Mother and grandmother found guilty of killing teenager who ‘rotted to death’

The mother and grandmother of a teenager who was allowed to “rot to death” on an inflatable mattress have been convicted of his manslaughter.

Jordan Burling (pictured) was said to have resembled the victim of a Second World War death camp when paramedics found him lying lifelessly on the makeshift bed, weighing just 6st (38kg).

As a result of barely moving for weeks, he was covered in bed sores, and was wearing a soiled nappy when he died from acute bronchopneumonia at his home in the Farnley area of Leeds in June 2016.

On Tuesday, a jury at Leeds Crown Court unanimously convicted his 45-year-old mother Dawn Cranston of manslaughter, as well as his grandmother, Denise Cranston, 70.

Mr Burling’s 25-year-old sister, Abigail Burling, was found not guilty of manslaughter, but guilty of an alternative charge of causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable person.

During the five-week trial, prosecutor Nicholas Lumley QC described the extent of the neglect that the two relatives showed towards the teenager, telling jurors: “Jordan had been allowed to decay, to rot to death, by those closest to him, over a period of, at least, several weeks.”

Paramedic Bridget Shepherd, who rushed to his aid, claimed the dying man looked “very, very pale and very emaciated” when she first attempted to treat him on June 30 2016, the day of his death.

She added that his bone structure was clearly visible and that his mother had claimed that he “had not been eating for a few weeks”.

A series of witnesses claimed that the 18-year-old’s mother “did not seem bothered” as medics attempted to revive him with CPR, whilst Denise Cranston supposedly remained seated in a nearby armchair.

Dawn Cranston was even heard telling a 999 operator shortly before Mr Burling’s death that his unresponsive state was a “blessing” as it meant she would not have to go work that day.

Police Constable Ben McNamara, who arrived at the home of Dawn and Denise Cranston just hours after the teenager’s death, claimed that the first thing the deceased’s mother asked him was how much the funeral would cost.

Referencing the comment, he said: “I was surprised by everyone’s lack of emotion. It is a strange thing to say after he had just died.”

Another police officer claimed the deceased’s mother seemed overly concerned about whether she would be able to get refunds for “a Zimmer frame and American food” she had bought her son from Amazon.

Giving evidence in the trial, Mr Burling’s mother claimed that he suddenly started to lose weight in April 2016 but refused to go to the doctors after previously being turned away for arriving “a minute late”.

Crying throughout her account of the months immediately preceding his passing, she claimed that the teenager “suddenly got to the point where he would not move out of the chair or anything like that”.

She added: “He did not think he would die. I did not want him to die.”

Prior to the trial, Dawn Cranston admitted endeavouring to conceal a birth after hiding the remains of her dead baby in a rucksack for around 14 years.

Following the verdicts on Tuesday, Gerry Wareham, from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Yorkshire and Humberside, said Mr Burling’s death was “one of the most shocking cases” they have ever dealt with.

He added: “These women had a duty of care towards Jordan. However, the CPS showed the court that instead they allowed him to rot to death in his own home.

“Words cannot begin to convey the extent of Jordan’s terrible suffering at the hands of the very people he should have been able to trust the most.

“Those responsible for that suffering have been found guilty of causing his death.”


Dawn Cranston told jurors at Leeds Crown Court that she “panicked” when she concealed the remains of her dead baby in a rucksack, which was discovered 14 years later.

During her evidence, the 45-year-old said she endured labour alone in her bedroom after suddenly realising she was pregnant in 2002 when she felt something “really heavy” in her body.

Describing the moments after giving birth, she tearfully told jurors: “If I remember rightly, I do not think its eyes were open. I heard no noise, nothing. There were no signs at all of life.

“I just panicked, as nobody else knew that I was pregnant.”

Cranston then picked up a nearby rucksack, into which she deposited the infant’s body and placed it in the top of a wardrobe.

The mother claimed that, although her two children and other relatives were in the house at the time, she was able to keep the birth from them.

She claimed that she had intended to bury the remains, but “did not get round to it” and was unable to as there were always other people in the house.

Jurors heard that police investigating the death of Jordan Burling in June 2016 found the rucksack, which contained bags of “rancid-smelling liquid” and the baby’s bones, prosecutors said.

Describing the moment the baby’s remains were discovered, prosecutor Nicholas Lumley QC said: “Amongst the liquid were tiny bones.

“(They were) all that remained of a baby boy.”

Cranston admitted to endeavouring to conceal a birth in relation to the incident.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) West Yorkshire Police / PA Wire.