A bubbly seven-year-old ‘lost her sparkle’ after leaving foster care and moving in with an aunt who was convicted of child cruelty following the girl’s death, an inquest has heard.
Shanay Walker died on 31 July 2014, after suffering a brain haemorrhage. Her body was covered in more than 50 other injuries.
Her paternal aunt Kay-Ann Morris, who lived in Beckhampton Road, Bestwood Park, was cleared of her murder at Nottingham Crown Court in June 2015, but was found guilty of child cruelty.
An inquest into Shanay’s death, which began on Monday, heard that she was in foster care for 14 months before going to live with Morris in July 2012.
Foster carer Alison Robinson said Shanay displayed bad behaviour at times but was normally a “lovely” child.
She said: “She was a vulnerable little girl, strong willed, funny, happy at times. She was sad. She didn’t want to leave her mum. She hated the fact that she left her mum and all she wanted to do was return to her mum, but she made the most of living with us.
“She would laugh, she would sing, she would join in on activities. She was part of the family and, on whole, she was lovely little girl.”
The inquest heard that Shanay went to dance classes while she was in foster care and for a short time after going to live with Morris.
Mairin Casey, the coroner for Nottinghamshire, told the inquest that her dance teacher thought Shanay had “lost her sparkle” and was “like a different child” when she returned for classes after leaving foster care.
Miss Casey also read a statement from a teacher at Burford Primary and Nursery School, in Oxclose Lane, Arnold, where Shanay was a pupil from 2011 until January 2013.
Shanay was described as “a happy, bubbly child, who was enthusiastic about school and was a pleasure to have in class”.
The statement differed to the evidence of Lisa Hyland, assistant head teacher at Southglade Primary School, in Beckhampton Park, who became Shanay’s class teacher when the child joined the school in January 2013.
She said: “At the time she was with me, I didn’t see a bubbly girl. She was a lovely girl but she seemed sad and withdrawn. She was mischievous and had a very cheeky smile but behind the smile I saw sadness.”
Mrs Hyland also described how she experienced “frequent intimidation” from Morris.
She said: “She would stand quite close to me. She would be quite aggressive – passive aggressive I would describe it.
“She would say to me ‘what have you got to tell me’ and quite often I wouldn’t know what she was talking about.”
The inquest also heard that Shanay’s teachers feared that she was self-harming.
Shanay’s paternal grandmother Juanila Smikle, who lived in Easegill Court, Top Valley, was arrested during the investigation into her granddaughter’s death.
She was found guilty of five counts of child cruelty – one involving Shanay and four relating to other children – at Nottingham Crown Court in September 2016 following a retrial..
The inquest, which is expected to last for between two and three weeks, continues.