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Mother and boyfriend convicted of killing toddler Kyrell Matthews in Thornton Heath

|News, Violent crime

A mother and her boyfriend have been convicted of killing her two-year-old child.

Toddler Kyrell Matthews died just over a month after his second birthday on 20 October 2019 having suffered multiple blows leaving him with five rib fractures and a lacerated liver. In the days and weeks leading up to his death he had also suffered a further 36 rib fractures. 

Mum Phylesia Shirley, 24, and partner Kemar Brown, 28, were convicted for their parts in the death of Kyrell Matthews following a trial at the Old Bailey which concluded today (Friday, 4 March 2022). Brown was convicted of murder and Shirley was convicted of manslaughter, having previously pleaded guilty to allowing the death of her child. 

The court heard that Shirley called 111 instead of 999 on the day of Kyrell’s death, calmly telling the operator that her son had been “acting funny” and that his body was floppy with his eyes rolling back and his breathing irregular.  

Paramedics rushed to the home in Thornton Heath just after 3pm and Kyrell was taken to hospital. He could not be revived, and was pronounced dead at 4.15pm. 

When told about Kyrell’s death, Brown remained calm and continued his phone conversation at the hospital. 

Both Shirley and Brown were arrested and first questioned on suspicion of murder by police on 31 October 2019. 

Samantha Yelland, from the CPS, said: “This was a violent, determined and repeated pattern of assaults against a defenceless young child. Kyrell Matthews would have been in significant discomfort in the days before his death, and tragically he would have died in pain. 

“As a mother Phylesia Shirley should have protected him, but instead along with her partner, she subjected him to countless assaults in their own home. 

“Over time we were able to piece together different strands of evidence in order to understand what took place behind closed doors. When interviewed by police Shirley claimed to have frantically made Google searches to find out what might be wrong with Kyrell on the day he died. But in court the prosecution was able to present telephone evidence that showed one of the last searches she had made on her mobile phone was for the central London steakhouse STK. 

“The prosecution case also included evidence from a pathologist who was able to detail the numerous injuries that were inflicted on Kyrell in the days and weeks leading up to his murder – none of which could be accounted for by Shirley or Brown. 

“Jurors were presented with harrowing audio recordings of what took place in the home with both Brown and Shirley clearly involved in the physical abuse of the young toddler. I hope these convictions have brought some sense of justice to those who loved and cared for Kyrell.” 

Brown and Shirley will be sentenced at the Old Bailey on 25 March 2022. 

Notes to editors

  • Phylesia Shirley (DOB: 24/10/1997) is from Thornton Heath in the London borough of Croydon
  • Kemar Brown (DOB: 2/6/1993) is from Thornton Heath in the London borough of Croydon
  • Samantha Yelland is a Senior Crown Prosecutor within the London Homicide unit.

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