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Social worker warned Kematch about lock outside Phoenix's door

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A social worker got inside Phoenix Sinclair's apartment block to talk to the child's mother about abuse allegations but then left without ever seeing the little girl, the inquiry into her death heard today.

Crisis response unit worker Christopher Zalevich told the inquiry that he went to their inner-city home on March 9, 2005 after a caller reported that Phoenix's mother Samantha Kematch may have been abusing the four-year-old and locking her in a bedroom.

Phoenix was murdered later that year by her mother and stepfather. Her death wasn't discovered until 2006. An inquiry was ordered by the province in 2011 to find out how and why Phoenix slipped through Manitoba's child-welfare safety net.

Zalevich testified this morning that he and a co-worker got into the locked apartment building when someone else had opened the door.

Kematch answered her door with "a shy demeanour" but wouldnt let them inside. He told her about the abuse allegation and that she'd reportedly been locking Phoenix in the bedroom.

She said she'd yelled at Phoenix and supposed that's why someone called child welfare authorities. She admitted there was a lock on the outside of the bedroom door.

Zalevich said he cautioned her that it wasn't a safe thing to do.

He said she was holding Phoenix's infant half-sister who seemed clean, healthy, happy and well-cared for. He did not see Phoenix, but went back to the office and recommended that the file be closed.

His testimony continues this afternoon.

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