Five tribunals and a dress code

Coming up this summer; a two-week General Medical Council (GMC) tribunal for the consultant psychiatrist to be held in Manchester in August, and four Nursing and Midwifery (NMC) tribunals.

  • Four years after LB drowned, alone, in an NHS bath.
  • Over three years after an independent report found he died a preventable death through neglect.
  • Nearly two years after an inquest jury determined he died through neglect and serious failings.

It’s all going on this summer. The pipers are suddenly calling the tunes.

The NMC sent me (Rich has dropped off these communications without explanation) four identical letters last week which open with a cheery:

On behalf of the NMC, thank you for your time and commitment in helping us to investigate this case; your help is greatly appreciated. Without the evidence provided by witnesses we would not be able to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the public. We recognise the valuable contribution you have made to this investigation.

‘This case’? ‘My help’? ‘The valuable contribution…‘ Really?

Is humanity bypass a criteria for a job at the NMC?  I’m all for change but spare me the vacuous Dambuster shite. LB died.

The letter continues by ‘asking me’ to provide my unavoidable (in bold) commitments in June, July and August. There is no reflection of the enormity of demanding these dates (after years of crap all action) so breezily, four times over, with a response deadline of ten days. No. The reverse. If those pesky bereaved parents don’t get their act together to respond, there is a simple fallback position:

If we do not hear from you we will assume you are available and proceed to schedule the hearings.

I’m then directed to a lengthy weblink which I have to retype from the letter to find out more (there is so much so wrong here but seriously, if you ain’t sending a letter electronically, a URL is as good as fucking useless).

It gets worse.

At each of these tribunals, the staff member is represented by a barrister who can ‘cross-examine’ the witness.

Giving your evidence in person also allows the opposing side, if present at the hearing, to ask you questions and test your evidence. This is vital to ensure a fair and thorough hearing.

The opposing side? I don’t think that the staff who should have been looking after LB are on an ‘opposing side’. What a terrible way to frame the process. But if there are opposing sides, surely both (or none) have recourse to legal representation? (Witnesses are not allowed representation). How can this possibly be a fair or thorough process?

The concerns and focus of these regulatory bodies should be on the integrity, professionalism and abilities of the people they register, not putting (bereaved) members of the public through trial and examination. There’s a shedload of evidence to draw upon to do this, including two weeks of inquest recordings, staff and other witness statements.

James Titcombe described his and his partner’s experiences earlier:

I have spent days giving evidence to both regulatory bodies, checking this evidence, finding supporting documentation and waiting for action. In the next few months, I’m expected to travel to Manchester and wherever in the UK the four NMC tribunals are held (using annual leave and making sure I’m available at all times), to be cross examined by five different barristers.

You can fuck your denim, sportswear and trainers ban.

Oh dear Mike

Oh dear. Mike Durkins, National Director for Patient Safety at NHS Improvement (my arse), made this statement about the CQC deaths review;

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There is so much so wrong with this statement, not least Durkin’s apparent indifference or obliviousness, to what are, often, preventable deaths. What really makes my jaw ache though is his bizarre reference to families of learning disabled and mental health patients. Mike, all families should be properly treated and supported when a loved on has died unexpectedly. Just like all unexpected deaths should be properly investigated. Singling out these families suggests a complete misunderstanding of this latest scandalous unfolding.

As Patient Safety Director you really need to be focusing on why certain patients are dying (consistently) in the first place. [And, if you need herbs off the street to point this out to you, you should probably have a long, hard think about whether you are in the right job.]

Also, before you make a leap to global standards of excellence, you might want to see what’s going on in Spain and their response to the way in which the NHS treat certain members of society. Strikes me, you could learn a thing or two.

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The curious incident of the earlier death in the bath

In June 2006, HC, 57, died unexpectedly in the same bath that LB died in. Days after two ECT treatments he was unable to consent to. This emerged during LB’s inquest in October 2015. The coroner, who was clearly surprised to hear about the earlier death requested statements from the key three people involved in HC’s death.

