How a 4-year-old autistic & mute boy starved to death having been in a flat clinging to his mother’s dead body for two weeks
Last November, hundreds of mourners gathered
inside a chapel to say their final goodbyes to a
young woman and her son who died in their
apartment without anyone knowing for weeks.
The crowd at the funeral begged the question;
how come these much people cared about
them yet no one noticed they had been dead for
Their death painted a picture of an isolated
mother and son left to die alone in an East
London tower block. Did anyone ever love 24-
year-old Esther Eketi-Mulo and her 4-year-old
Those questions were answered seeing the
depth of sorrow the mourners exuded. There
were a lot of tears as heartbroken mourners
stood inside the chapel at Manor Park
Cemetery in East London to await the arrival of
the bodies of the deceased last November.
Their coffins arrived surrounded by a sea of
flowers, one smaller than the other, with two
giant floral displays fashioned into the words
"sister" and "nephew". Old school friends of
Esther wore T-shirts with a picture of her face
and her name printed beneath them. As
Chadrack’s coffin was being lowered into the
ground on top of his mother’s, his headmistress
placed a flower on it. It was obvious they were
loved but how did they not notice their absence
for so long?
Esther died suddenly after suffering an epileptic
fit at home last October while Chadrak was
mute because of his autism, therefore, he could
not raise the alarm. He remained by her side
and died two weeks later. When they were
found, Chadrak's body was clinging to his
mother’s decomposing body.
"The likelihood is that Chadrack lived alone in
the family home for over a fortnight after his
mother’s death," wrote Coroner Mary Hassell
who investigated the case. "He was found a
couple of days after his own death, with his
arms around her body. She was by then very
Friends and family of Esther and Chadrack are
racked by guilt at how such could have
happened without them noticing. People
questioned how the institutions missed a
school-age boy with disabilities to the extent
that it led to such a grave consequence. It was
discovered that Morningside Primary in
Hackney, Chadrak's school, visited the block
where he lived with his mother to find out the
cause of his absence after he had been missing
from school since the end of September. They
were unable to get a response via the
downstairs intercom and they eventually gave
up after two visits. Prior to that, they had
called Esther’s mobile phone several times
because they were worried about his absence
but did not get a reply.
Preventive measures are now being put in place
to keep such from occurring again. Coroner
Mary Hassell, who investigated the case, has
now demanded a nationwide schools alert
system to ensure pupil absences are properly
investigated in a bid to prevent anything like
this happening again. She has sent a
‘Prevention of Future Deaths’ report to the
Department for Education (DfE), which is due to
respond to her findings.
Morningside headteacher Janet Taylor says she
has "worked closely with the authorities" to
consider "what more schools can do in
situations like this". She has already
implemented a new system at the school. She
now insists that for every pupil, the school has
the telephone number of three different adults
on file. If a child fails to attend school and none
of these adults can be contacted then a
member of staff is immediately sent to the
family home. If they cannot get an answer, they
will contact the police without delay.
All that is being done now are simply to prevent
a reoccurrence and sadly cannot change what
has happened. The close-knit Congolese
community in the area where the mother and
son died are struggling to understand how
mother and son could have lain undiscovered for
so long. Some people have criticised the
woman's family, while others blamed the school
and the authorities. A friend believes that given
Chadrack’s disability, social services should
have been involved in his welfare.
"I blame the school and social services," says a
friend of Esther. "For nobody to go to the home
for over two weeks, it doesn’t make sense.
Someone should have checked."
But pointing fingers can't bring the dead back.
Esther adored her only child and his birth had
been for her a culmination of all the hopes and
dreams she’d had when she first came to the
UK from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic
of the Congo at the age of 16. Her parents had
been living in London before sending for Esther
and her younger sister so they could have a
better life and education. Esther shared the
same hopes for her son, who she had with a
London-based Congolese chef before they went
their separate ways. She devoted all her time to
Chadrack who had severe special needs. Asides
caring for her son, she had a lot of other skills
including hairdressing, which she did for a fee,
cooking traditional Congolese dishes and more.
