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Childminder jailed for manslaughter of nine-month-old baby

|News, Violent crime

A childminder has been jailed after admitting causing the death of a nine-month-old baby in her care.

Karen Foster, 62, gave various accounts of what happened to Harlow Collinge whilst he was in her care on 1 March 2022.

It was not until Foster was due to stand trial for murder that she admitted she had shaken him in frustration after returning home from a park.

She pleaded guilty to an alternative charge of manslaughter and was sentenced at at Preston Crown Court on 13 June 2024 to 12 years and seven months in prison.

Karen Tonge, Specialist Crown Prosecutor with CPS North West’s Complex Casework Unit, said: “Karen Foster, who had been a childminder for nine years, was entrusted with the care of Harlow Collinge.

“Harlow was just nine months old when Foster forcefully shook him, causing a catastrophic head injury which led to his death just four days later.

“Far from being remorseful following Harlow’s death, Foster prolonged the trauma suffered by Harlow’s loved ones by refusing to take responsibility for her actions until the trial was due to start.

“The Crown Prosecution Service worked with Greater Manchester Police to build a compelling case against Foster. The investigation revealed Foster had lied to Ofsted about her personal circumstances and health and that she had been caring for more children than her registration permitted. She had lied to parents by telling them that she was a qualified nurse when that was not true.

“She also lied to Harlow’s mother at hospital when she gave her the impression that she had ‘saved him’. The evidence suggested she was overstretched and in declining health and that for no good reason she lost her temper with Harlow.

“In the end, the strength of the evidence was such that Foster had no option but to accept she was responsible for Harlow’s death.

“Harlow should be with his family today. My thoughts remain with Harlow’s family who suffer this unimaginable loss.”

Foster was a registered childminder, who had been caring for Harlow a few days per week for around six weeks prior to his death.

On 1 March 2022, Harlow, a healthy and happy little boy, was dropped off by his mother at Foster’s house in Hapton, Lancashire, at about 11am.

Just over two hours later, Foster called emergency services to say Harlow had stopped breathing.

Foster told one paramedic, who arrived shortly after, that Harlow had been choking on some pasta and had some kind of fit. She claimed she had checked his mouth and slapped his back in an attempt to dislodge anything stuck.

She later told another paramedic that he had just collapsed. Harlow had in fact stopped breathing due to being shaken by Foster.

He was rushed to Blackburn Hospital but despite the best efforts of medical staff never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead four days later on 5 March 2022.

A police investigation began, and Foster was arrested. In police interview, she denied she had done anything to cause injury to Harlow.

Medical professionals established there were no signs of choking and the attempts at first aid as described in no way accounted for Harlow’s injuries, which were severe.

A post-mortem confirmed Harlow died from a traumatic head injury, leading to cardiorespiratory arrest.

Numerous experts agreed his injuries were consistent with a non-accidental head injury, likely due to forceful shaking.

Despite the mounting evidence against her, Foster repeatedly claimed she was not responsible for Harlow’s death, later maintaining that someone else had caused the injury.

She finally pleaded guilty to manslaughter on 7 June 2024 at Preston Crown Court.

Notes to editors

  • Karen Foster, date of birth 12/09/1961, is from Hapton, Lancashire
  • A plea to manslaughter was accepted in place of the murder charge
  • A charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm against another child did not proceed and was laid on file. 

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