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A woman who rocked a one-year-old baby she hoped to adopt to death after she “lost her mind” over her crying has been found guilty of murder.
Laura Castle killed 13-month-old Leiland-James Corkill less than five months after council officials placed him in her care.
The 38-year-old former caretaker, from Barrow, Cumbria, was trying to formally adopt the young man at the time of his death in January last year.
However, council workers became concerned enough to consider removing him from her care after she said she was struggling to bond with the boy.
The young man died after suffering brain injuries at the home of Laura and her partner Scott Castle.
Police later found text messages on her phone describing the young man as a ‘k**bhead’ and a ‘whingebag’.
Although Castle initially denied any involvement in little Leiland-James’s death, she later admitted that she started shaking the boy because she “wanted him to stop crying.”
She accepts responsibility for the young man’s death, but denies murdering him.
Yet it took just two and a half hours for jurors at Preston Crown Court on Tuesday to convict her of the baby’s murder. She was also found guilty of child cruelty against Leiland-James.
Her partner Scott, a 35-year-old former machinist at defense firm BAE Systems, was found not guilty of allowing Leiland-James to die. He was also acquitted of child cruelty.
He told the court that he never worried that something bad might happen to the boy and that he trusted his wife.
Cumbria County Council officials today described the case as “truly shocking” and issued an apology for Leiland-James’s death, saying “it should never have happened”.
They also promised an official review of his death, expected to be published in July.
The court previously heard that Leiland-James had been living with her prospective adoptive parents, Laura and Scott, when emergency services were called to her home in Barrow-in-Furness on January 6 last year.
Castle, 38, initially claimed that Leiland-James accidentally fell off the sofa at her home despite the fact that she had suffered catastrophic head injuries.
However, doctors at the hospital expressed concern that the extent of her injuries did not match her account.
Leiland-James died the next day when Castle told police, as well as her family and friends, that her death was a tragic accident while her husband, who works nights, was asleep.
The defendant continued to maintain that Leiland-James’s death was a tragic accident until earlier this month, when he admitted to her involuntary manslaughter on the eve of her trial at Preston Crown Court.
Castle also lied in his prepared defense case statement before he finally changed his guilty plea and admitted that he had shaken Leiland-James after he wouldn’t stop crying and screaming, the court heard.
She said she lied because she was “ashamed” and “terrified of the consequences of her actions.”
The young man was a “baby boy” who was cared for at birth before authorities approved him to live with Castle and her partner.
However, medical experts had previously said at trial that the degree of force required to cause his injury would have been “serious” and “considerable”.
The court heard that Cumbria County Council took care of Leiland-James two days after her birth on December 21, 2019.
The Castles had been selected by an adoption panel following an application process overseen by the Cumbria Department of Children’s Services, the court heard.
In November 2020, concerns were raised that Laura Castle had said during a visit to her home that she did not love Leiland-James and that she was struggling to bond with him.
The following month, a senior social worker told the Castles that she would not support any application to formally adopt Leiland-James at that stage, and she recommended further therapeutic parenting sessions.
Removing Leiland-James from her care was considered, but Laura Castle said her extended family loved him, so she “wasn’t going anywhere.”
She continued to have concerns about the lack of emotional attachment, the court heard, and a review by social services was scheduled for the new year.
When detectives examined the cell phones of the defendants after his arrest, they found text messages that were derogatory toward Leiland-James.
Laura Castle wrote that the young man was a ‘n*b head’, ‘s**t bag’ and ‘top t**t’, while her husband said he was a ‘d**k baby’, ‘fat s**t’ and ‘throw bag’.
Laura Castle said the texts reflected his ‘sense of humour’ and were not to be taken literally, while Scott Castle was now ’embarrassed’ to send the messages but meant no malice and was trying to sympathize with the wife. of the.
He on several occasions texted Leiland-James, though she told the jury that meant only slapping.
In an exchange in September 2020, he wrote: ‘Seriously, I’m desperate, nobody tells you all this shit. I’m just an abusive parent from the looks of it.Castle said, ‘Please stop crying, please stop crying. He just wanted it to stop.
She said that at the time she told her husband that the boy had fallen off the couch, but she neglected to tell him about the tremor.
Mr McLachlan said: “Why didn’t he tell people that he did everything he could to save Leiland-James’s life what had happened?”
Castle said: ‘I have no excuse. I just panicked. I was simply terrified of the consequences of my actions and ashamed.
His lawyer said: ‘And the police officers in the interview gave you every opportunity to tell the truth?’
The defendant said: ‘Yes, they did. I told the truth, but I didn’t say everything as I should have.
He admitted that he too had not given a full account in his defense statement prepared before trial.
Castle said, “It was very difficult for me to admit that his child died because of his actions, and I can’t take it back.”
Mr McLachlan asked: ‘When he shook Leiland-James, what was he up to, Mrs Castle?
She replied: ‘I had no intention. I just lost my mind.
Laura Castillo will be sentenced on May 25. Cumbria County Council said an independent review into Leiland-James’s death was under way, with a report expected to be published in July.
John Readman, Executive Director of People at Cumbria County Council, said: “It has been truly shocking to hear how Leiland died at the hands of Laura Castle.
The adoption should have been a fresh start for Leiland. That was cruelly taken from him by the person who should have cared for him and kept him safe.
“We deeply regret Leiland’s death, it should not have happened. Our thoughts and condolences go out to his biological family and all those who knew this child.
‘There will, quite rightly, be questions about how the Castles were approved as adopters.
‘Those questions are part of an independent review that looked at how we, through health and children’s services, work with the Castle family.
‘That revision is almost complete and will be published in July. Of course, we will respond in full to the report’s conclusions at that time.
He added: “The abuse of a child by adopters is almost unheard of and we are determined to do everything we can to prevent this from happening again, here or anywhere else.”
Lesley Walker, president of the Cumbria Safeguarding Children Partnership, added: “This has been a deeply distressing and unusual case and it is critical that we understand how agencies worked with this family and what, if anything, could have been done differently.”
‘All agencies involved have treated this review with the utmost seriousness. The review report is in its final stages of approval and we intend to publish it in July, at which time I will be able to talk more about its findings.
“At the heart of this is a little boy who should still be alive today and living happily with a new family and we must not forget that.”
Leiland-James Quick and Facts
- Jury members today convicted 38-year-old Laura Castle at Preston Crown Court
- Leiland-James died at 13 months in January 2021 after suffering brain injuries
- Injuries were sustained at home of Castle and her partner in Barrow, Cumbria
- Castle, who wanted to adopt youngster, admitted responsibility for his death
- She denied murder but was found guilty following a trial at Preston Crown Court