Mercy Baguma: father of toddler left for days in flat with mother's body to launch case against the Home Office
The father of a toddler who was left alone for several days after the death of his mother who was seeking asylum is launching civil action against the Home Office.
18-month-old Adriel Ejikemeuwa was found malnourished in his cot after the death of Mercy Baguma, 34, went unnoticed until his father, Eric Nnanna, called the police for help after getting no answer at Ms Baguma’s flat in Govan, Glasgow.
Mr Nnanna claims that failures by Mears Group, a contractor for the Home Office that provides asylum housing, played a part in her death and the suffering of Adriel. Lawyers say that if officials had provided details of the new flat then Eric would have gone to check on them there and known something was wrong – meaning that Adriel would not have been left alone for nearly five days.
Mr Nnanna said: “I had no idea something was wrong and when I think of what Adriel must have endured it just breaks my heart. If Mears had told Mercy where she was moving to then Adriel would never have been left for as long as he was because I would have gone to the new flat to look for them.”
Kim Leslie, partner at Digby Brown Solicitors, said: “Although we are at a very early stage, we are now investigating the circumstances of Mercy’s death and any failings in processes that may have contributed to this which will involve looking into the Home Office and Mears Group.”
Although Mr Nnanna and Ms Baguma lived in separate flats, when lockdown started he spent most of his time at her flat to help look after Adriel. It is understood that Mears Group contacted Mercy in August and told her she was being rehomed.
Ms Nnanna moved back to his own flat the day before Mercy was due to move but planned to come back to help her on moving day.
However on the day she was due to move, Ms Baguma failed to answer her door. Mr Nnanna assumed that Mercy and Adriel had already moved, but had not been given a new address for them. He returned to the flat three days later and when he lifted the letter box he heard Adriel crying inside and raised the alarm to police, who found Ms Baguma’s body inside.
A post-mortem later confirmed Ms Baguma passed away from alcohol poisoning and ketoacidosis but confirmed there was no history of alcohol abuse.
Robina Qureshi, director of not-for-profit refugee and migrant homelessness charity Positive Action In Housing, called for a fatal accident investigation into Mercy’s death.
She said: “It would seem Mears Group did not take any steps to raise the alarm when Mercy was not answering the door at the pre-arranged time for rehousing.
“Mears Group also did not provide an address which resulted in Eric not having basic contact information for his partner and child. This resulted in a baby being left without food and water for several days after the death of his mother.”
If the case is successful, all damages recovered will be placed in a trust for Adriel.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “This is a tragic situation and our condolences go to Ms Baguma’s family. It would be inappropriate to comment further whilst investigations by Scottish authorities are ongoing.”