  • The student nurse present in the bathroom

Once I had H supported I managed to pull my alarm, whilst at the same time shouting for assistance. At that point a member of nursing staff entered the bathroom, it was a female member of staff but I cannot recall who it was, simply due to how long ago this incident occurred. I can however recall that [nursing manager] followed that female in to the bathroom. It was approximately 10-15 seconds from H starting to have a seizure to other staff members joining me in the bathroom. By the time they arrived the water was drained and H was still in the bath and [nursing manager] told me to leave the room, which I promptly did. I understand that he did this purely because of my age and experience and he felt it was best to be away from what was happening to H. I did not see what happened next and never saw H again.

  • The nursing manager 

At the time of the incident I know I was not on the Unit.

Later in his statement he says:

I am not sure if I arrived there before Dr J or after but she went into the bathroom and assisted in trying to revive patient. I also cannot recall whether paramedics were already present when I arrived at the ward or whether they arrived after.

  • 3. Dr J (who phoned me the day LB died)

As the attending doctor, I pronounced HC dead.

Later in her statement she says:

On 29 June 2006, I received a phone call from the HM Coroner’s Office asking me if I was prepared to complete and signed the Part 1 of HC’s Death Certificate as I was the attending doctor at the time of his death. They called me again after 15 minutes and informed me that the HM Coroner was not going to ask for a postmortem examination and open an inquest. They informed me that HM Coroner would sign the Part II of the Death Certificate.

The 2014 Sloven ‘investigation’

Another Sloven psychiatrist was tasked with finding out more about HC’s death in 2014. He wrote to the Sloven Clinical Director on March 25 stating:

[Dr J] confirmed that there had been a death some years before Dr M’s appointment. [Dr J] relayed that the circumstances were different in some respects to the epilepsy related death last summer, but similar in that an inpatient on STATT had a seizure in the bath. An attempt at resus followed but it was complicated by the difficulty staff had extricating the man from the bath. He died soon after.

On May 13, the Sloven ‘inquiry’ concluded:

As this was an unexpected death of an NHS inpatient it was reported as a SIRI. There is no evidence of an RCA being undertaken. The Coroner had pronounced the death as natural causes.

This is how you erase a life and a death in full view. Particular lives and deaths. Those that don’t count.

LB’s Fighting Fund. The postscript.

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Been a bit tardy with this, sorry. A few days before leaving for the #CaminoLB, we received a chunk of our legal fees back from Sloven. This means we are able to donate £20,023 of the funds raised to charity. We originally said any recovered dosh would be split between Oxfordshire Family Support Network and INQUEST but feel that the My Life My Choice champs have flown (and walked) the #JusticeforLB flag brilliantly so there will be a three way split. £6,674 to each charity.

Thank you to everyone who donated dosh, sold cakes, chocolates, jewellery, plants, ate cakes, did sponsored runs, head shaves, bus rides, cycle rides and more, bought cards, made pencil cases, bought pencil cases, made notebooks, bought notebooks, held work parties, discos, party nights, donated christening presents, the takings from comedy shows, recorded an EP, made Jack’s cats, bought Jack’s cats, photos and all the other magical efforts people made to ensure that LB was beyond brilliantly and effectively represented at his inquest.

We should never have had to do this [and shame on the Ministry of Justice for relentlessly misguided faith in the coronial system] but given we did, we couldn’t have done it better. Dipping into the remarkable #107days of action collection is a much needed tonic and continues to astonish me. A colourful, random, joyful, diverse, spontaneous and collective effort to get on and do stuff.

LB would have expected nothing less, love him.

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History of a GMC investigation

How long does it take to investigate a doctor? Good question. We referred Dr M to the General Medical Council (GMC) in May 2014. And were asked to respond promptish in a letter dated 19 June 2014.fullsizerender-7

I did so. Because we bereaved families do. There was a second request for information, again with a short deadline.

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Jumping ahead to March 2015. March 2015. By this point, the GMC had got careless in their updates. I was chasing them up for infoA letter in response to a frosty phone call from me. [Hostile… toxic… you know the drill].fullsizerender-9

Nearly two years after LB’s death [he died] and 10 months into the investigation. What does ‘regret’ mean? Where is the attention, the urgency, the respect, the humanity?

