Child neglect makes me want to give the parents a taste of their own cruelty:
Death by starvation of 'girl who did not exist' stuns Germany
Parents kept seven-year-old without food in a darkened room until she weighed little more than the family cat. Tony Paterson reports from Berlin
Two German police officers came to carry away the coffin of seven-year-old Jessica last week but one on his own could have shouldered the tragic burden with ease.
The young girl weighed less than a stone and a half when she died in her parents' flat in Hamburg, her skeletal corpse a pathetic bundle of skin and bones.
No food was found in her stomach: only traces of carpet fluff and strands of hair that she had eaten in a vain attempt to fend off hunger.
Jessica had been left to starve to death in a shocking case of neglect that has scandalised Germany. Neighbours and social services were unaware that she even existed.
Her parents, who have been charged with manslaughter, failed to feed their daughter but made sure the family cat was well nourished. The cat, now in a home for domestic pets, weighed just over 11lb.
"The child was a skeleton," said Dr Michael Tsokos, a pathologist for Hamburg police, last week.
"In desperation she tore out her own hair and ate it. She died of chronic undernourishment that lasted years rather than months."
Ole Von Beust, Hamburg's mayor, ordered an investigation into the death and the role of welfare authorities. Jessica was officially registered as living in the flat. "We have to establish the finest details of the mistakes that were made, so that nothing like this ever happens again," Mr Beust said.
Jessica, whose surname has not been released, lived on the top floor of a tower block in the rundown suburb of Jensfeld for more than five years without anyone apparently seeing her. Both her mother, an unemployed seamstress, and her father, a labourer, are believed to be alcoholics.
Her body was found on Wednesday morning after her mother, identified only as Marlies S, 35, called a doctor to the home. Her daughter had been sick, she said, and had crawled into her parents' bed, where she remained in a coma.
The call came too late. By the time the doctor arrived all that he could do was confirm that she was dead.
Hamburg police said that during questioning Jessica's mother and her father, Burkhard M, 49, seemed to think they had done nothing wrong.
"They didn't seem to know what we wanted," said a spokesman. "The mother claimed that she had often offered her daughter food and said 'If she wouldn't eat, it wasn't my problem'."
Horrified police officers have revealed the cruel conditions in which Jessica lived. No light filtered into her tiny room in the back of the filthy flat because all the windows had been covered with black plastic. There was no air because the windows were screwed shut.
The couple reportedly frequented a bar near the flat. No one among the bar's customers or among the neighbours knew that they had a daughter living with them.
Official inquiries are expected to focus on the role of the city's schools and youth welfare authorities. The Hamburg schools department realised, when she was five, that she had failed to turn up to school. It sent letters to her parents telling them to bring the girl to class.
When the school received no reply, it sent an official to the flat but he found no one at home. Neighbours told him that they knew of no girl living in the apartment and last week the Hamburg schools department admitted that it assumed the family had moved.
"There was simply no evidence that there was a child who was in trouble," a spokesman said.
Volker de Fries, Hamburg's youth affairs officer, said: "The department simply did not know about the family."
Okay, my statement about child neglect isn't entirely accurate... child neglect makes me wish I could have all the technology of the Gould, so I could bring the parents back to life after I've tortured them to death, to torture them to death again and again and again.