Police Scotland has apologised to a bereaved brother whose baby sister died in care in Dundee for withholding vital information.
Alexina Kelbie died when she was just two years old in 1960 after suffering a head injury at her foster home in Fintry Road.
Her brother Peter Kelbie has been fighting for decades to get answers on what happened to Alexina, and has now received an official apology from Police Scotland for withholding information about her being abused prior to her death.
Three reviews to find the truth
Mr Kelbie, who was also in care as a child, only learned of Alexina’s existence and death in 1983 when he was reunited with his other birth sisters in London.
Ever since he has been trying to get to the bottom of what happened to Alexina, as he believed information was covered up and the family were not told the full truth.
At the time of her death, it was decided Alexina’s injuries were self-inflicted as the toddler was prone to banging her head to cope with pain from a broken arm which had not healed properly.
Mr Kelbie pushed for reviews into the police investigation in 1988 and 1993 where it was decided the death had been fully investigated.
However in 2006 Mr Kelbie asked to see the police files from 1960 which prompted another investigation – this time a detective found post-mortem photographs of Alexina which showed her body was covered in bruises and other injuries, including a bite mark.
Officers traced the photographs back to Sergeant John Underwood, who said at the time he was unhappy with the suggestion Alexina’s injuries were self-inflicted.
Pathologist Professor Derrick Pounder from Dundee University reviewed the photographs, however his findings were not disclosed to the Kelbie family at the time.
The force has now admitted it withheld the information about this development in 2006, and has since issued an apology to Mr Kelbie and his family.
‘Hold your children tight for Alexina’
Mr Kelbie says he is horrified to learn the truth about what actually happened to Alexina while she was in care as a baby in Dundee.
He said: “It is horrific and I can never bring her back.
“My mum said there was no doubt, she had been battered black and blue.
“We now know it was child abuse and it is horrible they have got away with this.
“She was just a child, she was just two years old.
“Our mum would never have done that, I can tell you that now.
“I am going through hell, I didn’t realise the extent of her injuries.
“This is my worst nightmare come true.
“I feel totally empty inside.”
Previously Mr Kelbie said he believed the abuse and subsequent cover up was down to racial discrimination, as he and his family are of Romany Gypsy heritage.
He added: “There may have been racial stuff going on because of our surname.
“It is not our fault we were born with that surname, but I know what it is like to be abused because of it.
“Our mum is not here now to see justice, but at least we can expose them now, that’s all we can do.
“I don’t know how on earth people can do something like that.
“If you have children, please hold them in your arms for Alexina.
“We will try and put this right for baby Alexina, and for my mum.”
Injuries uncovered in 2006 photographs
In the letter of apology to Mr Kelbie, Police Scotland says Professor Pounder’s report highlighted Alexina’s body had “multiple bruises and abrasions to the face, neck, upper chest and legs” and the injuries could not be explained as being caused by a simple fall.
He also noted the injuries to her head and neck were “particularly prominent”, she had blood in her mouth, and a bite mark on her left leg.
The letter added: “A policy note was compiled in respect of the review and the decision was made not to inform yourself or your family of Professor Pounder’s findings or the existence of the photographs.
“Again due to me not having all information available to me I am unable to ascertain the reason for this information not being conveyed to you.
“I would like to offer you my sincerest apologies for the distress this has caused to you and your family.”
Police issue apology to Alexina’s family
Superintendent Lorna Ferguson from Police Scotland’s professional standards department said: “Our thoughts remain with Alexina Kelbie’s family and we have written to her brother Peter regarding a number of concerns he has about her death in 1960 and subsequent investigations and reviews.
“The case has been reported to and fully considered by COPFS.
“No prosecution has or will take place.
“Following an investigation into Mr Kelbie’s complaints, which were made to Police Scotland in May 2020, we have upheld complaints relating to the information that was considered during reviews carried out by Tayside Police in 1988 and 1993 and in relation to communication with the Kelbie family following the Tayside Police review in 2006.
“We recognise the considerable distress these matters have caused to Alexina’s family and have sincerely apologised to Mr Kelbie for this.
“Additionally, investigating Mr Kelbie’s complaints has taken longer than we would wish and, on behalf of Police Scotland, we have apologised for this delay.
“We have advised Mr Kelbie that, should he be unsatisfied with how his complaint has been handled, he can request an independent review by the police investigations and review commissioner.”