More details of a nervous and neglected Phoenix Sinclair have emerged at the public inquiry into the 2005 death of the young Manitoba girl, who was killed after she was returned to her mother, Samantha Kematch.
A witness testifying on Thursday corroborated testimony from another witness who claimed on Wednesday to have called provincial child-welfare officials after a visit to Kematch's apartment in early 2005.
Read the latest entries from the CBC's Katie Nicholson, who is covering the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry:
Neither witness can be identified by name or gender, under a court-ordered publication ban, but both knew Kematch.
Thursday's witness said Kematch displayed no affection toward Phoenix.
The witness recalled how Phoenix was sitting one day in front of the television on the floor, "stiffly and quietly" casting nervous glances back at the adults.
Kematch and her friends then left to go to another house, leaving four-year-old Phoenix behind, the witness said.
The witness wanted to help Phoenix, whose boots were on haphazardly, but Kematch shouted to leave the child alone, the inquiry heard.
The inquiry heard that on another occasion, the witness wanted to take a picture of Kematch with her baby. Kematch eagerly agreed and posed embracing the baby.
But when asked to take a photo of Phoenix, Kematch's face darkened and she told the witness, "What do you want to take a picture of her for?"
The witness feared for Phoenix's safety but also testified about being afraid of Kematch, too.
The witness broke down in tears while recalling a photograph of Phoenix that was taken months before the little girl was killed.
Social worker denies getting tip
Both witnesses said they had concerns Phoenix may have been sexually abused by Karl Wesley McKay, Kematch's boyfriend. They were also worried McKay may have been physically abusing Kematch.
A third witness, a foster parent who worked in the child welfare system, testified on Thursday about being asked by one of the other witnesses — a former foster child — to contact child and family services (CFS) authorities and ask them to check on Phoenix.
The witness described the former foster child as credible, thoughtful and intuitive, but was afraid of Kematch.
The third witness contacted a CFS agency and tried to share the concerns about Kematch, but the social worker who took the call said she cannot accept third-hand information.
A social worker who was contacted by one of the other witnesses testified on Thursday that she never got a tip about Kematch or Phoenix.
Della Fines said she doesn't remember the witness — who had testified on Wednesday — ever telling her about concerns in Kematch's home or about Phoenix being sexually abused.
Fines told the inquiry, "I believe this information never came to me as a social worker."
Fines said the witness was very "emotional" and had feelings of "superiority" and would tell her about "neglect or abuse" in other homes "to divert attention."
In a statement to RCMP in 2006, Fines said she would take tips from the witness to child-welfare officials if they were "extraordinarily grave."
On Thursday, Fines said she regretted using that term with police, but insisted she never heard either the name Phoenix Sinclair or Samantha Kematch until the story of the girl's death hit the news in 2006.
Kematch and McKay, along with Phoenix, eventually moved to the Fisher River First Nation, about 150 kilometres north of the city, where Phoenix was beaten, neglected and eventually killed in June 2005.
Her body was not found until nine months later, in March 2006, wrapped in plastic in a shallow grave near the landfill at the reserve.
In 2008, Kematch and McKay were convicted of first-degree murder in Phoenix's death.
The inquiry is looking at how child and family services officials handled the girl's case and why her death went undiscovered for months.