In July 2015, thirteen months after making the referral. I was asked to provide a statement. And then sign and return the statement sharpish.

This is your statement and so please ensure you are fully satisfied with its contents before returning a signed and dated copy to me. I would be grateful if you could amend and return at your earliest convenience, so that the GMC may progress its investigation as promptly as possible.

I did as I was asked.

Fast (well very slowly) forward to December 2015.

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A change of staff.  And another expert report (the third by that stage). No explanation why.

15 February 2016. I chase them up again. What is happening? Ah. They’d just received the inquest files from the coroner. [LB’s inquest finished four months earlier. I paid a fiver and got a copy of the files within a week.] Four months…  Another expert opinion was now necessary to consider the inquest evidence (taking 5-6 weeks apparently). Then Dr M would be written to formally and have 28 days to respond. So wrapping up in the spring then by my reckoning.

3 May 2016. I chased them up again. What is happening? The supplementary expert report was now expected by May 30th. The spring wrap up was not going to happen. I replied saying that it would be good if families were proactively updated because it was such a drawn out, painful process. I was told my comments would be passed “to our investigations enhancement team who are always looking for ideas and feedback about our investigations and the effect it has on the relatives of patients whilst we investigate”.

Clearly a bunch of comedians in the GMC. Still. Spontaneous updating kicked in at this point.

7 June 2016. The supplementary expert report was received, investigation complete and the legal team would draft the allegations to be put to Dr M who has 28 days to respond. More spontaneous contact a week or so later to let me know Dr M’s clock was ticking. 28 days to respond.

But Dr M doesn’t do obedience. We all saw that during her inquest performance. She asked for an extension and was granted an extra week.

14 September 2016. The Case Examiners want further expert opinion before they make their decision.

6 October 2016. The supplementary expert report is now with Dr M who has two weeks to comment before the case is referred back to the Case Examiners.

I called my friendly ‘caseowner’ today. The report is now in the hands of the Case Examiners (again) (a lay person and a medic). He was very apologetic for the delay. It’s not good enough I said. He said he’d do everything he can to make sure we get a decision as soon as possible. It shouldn’t take this long, I said. How can it take 30 months to investigate the conduct of one individual? No real answer. And no idea when we can expect a decision.

I’m a researcher. When we apply for funding we produce a gantt chart to show how the research process is broken down and the various milestones and end date. If something happens that means the end date can’t be reached (very rarely) we have to apply to the founder for an extension. And provide a clear rationale/explanation.

It strikes me, the GMC could up their investigation smarts in a similar way:

  • Keep families regularly updated and provide contextual information (e.g., why supplementary expert reports have been requested.)
  • Produce a gantt chart and give experts and other players clear deadlines.
  • Share these timings with families and the doctor under investigation.
  • Make sure the expert commits to the timings or find another expert who can.
  • If an investigation takes more than a year, the exec should be informed and a full explanation for the delay provided.

It really ain’t rocket science.

Jeremy ‘witch Hunt’ and the mother blame

Was reminded all week about the terrible mother blame that went on across LB’s inquest which was held a year ago. Just a few tasters:

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Unspeakably awful. Again my brain weeps This is the NHS…

Sadly, blaming us has been a consistent theme since LB died. Sloven have sent extraordinary briefing reports to all and sundry blaming us for hacking into staff twitter accounts and trolling. Oxfordshire County did a corporate number with their sordid secret review of me, while one of their commissioners wrote a terrible letter tearing me to shreds (I’ve never met the woman who is apparently deeply christian).

Jeremy Hunt seems to have joined the blame brigade now. He was interviewed by David Fenton in a bizarre piece on BBC South last night. Between them, pushing a ‘witch hunt’ version of events. Fenton even described how Sloven staff are too scared to go out with their Sloven lanyards on for fear of reprisal.

Wow. A witch hunt. An unfounded persecution?

For the record.

