THE distraught dad of a woman kept prisoner in a loft by her abusive husband, has said social services failed his daughter.

Barry Thomas, 64, said he blames social workers for the horrific abuse his 26-year-old daughter Zara suffered from her evil husband David Bell.

Mr Thomas said social services did not once check on his daughter when her baby girl, Jessica, was born, even though the pair had been flagged up as being “at risk” by other authorities.

He said: “They were aware Zara was being abused a year before she was locked in the loft.

“Yet when the baby was born, it was like they just washed their hands of her. They never checked on her or the baby. I do blame social services for what happened.

“It’s only lucky he didn’t kill her.”

Mr Thomas compared the case to failings highlighted in the case of Baby P – the 17-month-old boy who died in August 2007.

He had 50 injuries and suffered years of abuse, but his wounds were repeatedly missed by social workers.

Mr Thomas added: “It’s the same thing. If they had continued to see Zara every month, especially when the baby was born, they would have seen all the bruises.”

Mr Thomas, of Goldings Crescent, Vange, said his daughter was brought to the attention of social services in July 2009, when she was pregnant.

She had gone to Basildon Hospital for a three-month scan where shocked medics, noticing Zara’s extensive brui-sing, contacted social services.

At the time David Bell, also 26, had already been given a six-month suspended jail term in September 2008 for battering his wife.

Despite this, Zara was visited a handful of times by a case worker. In January 2010, when baby Jessica was born, the visits from social services stopped.

Mr Thomas said: “Whenever social services were there, he just took over.

“She was so frightened she never would have said anything to them about the abuse and they never ever saw her when she was on her own.

“Bell was always there watching everything she did and said.”

Mr Thomas said after the social worker’s visits stopped, Bell’s abuse of his wife became even worse, and she suffered daily beatings.

When a health visitor called at the couple’s home in Brackley Crescent, Pitsea, to check on the health of mum and her newborn daughter, Bell repeatedly turned them away. He claimed Zara was out when, in fact, she was locked in the couple’s bedroom.

Bell is currently serving nine years in jail after admitting charges of false imprisonment and causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

**** DESPITE damning allegations about its failings, Essex County Council’s social services refused to answer questions.

When David Bell, 26, was sentenced to nine years at Basildon Crown Court last Friday, Essex County Council said neither Bell nor his wife were known to their adults’ wellbeing team.

But Barry Thomas, 64, Zara’s father, said she had come to the attention of social services while pregnant in July 2009.

When confronted with allegations about how social workers failed to keep up checks on Zara once she had given birth, Essex County Council refused to discuss the case.

It issued a statement instead, which said: “Essex County Council cannot comment on specifics, but we take all concerns and allegations seriously.”

Zara’s father said: “They need to answer our questions about why they failed to do their job properly.”