BY TOBY PORTER
The probation service has apologised for its failings after a man beat his girlfriend’s five-year-old son to death for losing his shoe.
Marvyn Iheanacho was convicted in July of the murder of Alex Malcolm in Mountsfield Park, Catford, last November. The 39-year-old was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 18 years at Woolwich Crown Court.
But Alex’s mother, Liliya, has revealed she did not know the killer had previous convictions and should not have been allowed any unsupervised contact with children.
The National Probation Service has now apologised to her and revised its procedures, as well as recruiting 1,400 more staff to ensure cases are supervised properly. A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “The Serious Further Offence review of this case raised some very serious issues with the management of Marvyn Iheanacho.
“It has become clear that repeated breaches of his licence conditions were ignored and that information suggesting Iheanacho was in contact with a number of women with children was not acted on.
“We apologise sincerely to Alex’s mother, Liliya Breha, for the unacceptable failings that have been identified.
“As a direct result of this initial review, we have suspended two members of staff who were involved in the supervision of Iheanacho. Additionally, we have put in place strict procedures, both within NPS London and nationally, to help prevent a tragic case like this from happening again.”
Alex’s mother Liliya discovered only after the murder that Iheanacho was not supposed to have unsupervised contact with children. She told BBC One’s Panorama programme: “He used to help Alex with his homework – just really normal day-to-day.
“He said he was innocent – said he had been in the wrong time, wrong place.
“I just haven’t stopped screaming and crying ever since I saw him.
“I kept constantly asking him: ‘What happened – what have you done to my son?’”-
Iheanacho was being supervised by the National probation Service.
‘If they’d told me of his convictions I wouldn’t have been with him’
“I cannot blame them completely, but they do play a big part in what happened to Alex,” she said.
“If they did inform me about his previous convictions – 100 per cent I wouldn’t be involved with this person.”
Lilya revealed her final moments with her son in a statement to the court. She said: “I remember it like it was yesterday. “Lying next to him in a hospital and praying that everything would be fine, that he will open his eyes.
“I didn’t even get to tell him I love him. “All I got was to put my hand on his chest and feel every single one of his final heartbeats.”
Detective Chief Inspector Tony Lynes of the homicide and major crime command said in July: “Iheanacho subjected that poor little boy to a brutal assault after flying into an uncontrollable rage just because Alex lost one of his shoes.
“Afterwards Iheanacho came up with various stories to try to cover his tracks, insisted his girlfriend lie for him and attacked her when she tried to get medical help for her unconscious son.
“It is no surprise the jury easily saw through his stories and while nothing can bring Alex back, I hope Iheanacho’s conviction today provides his mother and father, and their families with some comfort.”
The court heard that on November 20, 2016, Iheanacho had spent the day with his girlfriend, Alex’s mother, and Alex. Later that afternoon he said he wanted to go out to get a DVD and see a friend and would take Alex with him.
CCTV showed the pair getting on a bus at 4.39pm heading towards Rushley Green. They were then seen walking towards Mountsfield Park in Catford, arriving around 5.15pm, and going to the play area.
Just before 6pm, a witness heard Iheanacho shouting at Alex after he realised the boy had lost his shoe. Through the park gates she saw Iheanacho and described him as “raging” at Alex who was keeping very quiet She then heard repeated booming noises and saw the gate vigorously moving as if it was being punched by someone.
Alex’s red jacket was later found to have tiny blue fragments which matched the blue paint on the park gates.
She saw Iheanacho bending over Alex and whispering to him before they moved away. Another witness heard the loud banging, a male voice screaming about the lost shoe and a child’s voice fearfully saying sorry.
A dog-walker in the park saw Iheanacho talking on his phone and a child lying on his back on a bench with his arm dangling down at around 6pm. They overheard Iheanacho saying something had been lost and he was looking for it and “he’s fallen asleep and he’s heavy”.
Iheanacho then picked up Alex and walked from the park to a mini cab office on Rushey Green and not Lewisham Hospital which was a five-minute walk away. Instead he took a cab to Alex’s home in Beckenham.
When they arrived he told her that Alex had fainted and fallen on his knees. Alex’s mother noticed he had a bruised face and what looked like a slap mark. He was breathing but seemed unconscious. Iheanacho told her Alex had hit his head as he fell and he had slapped him to try to wake him up. He wouldn’t let her call an ambulance and they took Alex upstairs. Alex’s mother was now screaming and Iheanacho assaulted her, kneeing her in the chest, jumping on her back and trying to choke her. He suddenly stopped and laid Alex down on a bed.
Alex’s mother noticed her son was cold, his face had turned blue and he had stopped breathing. She grabbed the phone and called an ambulance which arrived at 8.42pm – more than two-and-a-half hours after the incident in the park. Iheanacho gave paramedics varying accounts of what had happened including that Alex had fallen onto his knees and hit his head and that Alex had fallen from a climbing frame but not hit his head. Iheanacho told Liliya to say she had been there when Alex suffered his injuries as it “looked bad – Alex was in my care”.
A CT scan at Lewisham Hospital revealed Alex had severe brain swelling. He was transferred to Kings College Hospital for an operation. Alex underwent emergency surgery but later died of his injuries at 3.20pm on November 22.
Iheanacho arrived along with police. He gave a statement stating he had been with Alex’s mother when he heard the boy scream and turned to see he had fallen and bumped his head. He later told other officers a different story.
When enquiries revealed Iheanacho had been in the cab alone with Alex and his girlfriend was not there, he was arrested for grievous bodily harm and subsequently charged. Police later found Alex’s gloves and his lost trainer in the play area.
Alex’s mother found a notebook at her home in which Iheanacho had written under the heading “mistakes”. He wrote that he had an overwhelming anger and he had beaten Alex for “sicking up in the cab”.
In evidence Iheanacho said he had written the notes in August 2016. A post-mortem examination gave cause of death as head injuries. There were noted large areas of bruising to his face and body, caused by being assaulted and slapped.
He had a significant brain injury and internal bruising to his stomach, caused by a kick, stamp or punch.