  1. There was no ‘witch hunt’ after Percy. 
  2. She didn’t form part of our Connor Manifesto.
  3. We have consistently called for the resignation of several exec/non exec members (Gordon, Spires, Grant, Berryman, Stevens…)
  4. Percy, and the above, should have gone a long time ago.
  5. Our campaign has always focused on the executive board (and LB’s responsible clinician) and not the 9000 or so staff members, many of whom I’m sure do a brilliant job.

I wonder why we are blamed. It’s fucking outrageous. We’ve (collectively) done more to generate awareness of learning disability issues than major charities with enormous budgets. For free. #JusticeforLB has been like a second, full time job over the past 2.5 years. We’ve worked our socks off. We’ve been told we’ve encouraged other families to campaign, and fight for accountability for catastrophic events harming their loved ones. What happened to LB is taught on various undergraduate and post-graduate courses across the UK. School kids have written about him for homework. We’ve generated a shedload of brilliant resources (a justice quilt and other art, blogs, lectures, songs, short films, animations, the LBBill, the first ever inquest tweet archive and loads more… see below). We’ve been consistently reasonable in the circumstances (with liberal swears).

The families and ex-Sloven governors have shown remarkable restraint given everything they’ve endured. Peter Bell is under investigation by the trust (I know) and has declined to sign a gagging order in order to see the draft report of evidence against him (I know). (There was no investigation of Malcolm Berryman’s actions in sharing the Mazars review with his son before publication). John Green has been a model of reasoned, informed, restraint in trying to highlight failures in both Sloven and the wider organisation of the NHS [click here for the abridged version of his report]. Repeated appearances on national and local news by Richard West, Maureen Hickman, the Hartleys, Angie Mote and others have been remarkable for the consistently careful, considered and, again, restrained commentary in the face of such (continued) horror. The behind the scenes email exchanges are reflective and respectful.

It’s a very dangerous precedent if any member of the public who asks questions or seeks lines of accountability from those in power is dismissed as a witch hunter.  Cheap and lazy journalism by the likes of David Fenton, who has failed to have even analysed that which has been put in the public domain by campaigners, is simply wrong. The serial failings that we, and other campaigners and journalists have largely unearthed sit well and truly on the doorsteps of the Sloven board (and some governors), Jim Mackey and the NHS Improvement gang, and, er, Jeremy Hunt.

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An antidote to the above; some #JusticeforLB magic. The middle pouch is an Arabic justice pouch, the bus ipad holder is made from material used to decorate a lorry driver’s cab and the third pouch holds the complete music for Tippett’s ‘A Child of our Time’ to celebrate the performance in memory of LB at Warwick University in June. Brilliance.

Weepage, seepage and who cares?

Dunno why, maybe the anniversary of LB’s inquest, but I’ve been having a weep fest over the past few days. I think about LB all the time. He’s never more than seconds, occasionally minutes and very rarely an hour or so, from my waking mind. I’d got to a state (hate to stage this grief stuff) where I could think about him in different ways. With the occasional, typically left field, gut punching moment. Sparked by a word, a smell, a thought, sound or memory. Moments of near meltdown (I know, the irony), fright, (at the) sheer horror, brutality and worse.

This week I’m back to just crying. Or weeping. Or something else. I don’t know what to call this thing. Maybe weepage. A sheet of tears. There’s no movement. No sort of sobbing and dabbing with a tissue action. No drama. Just moving wetness.

I cried last night re-reading my older sister’s handwritten letter to each Sloven board member. In 2014. Two years ago. Can you imagine?

I cried looking through another pile of photos that have shifted to the surface of home clutter this morning.

I cried sitting at the back of the Oxford to Heathrow coach this afternoon. For pretty much the whole journey. Watching a stream of heavy haulage lorries and coaches. After receiving an update from the General Medical Council. The supplementary expert report is now with Dr M (again). She has two weeks to respond before it goes back to the Case Examiners. Another never ending story.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council investigations? Who knows. Tumbleweed.

We were told, months back, during a meeting with Norman Lamb and the Health and Safety Executive, that some report was with some panel and we would hear something in October. No doubt we will have to chase up any (non) news ourselves.

