Five year old escapes from Barnstaple school

Joseph Bulmer

Mum calls for greater security after her son makes his own way to aunt’s house half a mile away

A five-year-old boy sparked a major search after he was able to escape from Ashleigh Primary School in Barnstaple and make his way half a mile across town.

In the process little Malachi Williams managed to get through two security doors and cross a busy main road before he was eventually found at his aunt’s house in Gloster Road following a search by staff and police.

It is the second time in three years that a child has managed to slip out of the school – in 2008 Tyler Roffey, aged four, escaped and walked three quarters-of-a-mile home.

Now Malachi’s mother Kelly Duckett, 33, who has two other children aged 11 and nine at the school, is calling for greater security measures.

“I felt I had to say something because if it happens again to another child there might not be such a happy ending and I couldn’t have that on my conscience,” she told the Gazette.

“Malachi had to press a button to open the main school door and then another to open a gate in order to escape. Why are the buttons within reach of a five-year-old?”

Kelly was at the school that morning dropping her older son off after an appointment and saw Malachi with his classmates. As she was leaving staff asked if he had followed her out, but it was assumed he had gone to the playground.

When Kelly arrived home at Bishops Tawton there was a message saying he was missing and the police were about to be called. Passersby reported seeing a little boy in Ashleigh Road and then later in Gloster Road.

“He said afterwards he wanted to see me,” said a relieved Kelly.

“He ran from the police because he did not know them and thought he was in trouble. The police were excellent, they were all over Barnstaple and then I got a call from my sister to say she had him.

“I have really drummed into him how dangerous it is, but once a child gets an idea into their head they are going to try and do it.

“As adults we put barriers there for their safety and I feel the school should be doing exactly the same.”

Headteacher Mark Henderson said the incident had been discussed in detail with the family and that in the past two years the school had significantly upgraded its security.

“We now have magnets on our gates, CCTV, and button releases on the doors which are at a height which complies with disability legislation.

“However you cannot make a school a prison. In this case the pupil hid in the toilets, ran out, managed to hit a door release button and got outside before members of staff could stop him.

“Two members of staff went after him and I immediately notified his family and the police. The police located him but he ran away from them.

“Fortunately the situation was safely resolved and we will be reviewing our security to see if there are any other measures we can take.”