Woman murdered boy she hoped to adopt as ‘frustration turned to hostility’, court hears

A woman murdered a 12-month-old boy she was hoping to adopt as her frustration with him turned to hostility, a court has heard.

Leiland-James Corkill was placed with Laura Castle, 38, and her husband Scott Castle, 35, by authorities in Cumbria less than five months before his death from catastrophic head injuries.

The youngster was a “looked-after child” who was taken into care at birth before he was approved to live with the Castles from August 2020.

On the morning of January 6 last year Laura Castle dialled 999 from her home in Eskdale Avenue, Barrow-in-Furness, and reported Leiland-James had fallen from a sofa, injured his head and was unresponsive.

Jurors at Preston Crown Court were told he was rushed to Furness General Hospital and later transferred to Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in cardiac arrest and with a bleed on the brain.

Medics at Alder Hey raised concerns the injuries were not consistent with the account given by the defendant, as Leiland-James never regained consciousness and died on January 7.

Opening the prosecution case, Michael Brady QC said the couple were arrested and their mobile phones seized and examined.

He said text messages on the phones revealed that in the months leading up to Leiland-James’s death the Castles had referred to him in aggressive and unpleasant terms.

Mr Brady said: “They had discussed Laura Castle’s use of unlawful physical chastisement … the Crown says that Scott Castle was not only aware of how his wife behaved towards Leiland-James but actively encouraged it.”

In messages sent to her husband, Laura Castle referred to Leiland-James as “a proper nob head”, “a dick” and “a shit bag”, while her husband said the baby was “a fat shit”, “a nob head” and “a toss bag”.

Mr Brady told the court it was clear Laura Castle was struggling within days of the placement as family members assisted with his care.

On September 23 2020 she texted aerospace nightshift worker Mr Castle: “I honestly really don’t like him lately, hes an absolute moaning winge bag and I totally regret doin this.

“I’m goin to lose my mind. He just pisses me off all the time, can never just have a nice day or night ever.

“Although I need to stop smacking him cos if I start I’ll not stop at one point and it’s not getting us anywhere and then I feel bad.”

The next day she messaged: “I’ve just absolutey leathered him, I can(‘t) take this anymore, he’s gonna have to go.”

Scott Castle replied: “Right OK baby. He’s really ruined it. At least we have tried.”

On September 25 she wrote: “I’ve just leathered him again, I don’t wanna do this. I’m seriously at my wits end, no one tells you about all this shit. I’m just an abusive parent so it seems.”

Her husband responded: “Your not an abusive parent, baby. Not at all. Don’t say that. I think he’s a little too fucked up for us to handle.

“Let’s just call it quits. I don’t want you to have a mental break down. Your more important to me than him.”

The Castles had earlier been selected by an adoption panel following an application process overseen by Cumbria Children’s Services Department, the court heard.

In November 2020 a social worker reported from a statutory visit of her concerns that Laura Castle had said she did not love Leiland-James and that he “didn’t like standing”, was “lazy” and “big”.

The following month a review took place of the placement and the Castles were told the local authority would not support an application for a permanent adoption unless further therapeutic work was undertaken.

However the couple remained determined to go ahead with the process, the court was told, and a care planning meeting with social workers was recommended for the new year.

Mr Brady told the jury that Laura Castle had pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Leiland-James but did not accept she intended to cause him really serious harm or kill him.

He said: “It is the Crown’s case that set against a background of frustration, borne out of highly stressful domestic circumstances – including financial difficulties and an inability to bond with Leiland-James – Laura Castle’s frustration with Leiland-James turned to hostility as evidenced by her physical abuse of him culminating in his murder.”

The prosecutor said pathologist Dr Alison Armour, who conducted the post-mortem examination, believed the degree of force needed to produce the serious head injuries was “considerable”.

He said she thought that most of the injuries were consistent with assault and that bruising to the head and face were consistent with slapping, gripping, pinching, prodding and poking.

Laura Castle denies murder and child cruelty. Scott Castle denies causing or allowing the death of Leiland-James and also child cruelty.

The trial was adjourned until next Tuesday.

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