I think my new tear configuration has (re) emerged because of the utterly shameful banality  of the public sector response to what has happened. A year ago an inquest jury determined that LB died from neglect. He should not have died. He was effectively killed. And nothing has happened. And a recognition that this sustained cruelty can’t continue indefinitely. We (a collective #JusticeforLB we) could not have done more to counter the darkness of the #NHS and social care at its worse, with light. And brilliance. And there is still no accountability.

I wonder where, in the structure of the NHS, effective support and attention exists for brutalised families. Who should know the answer to this. And why the fuck I’m having to ask.

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The Shaw Report

Start writing a book with determination. A new evening activity. This means digging out all the FOI stuff, documents, reports and paperwork. It feels like the right timing given LB’s inquest started a year ago today. Two harrowing weeks, a jury determination of neglect and no action. Still.

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Revisiting these documents (post LB’s death, I can’t bear to return to the earlier stuff yet), in the light of what has unfolded is pretty revelatory. I just wanted to single out one of the many individuals who have stuck with the campaign from the start here. Graham Shaw. Graham, the CEO of the DIPEx Charity until a couple of years ago, has consistently written letters about what’s happened. To all those implicated. Incredibly sharp and dripping in sense, his letters generate responses.

This one, written to Jeremy Hunt in April 2014 was prophetic really.

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The Sloven Head of External Communications responded in a tawdry and deeply inappropriate way asking [redacted] to “support the drafting of any response to Mr Shaw” [16.4.4 13:46]. Extraordinary evidence of the blurring of boundaries and positioning of NHS trusts as above questioning.

Here is the unfolding exchange. About as Stinky McStink as you get really, particularly given the timing of the responses and redactions. Emails 3 and 4 probably hold some significant clues to the continued lack of action against Percy and the board.

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Two and a half years ago.

A year and a half before LB’s inquest.

No words really. Other than Graham Shaw, we salute you. Keep writing the letters matey.

Of mice and (NHS) monstrousness

A story ‘broke’ yesterday about extortionate NHS interim director costs. Sickening figures of waste, greed and mismanagement. At senior levels. Again.

In another of those ‘you couldn’t make it up’ NHS moments, the highest paid interim Improvement Director named in the report, Steve Leivers, was helicoptered into the trust Tim Smart, now Sloven interim Board Chair, previously ran. Yes. Really. Not Smart in non action. Again.

I read this latest news having been unable to move beyond Chris Hatton’s recent analysis of Sloven’s annual report. Cut and paste Katrina. And extraordinary senior exec salary figures. With Lesley Stevens, Medical Director at the top of the ‘leader’ board. A cool £365-70k per annum including jaw dropping pension contributionsHow can she possibly ‘earn’ this sort of dosh? Let’s have a look at her performance during LB’s inquest last October.

Lesley Stevens and LB’s inquest

Reasonably confident while reading out her evidence and then being (sleep) walked through clearly rehearsed questions by the Sloven barrister, she floundered big time when questioned by the six remaining barristers. Her answers so deeply insubstantial (a generous interpretation) it was as if the courtroom had switched to watching CBeebies.

£365-70k per annum…

Some examples:

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LB died in July 2013. The (post Mazars review) CQC inspection in January 2016 found the Sloven epilepsy policy had yet to be signed off. Paul Bowen, QC, carefully questioned each Sloven staff member about their knowledge of epilepsy during LB’s inquest. No one answered in other than the vaguest ‘ain’t got a clue’ terms. There was no up-skilling staff over two years after LB’s death.

[Howl].

LS3Here Paul Bowen seeks clarification of Stevens outlandish statement that all learning disabled patients with epilepsy were reviewed before the CQC inspection in September 2013. At that point, Sloven were still spinning the line that LB died of natural causes. They did nothing to check the provision in STATT (it failed on all 10 domains inspected 6-8 weeks after he died) let alone review patients with epilepsy in their wider provision/outposts.

A blatant and contemptible lie. Perjury to us herbs outside of senior NHS circles.

