Man jailed for life for murdering a two-year-old boy

02/11/2017

A Merseyside man has been jailed for life for murdering a two year old boy and assaulting his twin sister.

Craig Smith, 28, of Woodville Road in Birkenhead, was sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court this afternoon (2 November 2017).

Judge Garnham said Mr Smith had a "vicious temper" and must serve a minimum of 17 years before he can be considered for release.

Mr Smith was found guilty by a jury earlier today by a majority of 11 to 1 of the murder of toddler Teddy Tilston on 1 March 2017. They also found him guilty by unanimous verdicts of actual bodily harm against Teddy's twin sister and child cruelty against both children.

The children’s mother, Ashleigh Willett, 25, was found guilty of two counts of child cruelty against both children, one by a unanimous verdict, the other by a 10 to 2 majority. She will be sentenced at a later date.

The court heard that the two children had been suffered a catalogue of injuries.

Craig Smith called an ambulance to his home in Birkenhead on the afternoon of 1 March. Paramedics arrived to find the body of 25-month-old Teddy Tilston dead on the floor.

Mr Smith had been looking after Teddy for Ms Willett and told the paramedics that Teddy had drowned in the bath, yet the child's clothes and hair were dry.

A full post-mortem examination was later carried out on Teddy's body and additional tests were carried out by a Home Office pathologist and other experts.

The cause of death was revealed to be a fatal punch or kick to the child's stomach. There was also evidence that the child had an earlier injury in the same part of his body.

While paramedics were dealing with Teddy's death, Ashleigh Willett was at Arrowe Park Hospital with his twin sister. The two-year-old girl had suffered a head injury that day, also while in the sole care of Mr Smith.

Doctors were not satisfied with her explanation that the child had accidentally hit her head on a table. They also found many other injuries, many of which had been inflicted some time before.

Mr Smith and Ms Willett were subsequently charged - Craig Smith with murder, actual bodily harm and two counts of child cruelty; Ashleigh Willett with two counts of child cruelty.

The couple had been together for about a year when the tragedy happened. Ashleigh Willett, who had three children in total, worked as a hairdresser a couple of days a week and on these days Mr Smith looked after them for her.

Richard Riley, Senior Crown Prosecutor with Mersey-Cheshire Crown Prosecution Service said: "This has been a difficult and tragic case involving the use of extreme violence against two very small children, leading to the death of one of them.

"After Teddy Tilston's death had been recorded at Arrowe Park Hospital, a paediatrician examined his body.

"She found a catalogue of injuries which in her view were not reasonably explained as accidents. The same paediatrician had also earlier examined his twin sister.  She too had many injuries which could not be explained as accidents, not least a broken wrist which she had suffered possibly three to six months earlier.

"The Crown Prosecution Service said that, while bumps and bruises are a normal part of childhood, these two children were 25 months old and had so many more injuries than is normal for a toddler that we could be sure that they were on the receiving end of violent treatment at the hands of one or other or both these defendants.

"Neither Craig Smith nor Ashleigh Willett could give a satisfactory account for the catalogue of injuries suffered by the twins. The CPS said that, even if we were to assume that all the injuries were caused by Mr Smith, such was the number of injuries to both children that Ms Willett must have known that the children were being ill-treated.

"The Crown Prosecution Service prosecuted them both for their parts in this dreadful series of events. They denied their guilt throughout, but the jury has dismissed their lies and excuses and found them guilty and Mr Smith is now beginning a long jail term.”