'He survived on bowls of cereal': Woman who left boy, 13, alone in squalid apartment with no heating avoids jail

The teenager did not have adequate access to food or heating during winter and was shockingly sleeping on a filthy mattress

'He survived on bowls of cereal': Woman who left boy, 13, alone in squalid apartment with no heating avoids jail
Michelle Williamson left a boy under her care to live alone in squalid and freezing conditions (BBC)
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DUNDEE CITY, SCOTLAND: A healthcare worker, Michelle Williamson, who wilfully left a 13-year-old boy under her care to live alone in squalid and freezing conditions avoids jail after a court ordered her to carry out 165 hours unpaid work.

The teenager did not have adequate access to food or heating during winter and was sleeping on a filthy mattress. After he was rescued, it emerged that he was surviving on bowls of cereals and that Williamson, 36, had allowed the boy to live alone in the freezing home from December 2020 to April 2021. The case shocked authorities after an anonymous tip led them to the teen’s miserable home.

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Williamson — a mother of nine — pleaded guilty at Dundee Sheriff’s Court to willful neglect and Sheriff John Rafferty ordered her to do 165 hours of unpaid work. He also referred her to Scottish Ministers for an assessment of her suitability to work with children.

"I consider this to be very serious. 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," Rafferty said. "How someone could allow this to continue for such a lengthy period of time is beyond me."

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The court also heard Williamson had lost her job as a result of the incident and was currently unemployed.

The boy 'needed space'

Fiscal depute Dev Kapadia told the court that in December 2020, Williamson and the child had discussions about living together. Once the two-week trial period started, the boy told her the house was too crowded and he wanted his own space.

Williamson then made alternative arrangements for him to live for five nights a week at a flat in Kirkton — only the living room in the flat had heating facility, the court heard.

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The boy was eating three bowls of cereal a day, and if he ran low on food, Williamson would arrange for frozen food to be delivered, or the occasional takeaway, Kapadia informed the court. Williamson would also transfer money to the child's bank account to top up the energy meter. This lasted until April 27, Kapadia said.

Kapadia said: "Police received a call from child protection from the council, who had received an anonymous call about concerns a child was living alone. 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 [Williamson] by phone."

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But while talking to police the boy conceded he lived alone because he 'needed space'. The boy also revealed that Williamson would check in on him once a week but would not stay.

"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," Kapadia told the court. "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."

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There was no heating and the place was "cold and uncomfortable."

The court heard that Williamson spoke to police in June 2021 and told them she was a support worker. Solicitor David Duncan, defending Williamson, said: "She displayed a very grave error of judgment. Significant lessons have been learned."

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