Mum pays tribute to ‘loving’ Sheffield son, 15, who was ‘exploited’ by criminals, inquest hears
The mother of Samuel Baker, a 15-year-old who died after being stabbed in Lowedges in 2018, told an inquest that her son was a ‘loving child’ who was ‘exploited’ by criminals and ‘persistently failed’ by the authorities in the lead up to his death.
Samuel Baker died on May 24, 2018, after he got into a fight with another teenager, which resulted in him being stabbed twice in the chest.
At an inquest into his death, which opened at Sheffield Town Hall on Monday (March 1), Senior Coroner David Urpeth heard that Samuel was a troubled boy, but that a string of failures by probation services and social services meant that he was drawn towards crime and exploited by older criminals.
In the years prior to his death Samuel, who moved to England with his mother in 2014 to escape her abusive ex-partner, had been prosecuted for a number of criminal offences, including carrying knives and an imitation firearm and being involved in violent incidents and drugs.
Speaking at the inquest, Samuel’s mother Tracy Baker criticised the lack of action taken to help Samuel after he was identified as ‘high risk of being killed on the streets’ by local authorities.
She described her son – the youngest of eight siblings – as a ‘big hearted’ boy who ‘slipped through the cracks’ and was ‘failed by the system’ after he struggled to cope after the death of his older sister in a house fire in 2015.
Ms Baker told the court: “Samuel was a happy, loving child. The best way to describe him was as a caring, giving person who would go the extra mile to help people out.
"He was often looking to see what others were doing to try and fit in. He had an innocence about him and he was still just a child.”
Ms Baker said that after she moved to England with Samuel and two of his other siblings, they lived with his older sister Tahira, who was 23.
Ms Baker had to return to Bermuda for a period, and during that time Samuel was cared for by Tahira . He started school at Firth Park Academy in 2014 and joined a football team.
However Samuel, who had learning difficulties, was bullied at school and struggled with English lessons. Around the same time, in 2015, his older sister Tahira died in a house fire.
"Samuel found the death of his older sister really difficult,” Ms Baker said. However she said he did not receive any support or councelling after the incident.
Samuel was transferred to Ecclesfield Academy and was ‘excited’, but was told that he could not start until September 2016. Ms Baker had to home school him until then.
It was during the time that his behaviour started to change, Ms Baker said.
Further difficulties around his eductaional needs then arose after he started, prompting a back and forth between different schools, with home schooling between each.
Ms Baker said: “I could tell he was getting bored and he started to deteriorate in December 2016. I thought that getting him back into school would make things better.”
As she was home schooling Samuel, Ms Baker had to work nights to earn money for the family. This gave Samuel more freedom to leave the house.
He was reported missing multiple times – on one occasion for 13 days when police found him sleeping outside McDonald’s.
"He started to spend more time away from home at night,” she said. “I would text him to ask if he was okay and once he said he was but didn't want to come home as he didn't want to get me hurt.
“He was mixing with older people who were involved in crime. If somebody asked him to do something he would do it without questioning it. He always wanted to help.
"I think someone was coaching him and telling him what to do and what not to do."
In December 2016 Samuel was arrested for burglary. At this point probation services started to do serious case reviews into Samuel and found he was ‘vulnerable to exploitation’ by criminals and, later, that he was at ‘high risk of being killed on the streets’.
However, at a meeting about this, only the probation officer, Samuel and his mother attended.
At another meeting, Ms Baker said the probation services concluded it after fewer than ten minutes, before she had even arrived.
Ms Baker’s attempts to get Samuel taken into care also failed.
“Samuel thought that nobody cared,” Ms Baker said.
"There was a persistent failure by Sheffield City Council to properly assess the risk to Samuel and to protect him.
"He fell through the cracks. I feel the fact he was a black boy had an impact on the way his case was managed.
"He was a young immigrant black boy, with learning difficulties, no father figure and was bereaved by his sister’s death.
"Why was he not better protected?”
David Ashcroft, who wrote the Sheffield Children Safeguarding Partnership report into Samuel’s death, told the inquest that agencies needed to learn from Samuel's killing.
"We should have made sure that his support and education was stronger," he said.
"And that the work that was done around youth justice when he did start to offend and get caught up in offending behaviour was more closely linked to making sure that he was able to be supported and encouraged in getting a settled life."
The teenager who killed Samuel was jailed for two years and eight months for manslaughter at Sheffield Crown Court in 2018.
Sentencing him, Mr Justice Nicklin said: "Your case represents a story that is too often repeated in cities and towns throughout our country.
"Samuel Baker is dead for one simple reason - young men, some still boys, carrying knives.
"Without a knife that evening, the two of you may have had a fight but that would have been it.”