LS2Paul Bowen tries to drawn Stevens on the failure of the RiO system. A failure that persists to this day. She resorts to her default response. A murmur/mutter noise reminiscent of the dog ate my homework type responses from school. Not the sharp, authoritative, informed, engaged response you’d expect from a senior exec at an inquest over two years in preparation, with nearly £300k squandered on ‘defence’ costs.

When questioned by Adam Samuels, another barrister, about the reduction in Band 6 and 7 staffing reductions in STATT (and the next door John Sharich House), Stevens says:

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‘We make savings where we have to make them…’ On frontline staff. While you continue to draw an obscene salary

Monstrous. And remorseless. Just one, among so many.

When did the NHS we grew up with, took for granted and loved, become so riddled with greed and rot… with complacency and arrogance, with inaction and protection. At senior levels?

Updating LB

Hello matey,

Three years now. Well we’re into the fourth year really. I thought I’d update you on where we’re at in terms of justice and accountability. Not far really. [Sorry]. Various investigations limp on. The General Medical Council (GMC) has spent over two years collecting evidence about the clinician who was kind of in charge of you. You know. That woman who spoke to you for about 15 minutes across your whole time in STATT from what I can tell from the records. And gave you Bonjela after you had that seizure. She’s got about a week left to respond to the allegations the GMC have put to her. We’ve no idea what these allegations are because it’s all secret squirrel stuff. She’s working in the Emerald Isle now. Still responsible for patients.

She pitched up at your inquest in October with a barrister who was like the worst of worst baddies in a Simon Pegg film. He, like Sloven peeps, questioned whether we wanted you home. We did. I’m so sorry if that got lost over those hideous weeks in the unit. We stupidly, stupidly thought you were in a safe space while support was being sorted. Turns out all the failings in the unit were written in a report the summer before you went there. But nothing was done. [Howl…]

Your inquest went as it should have done. Superb legal representation (as you’d have expected) and a jury of nine members of the public who listened and understood how deeply you were failed by Sloven.

Other investigations are going on. Still. We met three people from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on Thursday with Norman Lamb. The meeting was in Portcullis House which you’d have loved. Heavy weaponery, police presence and security… The meeting was disappointing. Not the objective, razor sharp, robust, investigative scrutiny I imagined. Mind you, the writing was on the wall given the speed in which they slapped a charge against a production company for Harrison Ford’s leg injury in June 2014. 

There seems to be a fog engulfing and dispersing any critical challenge by public bodies of public bodies. And when you stupidly ain’t considered to be fully human, that fog just thickens. 

We managed to get a review commissioned by NHS England into deaths in Sloven ‘care’. This found a scandalous lack of interest or engagement in investigating unexpected deaths. We thought this report would lead to sharp and immediate action. But nah. Seems like this is ok.There’s a bit of tweaking going on round the edges but no commitment to really looking at these deaths or to act with any conviction. You’ve been mentioned a few times in the House of Commons though which would make you smile. 

Meanwhile, Sloven failings continue to pile up. They are seriously shite. NHS Improvement sent in a troubled shooter, Tim Smart, to look at leadership failings. He spent a few weeks there, avoided speaking with families, got some psychometric testing organised and decided there were no leadership probs.

I can hear you saying ‘Mum? Why mum?’ into infinity and beyond.

I dunno. I was waiting for the Scooby Doo gang to pitch up and unmask him as Mr Crawls or one of the other villains in the end. Such a nonsensical, cartoonish judgement. Apparently Alistair Burt, the social care minister, is still looking into it but for some reason, that rag bag bunch of muppets remain in post. 

These systems we loosely brought you up thinking were good, right and just, simply and sadly ain’t fit for purpose. While the public have stepped up and created an explosion of brilliance around you, your life and the lives of so many other people, you were and continue to be well and truly fucked over by those you always firmly believed in. 

There was a story in the Guardian mag about you a few months ago. A very funny journalist, Simon, came round and later a photographer. You’d have liked them both. Joel souped up some of our old photos. Like this one. No orange binoculars but the old shower cap and goggles. Rocking life as you always did. Your way.

Connor

Connor

xxx