Brian Kandare, 29, and Precious Kandare, 37, have been jailed after admitting the manslaughter of eight-month-old Rebecca, who died from pneumonia in January last year. She stopped breathing at her parents’ Apostolic Church of God, where a 20-strong congregation held prayers in a converted garage in the back garden of a house. At the time of her death Rebecca weighed just 11lb 9oz, there was no trace of food or milk in her stomach and she was suffering from the worst case of rickets an expert has seen in his 33-year career, Nottingham Crown Court heard.
Her parents had inadequately fed her for months, leaving Rebecca ‘morbidly thin’ as she ‘wasted away’. In the weeks and months leading up to her death the couple repeatedly eschewed the help available to them from the NHS in favour of ‘faith healing, ritual and the power of prayer’, the court was told.
Three days before their daughter died they then handed over responsibility of her care to a church midwife under the belief that she had ‘supernatural healing powers’.
Mr Justice Edis jailed Mr Kandare for nine-and-a-half years and Mrs Kandare for eight years.
Prosecuting, Jonas Hankin QC said Rebecca was ‘significantly underweight and severely malnourished’ and that she weighed as much as a three-month-old when she died at the New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton. He said: ‘Her illness was treatable and her death was preventable. ‘It is highly unlikely that Rebecca would have died if she had been presented for medical care more than 24 hours before she collapsed. The stark reality of this case is that the defendants placed a higher value on adherence to the church’s teachings than their daughter’s welfare.’
Their church, the Apostolic Church of God in Wolverhampton, had strict views on modern healthcare with members of the congregation encouraged to speak to the church’s ‘midwife’, who had no formal qualifications, before seeking further help for medical problems. Members could also be excluded from certain church activities if they went to a doctor without permission, the court heard.
He added: ‘Rebecca’s death was a direct consequence of a prolonged course of wilful neglect, which involved a failure to provide an adequate supply of sufficiently nutritious food and denial of access to medical aid. ‘The symptoms of wasting and malnutrition developed over time. ‘The defendants’ initial response was to eschew the help that was available to them from the NHS and voluntary organisations, relying instead on faith healing, ritual and the power of prayer.’He added that the defendants remained ‘inflexible’ in their approach as Rebecca’s condition deteriorated, rejecting modern healthcare ‘in favour of strict adherence to the church’s teachings’. He said: ‘By early January 2013, when Rebecca was febrile, having contracted a serious chest infection, there was an obvious risk that she might die if she did not receive medical aid. Still the defendants denied it to her.’In prioritising their religion over their daughter’s welfare, in breach of their duty to care for her, the defendants are guilty of the most serious abuse of trust.’
Mr and Mrs Kandare, of Wednesfield, West Midlands, were members of the 20-strong congregation of the Apostolic Church of God in Wolverhampton, where prayers were held in a converted garage in the back garden of a house.
‘The uptake of modern healthcare services and immunisation is openly objected to and parents are discouraged from presenting children for such conventional treatment,’It is believed that if the individual has faith in God then prayer can heal.’ The church required women and men to shave their heads and if a member of the congregation sought medical treatment, they would have to be ‘cleansed’ by the pastors with prayer before being accepted back into the church”, Mr Hankin told the court.
The court heard Rebecca had been a ‘healthy baby’ after she was born at home on April 22, 2013, with no doctor, midwife or healthcare professional present.
Mr Kandare notified a hospital of her birth a week later by phone, but never registered her with a GP. She was then seen on five occasions by community midwives or health visitors, when a weight of 7lb 14oz was recorded, but two offers of a dose of vitamin K were refused. The last visit was on May 15, 2013 – seven-and-a-half months before her death.
Mr Hankin said: ‘Thereafter there followed a series of missed appointments for screening, health checks and immunisations. ‘Rebecca was not seen by any healthcare professional in the period between May 15, 2013, and January 6, 2014. She was never seen by a doctor prior to her death. She never received any vaccinations.’
The hearing was told that in the intervening period, Rebecca failed to feed properly and began losing weight.
But because of their religious beliefs and loyalty to a church which said members had a ‘duty’ not to take children to hospital, her parents deliberately chose not to seek professional advice, and her condition deteriorated.
In the end her frail body succumbed to pneumonia caused by the chronic lack of nutrition.
Mr Hankin said she had received a ‘grossly inadequate’ food supply for at least three months before her death, but ‘probably longer’. She developed rickets because of a lack of vitamin D, and a ‘bony abnormality’ in her chest that Mr Hankin said her parents ‘could not have failed to notice’. ‘Both parents had a duty to ensure their child was adequately fed. Why neither did more to ensure Rebecca had sufficient food to maintain her health is difficult to ascertain.’
The hearing was told that on January 3 last year, the couple handed the care of Rebecca over to the church’s ‘midwife’ Constance Machangara, a woman members of the congregation were ‘undoubtedly encouraged to speak to before seeking medical help’. Reading from medical evidence after Rebecca had died,
Mr Hankin said: ‘It was immediately apparent to those present that Rebecca was very small for her age. ‘She had folds of loose skin, particularly around the back of her legs and her bottom, demonstrating weight loss.’She did not have any teeth and hardly any hair. She was observed to be very light when her body was picked up.’Both the Kandares pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of their daughter yesterday when their trial was due to begin.