London - A youth of 18 starved to death at home because of appalling neglect by his family, a court heard on Wednesday.
Jordan Burling weighed less than six stone (38.1 kilograms) and looked like the victim of a Second World War death camp when his mother finally dialled 999.
He died on the living room floor before paramedics could treat him. A further horror was to follow when police searched his bedroom and found the decomposed remains of a full-term baby boy hidden inside a rucksack, Leeds Crown Court was told.
The boy was Jordan’s brother. It is not known if he was stillborn but his remains had been kept secret by his mother Dawn Cranston, 45. She went on trial at Leeds Crown Court yesterday accused of her son Jordan’s manslaughter.
The 18-year-old’s grandmother, Denise Cranston, 70, and sister Abigail Burling, 25, who allegedly shared responsibility for his care, face the same charge.
Jurors were warned about the distressing nature of the case and were shown photographs of Jordan down the years as he deteriorated from an apparently healthy and happy boy to a malnourished young man.
Nicholas Lumley QC, prosecuting, said: ‘For reasons which may never be understood, Jordan had been allowed to decay, to rot to death, by those closest to him.’
He told the court Jordan had ‘precious little’ to eat or drink in the six to eight weeks before his death on June 30, 2016, at the family home in Leeds. He was even put in nappies in his final months.
The family couldn’t plead poverty and there was no underlying illness to explain his shocking condition, the jury heard. Jordan had not gone to school for about six years and was supposed to be ‘home-schooled’ by his mother, who worked in Poundland. In reality, he never took any exams or did any work, said Mr Lumley.
The teenager dropped off the radar of the authorities in Leeds. He had not gone to a doctor or dentist for years and social services ‘played little part’ in his life. Mr Lumley said: ‘He may have been invisible to the authorities but not to these defendants. Jordan’s neglect and maltreatment went on and on and on.’ The boy’s father, Steven Burling, separated from his wife for over a decade, was so worried that he had been urging her to take Jordan to a doctor in text messages for months.
Yet when she dialled 999 as Jordan lay ‘wheezing’ and gasping his last breaths she told the operator he had refused to see a doctor because he was ‘stubborn’.
There were two fridge freezers in the house and they were full of food, the court heard.
By the end, Jordan’s body was covered in pressure sores. He died from acute bronchopneumonia, a result of his malnutrition, his immobility and the infected sores. Mr Lumley said: ‘What met the eyes of the paramedics was a shocking and disturbing scene. Jordan was lying, utterly helpless, on an inflatable mattress.
‘He was little more than skin and bones, less than six stones. The expert dietitian said they had never seen such malnutrition in 26 years and likened the condition of the body to that found in WWII extermination camps.’
Mr Lumley said Jordan was not deliberately killed. His ‘needless death’ was down to neglect.
In his final years the youth ‘only really had contact with his immediate family’, said the prosecutor, adding: ‘Each of these accused had responsibility for Jordan.’
His sister Abigail lived nearby and was said to help look after him. She allegedly lied to police about Jordan playing football the night before his death and claimed to play no role in his care.
The mother, Dawn Cranston, said nothing when interviewed and has never explained her actions, while grandmother Denise told police Jordan was not neglected.
All three have also denied an alternative charge of causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult. Dawn Cranston has admitted concealing the death of the baby. The case continues.