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We begged to get next door's kids out of hell for 4 YEARS ..but everyone let it carry on; EXCLUSIVE SCANDAL OF NEGLECT CHILDREN: WHAT THE NEIGHBOURS CLAIM.

Byline: By THOMAS SMITH

SOCIAL workers ignored the plight of four traumatised children forced to live in a filthy house with a pack of 22 dogs for FOUR years, it has been claimed.

Sickened neighbours living next to the excrement-ridden home of Patrick and Julie O'Brien have revealed they complained to the council almost every day for four years.

And they say social workers who did visit the O'Briens' squalid home were so disgusted they refused to even go into the house.

Instead, they spoke to the couple in a car on the street.

But, incredibly, neighbours claim the social workers from Angus Council failed to take any action to protect the O'Briens' four kids.

The couple were finally charged after the family home was raided last September, following a report by the kids' shocked teachers who told how their eight-year-old son began barking like a dog.

Last night, neighbour Gordon Caird, who lived next door to the family in Barry, Angus, blasted the council's social workers.

He said: "These children were living in hell. We were on the phone to the police, environmental health and social workers practically every day for four years.

"Yet no action was taken to remove these children from that environment.

"The house was in such a filthy condition even the social workers preferred to sit in their cars than go in when arriving for inspections.

"The police officers we spoke to also agreed that the environmental health and social work departments had neglected their duties."

The plight of the O'Briens' four kids - aged five, eight, 12 and 13 - is one of the worst cases of child neglect Scotland has ever seen.

Last week, Patrick O'Brien, 60, and wife Julie, 35, were finally jailed for 70 days for "appalling neglect".

Arbroath Sheriff Court heard how the alarm was raised when teachers reported the barking of one of the sons. He also growled and crawled under desks when he got upset.

Three of the O'Brien kids were also suffering from illnesses arising from eating dog faeces from the pack of 22 Staffordshire bull terriers, Akitas and Huskies.

Gordon Caird and his wife Janis claim the situation at the O'Brien family home became so bad last year the children were sent to live in the garden - to make way for the dogs.

Gordon said: "They moved the dogs upstairs and moved the children out to the caravan. They had a five-bedroom house, yet the children were sleeping in a caravan. The dogs were constantly escaping and the dog warden was out every day to capture them and take them back. Children in the street were terrified to play outside because of the packs of dogs."

Dad-of-two Gordon's smart four-bed home backs on to the O'Briens' former home in a quiet residential area. Gordon, a building standards surveyor, says living next to the family was a living hell.

He said: "You watch programmes on TV about families from hell, but you would have to multiply that by 10 to understand what we suffered. This really was worse than anything I've ever known.

"The only thing separating our gardens was a wire fence. From an early stage, there were lots of dogs around the garden and it became obvious the O'Briens weren't cleaning up after them.

"Within weeks, I contacted the environmental health department at Angus Council about the smell of dog mess.

"Environmental health officers later informed me that Mr O'Brien was finding it difficult to dispose of the dog dirt and needed help." Gordon, 37, revealed he constantly called police and environmental health officers to report the stench but, despite visits by the authorities, nothing was done.

But it wasn't just dog mess that the neighbours had to put up with. The O'Briens' garden was strewn with household rubbish. To make matters worse, Patrick built up a collection of 13 rusting cars, a caravan, speedboat and a motorbike.

Gordon's wife Janis, 34, said: "It got to the stage where

we couldn't use our garden. There were swarms of flies over the dog dirt.

"We were getting lots of flies in our house every day. Yet the environmental health department seemed happy to inspect the problem and for him to then clean it up - only for the whole process to start all over again." The appalling state of the garden and area surrounding the O'Brien home soon started to affect the neighbours around them. Gordon said: "The problem became so bad that the garden started attracting rats. "But when we contacted environmental health again, they blamed a local water source for attracting the rats. "They didn't want to deal with Mr O'Brien and seemed to be making up any excuse to avoid him. They came and set up traps in every garden in the area - except the O'Briens'.

"Their children were playing among this dog dirt and crawling through bushes and trees where the rats were."

Gordon revealed the kids were so traumatised they started to behave oddly. He explained: "The worst of all was the eight-year-old boy. He lifted off the drain covers in the road and played in the drain below. I'd be driving along the street when suddenly his head would appear from the hole in the road. He was always filthy and the children rarely wore any clothes." The Cairds, along with 30 of their neighbours, finally wrote a letter of complaint to the Chief Executive of Angus Council last April.

But he said: "When the council told the family to clean the garden and dog pens, it was the young children sent out to shovel the sh**."

After four years of hell at the hands of the O'Briens, the situation began to take its toll on the Caird family. Gordon said: "This was ruining our lives. We were going to bed at night sick and tired of the situation.

"It affected my work. I ended up going to the doctor suffering from stress."

The Cairds' nightmare finally came to an end when police raided the O'Briens' home last September - four years after they first reported problems. A police raid on the semi-detached villa revealed a filthy, squalid mess which left them stunned. Officers were forced to wear face masks to protect them from the "unbearable, overpowering" smell of dog mess. The building was strewn with household waste and faeces. Shocked officers also discovered a pillow covered in excrement and a wall smeared with faeces. The children, two boys and two girls, were filthy and only partially clothed.

At court last week Sheriff Norrie Stein told the O'Briens it was difficult to comprehend how anyone could allow their kids to live in such "appalling conditions". Social workers immediately removed the children from their parents and they are now living in foster care.

The O'Briens were finally evicted in March this year and cleaning squads, dressed in full body suits and masks, are still scrubbing the home four months later.

Gordon added: "Our ordeal is over now and this is the first time in five years that we have been able to enjoy our garden and not been prisoners in our own homes."

A spokeswoman for Angus Council last night said: "The council's social work team had been working with the family on a voluntary basis. But when, at the end of August 2005, it became clear that domestic circumstances had

SHAMEFUL LIST OF SOCIAL WORK BLUNDERS

THE case of the O'Brien children is the latest in a long line of social work blunders.

One of the most shocking cases was revealed in May when the Sunday Mirror published pictures of Britain's youngest mum-to-be smoking a cigarette - while her mum smoked heroin in another room.

The girl, who conceived aged just 11, has since given birth to a baby daughter and the pair have been placed in foster care.

In January, it was revealed that a drug addict's 11-year-old daughter collapsed in school after taking heroin.

Just weeks later, it was revealed Derek Alexander Doran, two, died after drinking the heroin substitute methadone at his home.

Last November, a three-year-old boy spent six weeks trapped in a flat with his dead drug-addict mum. Michael McGarrity was found barely alive in the Edinburgh flat beside the body of Anne-Marie, 33, who had died from an overdose.

Children lived in dogs' dirt 9

One boy played down a drain *

22 dogs lived in house, 4 kids in a caravan

Son, 8, growled in school just like a dog

Care workers refused to go in the home

CAPTION(S):

Hellhouse...the O'Brien home' THE NEIGHBOUR Gordon Caird and his wife claim they had to endure appalling smells and conditions living next to the O'Briens' THE PARENTS' Mum Julie O'Brien is led away by police after being sentenced, following her court appearance last week' Dad Patrick O'Brien let four children suffer in the most disgusting circumstances alongside 22 dogs
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 30, 2006
Words:1480
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