Woman jailed for life for murdering baby she was hoping to adopt

25 May 2022, 14:15 | Updated: 25 May 2022, 16:54

By Patrick Grafton-Green

A woman who murdered a one-year-old boy she was hoping to adopt has been jailed for a minimum of 18 years.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Leiland-James Corkill was placed with Laura Castle, 38, and her 35-year-old husband Scott by authorities in Cumbria.

He died from catastrophic head injuries less than five months later.

The youngster was a "looked-after child" who was taken into care at birth. His birth mother Laura Corkill called her son's killer a "monster".

Laura Castle was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 18 years. Scott Castle was acquitted of allowing Leiland-James's death and child cruelty.

READ MORE: Katie Price faces jail for breaching restraining order against ex-husband's fiancée

READ MORE: Boris Becker moved to jail for foreigners facing deportation

Leiland-James was approved to live with his prospective adoptive parents in Barrow-in-Furness from August 2020.

On the morning of January 6 last year, Laura Castle rang for an ambulance and reported that he had fallen off the sofa, injured his head and was struggling to breathe.

The little boy died the following day.

Hospital medics raised concerns over Laura Castle's account but she maintained the death was a tragic accident.

She changed her story last month, on the day the jury was sworn in for her trial at Preston Crown Court, pleading guilty to manslaughter.

She said she had shaken Leiland-James because he would not stop crying, and his head hit the armrest of the sofa before he fell off her knee on to the floor.

However, medical experts told the court the degree of force required to cause his injuries would have been "severe" and likely a combination of shaking and an impact with a solid surface.

Laura Castle, 38, has been jailed for life
Laura Castle, 38, has been jailed for life. Picture: Cumbria Police

Prosecutor Michael Brady QC said Castle killed the boy because she lost her temper and suggested she smashed the back of his head against a piece of furniture.

Jurors convicted her of murder and a separate offence of child cruelty.

When detectives examined the defendants' mobile phones following their arrest they found text messages which were derogatory towards Leiland-James.

Laura Castle wrote that the youngster was a "proper n** head", "s*** bag" and "top t***", while her husband said he was a "d*** baby" and a "t*** bag".

The Castles had been selected by an adoption panel following an application process overseen by Cumbria Children's Services Department, the court heard.

In November 2020 concerns were raised that Laura Castle had said during a home visit that she did not love Leiland-James and was struggling to bond with him.

The possibility of removing the youngster from their care was later canvassed, but Laura Castle said her extended family loved him so he was "not going anywhere".

Mr Justice Baker said it was "nothing less than a tragedy" that she did not return Leiland-James to the local authority.

He told Castle: "Precisely what took place on the morning of 6 January 2021 may never be known, as even now I do not consider that you told the jury the full circumstances leading to the death of Leiland-James.

"I consider that your account significantly underplays the extent and degree of violence which you inflicted upon Leiland-James that morning, which of necessity must have involved either very severe or considerable impact and oscillation forces to have caused the internal injuries, whilst some of the external injuries were consistent with slapping, pinching and prodding."

He said she had caused "dreadful emotional upset" to Leiland-James's birth mother and his previous foster parents.

His previous foster mother Charlotte Day said she was "heartbroken" at learning of the abuse Leiland-James suffered.

David McLachlan QC, defending, said Castle was in the dock "alone and broken" and with "no support whatsoever".

He said: "Her relationship with Scott Castle is likely to come to an end.

"She is isolated and ostracised in prison due to the verdict of the jury who found she had in fact murdered Leiland-James. Now she must pay the price of that act."

An independent review into the adoption process is due to report back in July.