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Woman who left boy, 13, to live alone in squalid flat avoids jail

Mother-of-nine health care assistant, 36, who left boy, 13, to live ALONE in a squalid, freezing flat for four months where he slept on a filthy mattress and survived on bowls of cereal avoids jail sentence after pleading guilty to neglect

  • Mother-of-nine Michelle Williamson pleaded guilty to willfully neglecting a boy
  • Child left alone for four months in squalid and freezing conditions with inadequate food
  • Sheriff John Rafferty ordered Williamson to carry out 165 hours unpaid work 
  • Sheriff also referred her to Scottish Ministers for them to assess her suitability for working with children

A health care assistant who left a 13-year-old boy living alone for more than four months in squalid and freezing conditions while sleeping on a filthy mattress and surviving on bowls of cereal has avoided a jail sentence. 

Mother-of-nine Michelle Williamson would check-in on the child, who cannot be named for legal reasons, once a week but would not stay, a court heard. 

The boy had not been provided with adequate food or heating during the freezing winter months and the property was dirty, with worktops piled with unwashed bowls and plates which had mould on them.

After he was rescued, it was established that Williamson had been allowing the boy to live alone. 

Williamson, 36, pleaded guilty to willfully neglecting the boy by leaving him living alone in a cold house, on a filthy mattress on the living room floor and surviving on bowls of cereal. 

Dundee Sheriff Court was told on Tuesday that she had lost her job as a result of the incident and was now unemployed.

Sheriff John Rafferty ordered her to carry out 165 hours unpaid work and referred her to Scottish Ministers for them to assess her suitability for working with children.

Michelle Williamson, 36, (pictured) pleaded guilty to willfully neglecting a boy by leaving him living alone in a cold house, on a filthy mattress on the living room floor and surviving on bowls of cereal

He said: ‘I consider this to be very serious. It went on from December 2020 until 27 April 2021. During this time, a 13-year-old child was left alone for almost an entire week in a house that was filthy, had inadequate heating and you had to survive on frozen food and carry out meals.

‘How someone could allow this to continue for such a lengthy period of time is beyond me.’

Police found the youngster living on his own in April last year following an anonymous tip-off to Dundee City Council.

The child began occupying the property over the festive period in December 2020.

Despite the conditions he was left in, council social workers allegedly raised no other concerns about Williamson or children in her care.

Williamson continued to be employed as a health care assistant by a private firm after her arrest but has been dismissed following her conviction.

Dundee Sheriff Court was told on Tuesday that Williamson had lost her job as a result of the incident and was now unemployed (stock image)

Fiscal depute Dev Kapadia told the court: ‘The accused and her partner had discussions about living together in December 2020.

‘The trial period commenced two weeks before Christmas. The complainer felt the house was too crowded and wanted to have his own space.

‘Alternative arrangements were made for the child to live at the Kirkton address, on their own, five nights a week.

‘A double mattress was in the living room. It was the only room which was heated. [The child] was eating three bowls of cereal a day.

‘If [the child] ran low on food, she would arrange for frozen food to be delivered, or the occasional take-away.

‘She would transfer money to [the child’s] bank to top up the energy meter. This lasted until April 27.

‘Police received a call from child protection from the council, who had received an anonymous call about concerns a child was living alone.

‘Police attended the house at 5.40pm. The door was eventually opened by the child, who indicated to them the reason he was home alone was because the accused had gone to the shops.

‘The child told them they would contact her by phone, but while talking to police the child conceded they lived alone because they ‘needed space’.

‘Williamson would check on the child once a week but would not stay, they said. Police were concerned about the condition of the house.

‘It was in a state of disrepair. It was unclean, dirty, with worktops piled with unwashed bowls and plates which had mould on them.

‘There was little food – just a few tins and a packet of pasta. Dirty laundry lay everywhere and a double mattress in the living room had dirty bedding.

‘Police noted there was £5 on the meter but no heating on. It was cold and uncomfortable.’

Dundee Sheriff Court heard that Williamson, of Dundee, spoke to police in June 2021 and told them she was a support worker.

Solicitor Hannah Fairweather, defending, said: ‘Social work were informed of the situation initially. It was assessed and deemed there were no concerns and they have not been involved since.’

Sheriff Rafferty said: ‘It is extraordinary she was employed as an adult support worker, and more extraordinary she continued as a health care assistant.’

Solicitor David Duncan, defending, said: ‘She displayed a very grave error of judgment. Significant lessons have been learned.’

A Dundee City Council spokesperson said: ‘It would not be appropriate for the council to comment on individual cases.’ 

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