stopped breathing at the Nine Elms Lane church. Paramedics were called but all medical assistance failed to save her.

Medical experts later said that the baby had been critically malnourished for up to three months before her death. Her weight what would normally be expected of a three-month-old infant.

"She was seriously wasted and malnourished and this led to fatal infection," continued Mr Hankin. "A vitamin D deficiency played a major role in the infection by impairing the working of the immune system.

"But the problems were treatable by medical intervention. It is very rare in the UK for an infant to have such severe malnourishment and profound neglect of medical needs, however experts said it was highly unlikely she would have died if she had been presented for medical care up to 24 hours - and possibly just a few hours - before she passed away."

Mr Hankin said that one of the experts who studied the case had concluded: "This is the worst I have seen in 33 years of practice."

Another had said it was the worst case of rickets they had ever come across in their professional career.

Mr Nigel Lambert QC, for Precious Kandare, conceded there was a deliberate refusal to take medical advice.

"She chose to put the teaching of the church, above the feeding and welfare of Rebecca, but she did not intentionally starve the child," he said.

Mr Roger Smith QC, defending Brian Kandare, said he had 'taken on board fully' the teachings of the church where he became a pastor in June 2012 but now believed he had pursued a 'misguided course'.

The lawyer added: "He will never forgive himself for what he did. He is adamant that he loved Rebecca greatly."

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