Woman guilty of murdering a one year old boy placed in her care
A Cumbrian woman has been found guilty of murdering a 13-month-old baby.
Leiland-James Corkill was placed with Laura Castle, 38, and her husband in August 2020 as they had applied to adopt him.
Some five months later, Leiland-James sadly died, aged 13 months. An ambulance was called by Laura Castle at 8:15am on the 6th January 2021. Paramedics attended the Castle’s home in Barrow-in-Furness within minutes to find Leiland-James in respiratory arrest, floppy and unresponsive. Laura told paramedics that he had fallen from the sofa.
Leiland-James was taken to Furness General Hospital where he was found to be in cardiorespiratory arrest with a head injury. He was then transferred to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool where he was treated for his injuries. Despite their best efforts, Leiland-James died the following day.
Concerns were raised immediately by medical staff as Leiland-James’s injuries were inconsistent with Laura Castle’s account that he had fallen from the sofa. The post-mortem findings confirmed that he had suffered a traumatic head injury with a non-accidental cause.
Laura Castle and her husband, Scott Castle were arrested, and the police began an extensive investigation into the death of Leiland-James.
He had been a cared-for child since his birth in December 2019. Laura and Scott Castle had been through a rigorous process to have Leiland-James placed with them on 22 August 2020 when he was eight months old.
There were issues from an early stage, with Laura Castle admitting she didn’t love him and hadn’t bonded with him. By December 2020, Cumbria County Council were arranging for the family to complete therapeutic work, and provided support to try to improve the situation. Due to the attachment issues, the Castles were told that permanent adoption wouldn’t be supported at that time. Before that work could be completed, Laura Castle killed Leiland-James.
Laura Castle was charged with murdering Leiland-James and Scott Castle was charged with causing or allowing the death of a child.
When the case came before Preston Crown Court Laura Castle pleaded not guilty to murder and child cruelty. Scott Castle pleaded not guilty to causing or allowing the death of a child and child cruelty.
At trial, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) produced eyewitness testimony regarding the treatment of Leiland-James from neighbours and family members, extensive evidence from the foremost pathologists in the country, along with mobile phone evidence of the texts between Laura and Scott Castle.
Laura used abusive, derogatory language about Leiland-James, and she admitted she had 'leathered' him in a text to Scott. Leiland-James was blamed for her frustration.
When it became clear that her first story did not account for Leiland-James’ injuries, Laura Castle searched the internet for what might cause a bleed on the brain whilst Leiland-James was in hospital, and then gave a different account to police in interview.
She said that Leiland-James had been on her knee but had fallen onto a rug when she stood up. When faced with the overwhelming evidence, she pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the morning of the trial, accepting causing his death by shaking him, but maintained she had no intention to seriously harm or kill him. Laura Castle told the jury that she had shaken Leiland-James because he was crying, and she had lost control.
The CPS contended that the injuries to Leiland-James were caused by the application of considerable force, indicative of an intention to cause really serious harm at the very least.
Laura Castle was convicted of murder and child cruelty today at Preston Crown Court and Scott Castle was acquitted by the jury of allowing the death of a child and child cruelty. Laura will be sentenced at a later date.
Joanne Close, Senior Crown Prosecutor with CPS North West said: “This has been an incredibly sad case involving the death of 13-month-old Leiland-James Corkill.
“His birth mother believed he would be safe and have a good life. His foster parents cared for and loved him for eight months; they described him as a beautiful little boy with the most contagious laugh. But his life was cruelly cut short by the actions of Laura Castle; she was self-centred, abusive and violent and unfit to provide a home to this vulnerable child.
“The Crown Prosecution Service worked very closely with Cumbria Police to build the strongest possible case to secure justice for Leiland-James. Laura Castle was given no option but to admit at the start of the trial that she had caused his death. The jury had the evidence they needed to find her guilty of his murder.
“I hope today’s conviction provide some comfort to those that loved Leiland-James. My thoughts are with them.”
Notes to editors
- Laura Castle: D.o.B. 07/08/1983