A foster mother has denied murdering a 12-month-old boy and ‘smashing his head against the sofa’ but admits killing him because she was ‘tired and drained’ by his crying, a court had heard.
Baby Leiland-James Corkill had been living with his prospective adoptive parents – Laura Castle and her husband, Scott, 35 – when emergency services were called to their home in Barrow-in-Furness on January 6 last year.
Castle, 38, initially claimed Leiland-James accidentally fell off the sofa at her home despite the youngster having suffered catastrophic head injuries.
The defendant continued to maintain Leiland-James’s death was a tragic accident until last week when she admitted his manslaughter on the eve of her trial at Preston Crown Court.
Castle also lied in her prepared defence case statement before she eventually changed her plea and conceded she had shaken Leiland-James after he would not stop crying and screaming, the court heard.
She said she lied because she was ‘ashamed’ and ‘terrified of the consequences of her actions’.
The youngster was a ‘looked-after child’ who was taken into care at birth before he was approved by authorities to live with Castle and her husband, Scott, 35, from August 2020.
The defendant denies murder and now says Leiland-James hit his head on the back of a sofa arm-rest after she shook him and then he fell off her knee on to the floor.
Medical experts told the trial though that the degree of force required to cause his injuries would have been ‘severe’ and ‘considerable’.
Baby Leiland-James (pictured) had been living with his prospective adoptive parents – Laura Castle and her husband, Scott, 35 – when emergency services were called to their home in Barrow-in-Furness on January 6 last year
Cross-examining Michael Brady QC put it to Laura Castle that it was not just a case of shaking.
He said: ‘I suggest you smashed the back of Leiland-James’s head with significant force against the arm-rest of the sofa or possibly a table?’
Castle replied: ‘No.’
Mr Brady went on: ‘What was so frustrating about this baby that caused you to act in this way?’
The defendant said: ‘I was so tired and drained and overwhelmed. There was so much noise.’
Mr Brady said: ‘Why not simply walk away?’
Castle said: ‘I honestly think about that every second of the day and regret what I have done, and I have to pay the consequence for that. I accept that.
‘What I’m trying to do is give my boy justice.’
Mr Brady said: ‘In what way are you going to give Leiland-James justice?’
She replied: ‘That this is my fault.’
Mr Brady asked: ‘Are you continuing to lie now?’
The defendant said: ‘No. I accept that my child has died because of me.’
Mr Brady said: ‘Lying to the 12 members of this jury is not going to cause you any difficulty at all, is it?’
She replied: ‘I have been honest. I am just telling what happened and yes it may be too late but I’m trying to pay for what I have done.’
Mr Brady said: ‘Have you been so overcome by guilt you have fallen on your sword or is it an acceptance of the utterly compelling medical evidence showing this is a non-accidental injury?’
Castle said: ‘We did guilty because I am guilty.’
Mr Brady said: ‘You have tried to talk your way out of a conviction for murder, haven’t you?’
Castle, 38, (left) initially claimed Leiland-James Corkill accidentally fell off the sofa at her home despite the youngster having suffered catastrophic head injuries. Pictured right: Castle’s husband Scott
Facing the jurors, Castle said: ‘No. I said yesterday on hearing the evidence from the prosecution I would be convicting me of murder but all I can say is please look at everything.’
The court previously heard the couple had struggled to bond with the baby and, unbeknown to social workers, were referring to him by ‘unpleasant and aggressive’ names, including a ‘s**t bag’, ‘fat s**t’ and a ‘top t**t’.
Messages between the pair, later discovered on their mobile phones, also revealed Laura Castle had been violent towards the child, telling her husband she had ‘lost the plot and leathered’ him.
Preston Crown Court heard Castle said she ‘lost her mind’ when Leiland-James Corkill wouldn’t stop crying after she gave him breakfast on the morning of January 6.
She told her barrister, David McLachlan QC: ‘I shook my beautiful boy. I just wanted him to stop crying.’
Mr McLachlan asked: ‘How many times did you shake him?’
Castle replied: ‘I don’t know.’
Mr McLachlan went on: ‘How much force did you use to shake him?’
The defendant said: ‘I don’t know but I would say a lot.’
She explained Leiland-James hit his head on the back of the arm of the sofa and fell off her knee to the floor.
Castle said: ‘I picked him up. I just couldn’t take the crying. I don’t know who that person is and then it’s like I realised what had happened and I thought he was winded.
‘I picked him up and his hands were like stiff, then he went floppy. He was like gasping and I just though he was winded.’
In tears, Castle accepted she had killed Leiland-James.
Mr McLachlan asked: ‘What went through your mind when you shook the life out of Leiland-James?’
Castle said: ‘Please stop crying, please stop crying. I just wanted it stop.’
The youngster was a ‘looked-after child’ who was taken into care at birth before he was approved by authorities to live with Castle and her husband, Scott, 35, from August 2020
She said at the time she told her husband the boy had fallen off the sofa, but omitted to inform him about the shaking.
Mr McLachlan said: ‘Why didn’t you tell the people trying their best to save Leiland-James’s life what had happened?’
Castle said: ‘I don’t have an excuse. I just panicked. I was just terrified of the consequences of my actions and ashamed.’
Her barrister said: ‘And police officers in interview gave you every opportunity to tell the truth?’
The defendant said: ‘Yes they did. I told the truth but I didn’t tell everything like I should have done.’
She admitted she had not also given a full account in her prepared defence statement ahead of the trial.
Castle said: ‘I found it so hard to admit that your child has died because of your actions, and I can’t take that back.’
Mr McLachlan asked: ‘When you shook Leiland-James, what did you intend Mrs Castle?
She replied: ‘I didn’t have any intention. I just lost my mind.’
Mr McLachlan added: ‘What did you think would happen when you shook this baby with such force?’
She said: ‘I honestly was not thinking that far ahead. He was screaming, he did not deserve to… I did not murder my little boy. It is not murder. My little boy, I have killed him.’
Castle’s husband, an aerospace nightshift worker, also denies causing or allowing the death of a child. The pair both deny two separate charges of child cruelty.
The trial continues.