Two years ago, she moved away from her
family’s council flat in a tower block in
Shoreditch and into her own flat just two miles
away on the Trelawney Estate in Hackney. One
of Esther’s friends, a Congolese shopkeeper,
who used to see her almost every day,
describes her as "happy" and "humble" and
recalls how they often used to chat about life
and politics back home in Kinshasa. He said
Chadrack was Esther’s pride and joy and was
often dressed in his favourite tracksuit and Nike
"If Chadrack started thinking we were talking
too long he’d start pulling things off the shelves
and fidgeting," the friend said. "Esther would
offer him something to eat, like a waffle, but
he’d refuse and she’d just tell him: 'Stay calm,
stay calm.' He’d calm down. She could
communicate well with him even though he
didn’t make a sound. He made no sound
whatever, not even to cry."
When Esther had not been heard from for a
while, her family phoned her but did not think
anything of it when they did not get a response.
Esther had also separated from her long-term
boyfriend shortly before she died. Had they
been together, he might have noticed something
was amiss. Neighbours who lived upstairs in the
tower block also had no idea what was going on
in Esther’s flat. Those who spoke to DailyMail
say that they saw and heard nothing to give
them any cause for concern. The decomposing
smell coming from Esther's flat was dismissed
by neighbours as cooking smells.
Neighbours expressed guilt at not noticing what
was going on under their nose despite the
estate being a bustling hive of activity. Justin
King, a 46-year-old Marie Curie nurse who lives
next door to the flat, was away in Africa at the
time she died and when he returned he didn’t
notice that anything was wrong.
"It is so sad," he says. "It makes me so upset
when I think I could have been his saviour, but I
just didn’t think anything was wrong. The police
explained that she had a fit, banged her head
and bled to death. Esther seemed a lovely, kind
woman and her son was very sweet, but they
were withdrawn as a family and to not hear
from them didn’t seem strange. I wish I had
thought more of not seeing them and been able
to save his life. I did not hear the cries of the
child and he could not raise the alarm."
Another neighbour said: "It has haunted me for
a long time that I could have helped and I didn’t
know. Chadrack needed feeding and watering.
He passed away because he was hungry, not
because something happened to him. I keep
thinking: 'Did I hear him?' But he never spoke.
He just hid behind his mum and held on to her
clothes. He couldn’t even call out or speak
through the letterbox."
Eventually, it was Chadrack's uncle who came
to find out why Esther wasn’t answering the
phone and raised the alarm. As soon as he
stepped out of the lift he knew from the smell
that something was wrong and called the
police, who made a forced entry. According to
the coroner’s findings, Chadrack had probably
only been dead for a couple of days at most
when he was found on October 20.
Speaking at her daughter’s funeral, Esther’s
mother, Bebe, said: "You know how we loved
you too much. The door was always open to
you in our home. I forgive the people who are
trying to blame us without knowing the reality.
We love you too much. Rest in peace."
The family do not blame Chadrack’s school.
They invited the headmistress, and three
members of staff, to his funeral. Esther’s
stepfather Mabu Kossa also said that the
family had no questions for the authorities.
"Esther is gone," he said. "She’s gone. It’s
In a statement, Morningside headteacher Ms
Taylor said: "Chadrack’s tragic death has
devastated all those who knew him. We will
remember him as a happy little boy."
Writing in her report, Coroner Mary Hassell said:
"This protocol seems very sensible but is
clearly driven by the appalling tragedy of
Chadrack’s death. It seems unlikely that other
schools in Hackney, elsewhere in London, or
indeed in the rest of England and Wales, have
such a system in place. In my opinion, action
should be taken to prevent future deaths."
Her report was sent to Robert Goodwill MP, the
Minister of State for Children and Families.
He said: "This is a heart-breaking case and our
thoughts are with all who knew Chadrack and
his mother. Any concerns about a child’s
welfare should be shared with social services or
the police. We have written to the coroner and
are immediately considering how to amend our
guidance on school attendance and welfare to
ensure it is as robust as possible."