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A woman has been found guilty of murdering her partner’s 16-month-old daughter after months of mistreatment.
Savannah Brockhill, 28, caused Star Hobson “catastrophic” injuries after inflicting months of brutal abuse.
Savannah Brockhill caused “catastrophic” injuries to Star Hobson, whose mother Frankie Smith was convicted of causing or allowing her death.
Bradford Crown Court heard that Star suffered a series of physical abuse in the weeks leading up to the fatal assault.
Smith, 20, and Brockhill, 28, will be sentenced Wednesday.
The short life and death of a dear child
During a seven-week trial, jurors heard that the baby, from Keighley, near Bradford, had suffered several injuries at different times, including a shin fracture caused by “forced twisting.”
As evidence, family members said they began to notice bruises and marks on Star’s body after Smith entered an on-and-off violent relationship with “domineering and controlling” Brockhill.
Speaking out of court following the verdicts, Star’s great-grandfather David Fawcett said Smith had been coerced, intimidated, abused and “brainwashed” by the older woman.
Describing Brockhill as “pure evil”, he said: “She rose from the bowels of hell and just completely devastated and ruined the life of our family and poor baby Star.”
“We saw Frankie covered in bruises long before things started happening with Star, so we knew something was wrong.
“We did our best, but she was isolated.”
Family and friends made five referrals to Bradford City Council between January and September 2020, just weeks before Star’s death.
Fawcett said Star’s great-grandmother, Anita Smith, warned social services that they would “have another Baby P on their hands” when the couple contacted the department in May.
Star’s death had “shattered the family,” Fawcett said, and he believed it “could have been prevented if they had acted earlier.”
“You can’t believe we’ll never see her again,” she said.
“It’s the facts of what happened to her, too, that is killing us. Losing a child is a horrible feeling. But it’s the way we lost Star that is just horrible.”
Hollie Jones, Star’s former babysitter, who made the first reference, said she was feeling “really angry” and that “social services need to be stepped up further.”
“I’m really heartbroken that I think changes need to be made … because if they took my referral seriously, potentially Star wouldn’t go away,” she said.
In a joint statement, the Bradford City Council, along with the city’s protection agencies, said they “deeply regret that not all of the warning signs were seen.”
“We are very aware as partners that we need to learn a lot from this case.
“We have already implemented actions that will improve our practice so that we learn those lessons. But we must fully understand why opportunities to better protect Star were missed.”
West Yorkshire Police said its investigation into Star’s death was “one of the most distressing and heart-breaking cases our team has seen”.
Det Ch Sup Mark Swift, who led the inquiry, said: “I welcome the verdicts from the jury for both Smith and Brockhill. Their actions were absolutely barbaric against a defenceless young baby whose life was cruelly cut short.”
Frankie Smith was cleared of an alternative count of manslaughter.
The Bradford Council’s Local Child Protection Practice Review on Star’s death will be released in January 2022.
The Education Department said the report’s findings “will feed into the national review of the death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes” that was commissioned earlier this month by the Secretary of State.
However, Robbie Moore, Conservative MP for Keighley and Ilkley, has called for the resignation of Susan Hinchcliffe and the council’s chief executive, Kersten England, in light of the Star Hobson affair.
Star’s death came a few months after Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was tortured to death by stepmother Emma Tustin and his father Thomas Hughes.
Boris Johnson has now promised to introduce a new “Arthur’s Law” so that evil child murderers die behind bars.
When asked about the response from social services, Star’s great-grandfather David Fawcett said: “It’s disgusting because there were five referrals. None of them did anything.”
He said, “It’s amazing, really.”
When asked if social services had overlooked the “glaringly obvious,” he replied, “Yes.”
Bradford Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe said the agencies’ contact with the family is being reviewed.
She added: “Star was disappointed and we all want to know if something could have been done differently.”
The Department of Education said today that Star’s death was “deeply disturbing” and that it would “not hesitate” to remove control of children’s services from Bradford City Council “if necessary.”
A review will also feed into the national investigation into Arthur’s death.
Smith and Brockhill will be sentenced tomorrow.