The inquiry into the death of a Manitoba girl has been told at least one social worker insisted the girl was doing fine, even though the child had been beaten and killed two months earlier.
The testimony Monday from a relative of Phoenix Sinclair is the latest evidence that Manitoba's child welfare system failed the troubled child throughout her short life and even after her shattered body was buried in a makeshift grave near a landfill.
"I called basically every single agency Manitoba has to offer," the relative, who cannot be identified under a publication ban, told the inquiry.
"No one knew who she was or how to locate her."
The relative was worried Phoenix was being abused by her mother, Samantha Kematch. The girl was often dirty, had head lice, and was overly quiet and withdrawn when with Kematch, the inquiry was told.
By 2005, Kematch stopped bringing Phoenix to the relative's home, saying the girl was staying with other family members. In August of that year, the relative decided to try to get social workers to check on the girl.
The relative got nowhere in the first 20 or so phone calls, the inquiry was told, but ended up being directed to a social worker named Stan Williams at Winnipeg Child and Family Services. Williams had been the case worker for Phoenix and her family two years earlier.
"His last words to me were, 'she is doing fine and well,'" the relative testified.
"Those words ring in my head almost every day."
In fact, Phoenix, who was five, had been killed two months earlier by Kematch and Kematch's boyfriend, Karl McKay, after suffering horrific abuse and neglect. Her death would go undiscovered for another seven months as Kematch and McKay continued to collect welfare benefits with Phoenix listed as a dependent.