Mother convicted of Keanu Williams murder

24/06/2013

A Birmingham mother has today been found guilty of murdering her two-year-old child.

Following a trial lasting five months Rebecca Shuttleworth was this afternoon (Monday) convicted at Birmingham Crown Court of killing Keanu Williams in Ward End, in January 2011.

The toddler was taken to hospital after being found unconscious on a sofa bed in a one bedroom flat on Old Moat Way on the evening of 9 January 2011. He was pronounced dead at hospital a short time later.

 Keanu had suffered multiple injuries following his death, the child was found to have more than 30 separate visible bruises and burns to his tiny body.

 In addition, a post mortem examination revealed Keanu had suffered a fractured skull and an abdominal injury to his bowel - either one of which was potentially fatal.

 His mother Rebecca Shuttleworth, aged 25, and her then partner Luke Southerton, aged 32, were arrested in connection with his death in January 2011 and after a detailed police investigation, the pair were charged with the child's murder in December 2011.

The trial began at Birmingham Crown Court on 14 January this year where both of the accused maintained their innocence; however the court heard detailed evidence from medical experts, neighbours, relatives, forensic scene investigators and other professionals who came into contact with the youngster which outlined the events leading up to the child's death, as well as the life led by the family.

On 19 June, the jury retired to consider their verdict and after three days of deliberation they returned a unanimous guilty verdict for Shuttleworth. Southerton was found not guilty of murdering Keanu and causing or allowing the child's death. He was convicted of a further charge of wilful assault against Keanu.

Shuttleworth also was convicted of a second charge of wilful neglect of a child relating to a different child.

Southerton and Shuttleworth will now wait to be sentenced tomorrow.

Detective Chief Inspector Caroline Marsh led the inquiry into Keanu's death. Following today's verdict she paid tribute to all those who helped bring the pair to justice.

"Whilst we have today seen justice done, it does not change the tragic fact that an innocent two-year-old boy has lost his life in heart-breaking circumstances," she said.

"I want to thank everyone who has worked hard since January 2011 to find justice for Keanu, including the investigation team and all those who have provided vital evidence to the inquiry.

"At the time of his death Keanu's tiny body was covered in 35 individual injuries, several of which could have ended his short life.

"It is horrifying to think of the violence that this young boy must have known, particularly as we now know that it was at the hands of those he should have been able to trust."

During the trial, the court heard that Keanu, who was also known as 'Kiwi', had suffered neglect and abuse at the hands of his mother throughout his short life.

He was born on 11 December 2008 in Torbay. In March 2010, Rebecca Shuttleworth moved back to Birmingham and began a relationship with Luke Southerton, moving into the Old Moat Way flat with him.

Shuttleworth repeatedly explained Keanu's injuries away with excuses that he had been fighting with siblings or was clumsy.

The family's lifestyle and the frequency of the child's visits to medical facilities led to Social Services becoming involved, however Shuttleworth convinced her support worker that she had turned her life around.

The court heard how, on the night Keanu died, Shuttleworth went to her father's address leaving Keanu with Southerton and on her return she found the child to be unconscious. At 7:42pm Southerton called for an ambulance but the boy could not be saved.

Subsequent medical examinations confirmed that the child had sustained multiple injuries over a period of time, with the potentially fatal head injury possibly having been inflicted up to five days before his death.

DCI Marsh added: "Our inquiry details how Keanu suffered significant physical abuse that ultimately led to his untimely death.

"During his short life he, and his family, came into contact with various professionals in the world of healthcare, social services and police.

"It is tragic that his mother put greater effort into offering excuses for his ill health than ensuring his care and wellbeing.

"I hope that today's verdicts can offer some comfort to Keanu's wider family who continue to mourn his loss."

Following today's verdict, Keanu's aunt, Angela Shuttleworth, paid tribute to her nephew.

She said: "Keanu (Kiwi) was an amazing little boy who had developed a real personality. He was full of life and loved playing with his siblings and cousins. He enjoyed all his toys and would empty the toy box every time he came to play, but he especially loved Iggle Piggle from the Night Garden.

"Kiwi also loved food - he ate everything and was hungry all the time.

"Since the tragic death of Kiwi, we haven't been able to grieve or say goodbye to him properly. The whole family has been torn apart by this and his death has left a gaping hole in our lives.

"We hope now this is over we can lay Kiwi to rest and begin to have some closure."

Wendy Bounds, Special Casework Lawyer from West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service, added: "Keanu Williams craved for what all children want, the love and attention of his mother, but although there was evidence she knew how to be a good parent, he was ignored, pushed away and later abused.

"Between November 2010 and January 2011 Keanu sustained a series of increasingly serious, unexplained or inadequately explained injuries.

"On 9 January 2011 he died after suffering severe multiple injuries including a tear to part of his bowel which had been inflicted over the weekend whilst he and his mother were staying at Southerton's home. For much of the time he had been left alone in a room to suffer in pain.

"There was no medical attention sought at any point from Friday night until his mother noticed on Sunday afternoon he was not breathing.

"Shuttleworth and Southerton put their personal relationship ahead of the needs of her two-year-old son."

 As a result of the events leading up to Keanu's death a Serious Case Review was launched by the Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board. West Midlands Police actively contributed to this process and await the findings of the independent review.