Monday, May 18, 2020

Terry O'Neill: The Mousetrap and Me

Blogging about the government's scrapping of safeguards for children in care has sent me back to the death of 12-year-old Dennis O'Neill in 1945.

Dennis and his younger brother Terry had been boarded out on a Shropshire farm and Dennis died there from abuse and neglect.

In the process I have come across this award-winning radio documentary from 2011 in which Terry tells their story. I blogged about its connection with The Mousetrap myself in 2007.

This programme comes with a heavy trigger warning: it is a dreadful story of abuse. For some reason I have been far more affected reading Terry's O'Neill's book today than I was when it came out 10 years ago.

When I first encountered this case I formed the strong impression that it had largely been forgotten. That was one of the themes of my chapter in the book Making and Breaking Children's Lives.

Now it is widely discussed in the professional literature and that must be due at least in part to Terry O'Neill's book.

He has served his brother's memory wonderfully well. As a 10-year-old in 1945 it was his evidence in court that secured the conviction of their foster parents for manslaughter and neglect.

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