Woman jailed for murdering boy she wanted to adopt as biological mother brands her ‘monster’

A woman has been jailed for a minimum of 18 years for the murder of a one-year-old boy she was hoping to adopt.

Leiland-James Corkill had been placed with Laura Castle, 38, and her 35-year-old husband Scott 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 his prospective adoptive parents in Barrow-in-Furness from August 2020.

Laura Castle (pictured) rang for an ambulance on the morning of January 6 last year and reported that Leiland-James had fallen off the sofa, injured his head and was struggling to breathe.

The little boy died the following day as hospital medics raised concerns over the defendant’s account.

Laura Castle maintained the death was a tragic accident until the day the jury was sworn in last month for her trial at Preston Crown Court.

She entered a plea of guilty to manslaughter and went on to say that she had shaken Leiland-James because he would not stop crying, and his head hit the armrest of the sofa before he fell off her knee on to the floor.

However, medical experts told the court that the degree of force required to cause his injuries would have been “severe” and likely to be a combination of shaking and an impact with a solid surface.

Prosecutor Michael Brady QC said it was the Crown’s case that Castle killed the boy as she lost her temper and suggested she smashed the back of his head against a piece of furniture.

Jurors convicted her of murder and a separate offence of child cruelty.

Scott Castle was acquitted of allowing Leiland-James’s death and child cruelty.

When detectives examined the defendants’ mobile phones following their arrest they found text messages which were derogatory towards Leiland-James.

Laura Castle wrote that the youngster was a “proper nob head”, “shit bag” and “top twat”, while her husband said he was a “dick baby” and a “toss bag”.

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

In November 2020 concerns were raised that Laura Castle had said during a home visit that she did not love Leiland-James and was struggling to bond with him.

The possibility of removing the youngster from their care was later canvassed, but Laura Castle said her extended family loved him so he was “not going anywhere”.

Sentencing her to life imprisonment, Mr Justice Baker said it was “nothing less than a tragedy” that she did not return Leiland-James to the local authority when those discussions took place.

He told Castle: “Precisely what took place on the morning of 6 January 2021 may never be known, as even now I do not consider that you told the jury the full circumstances leading to the death of Leiland-James.

“I consider that your account significantly underplays the extent and degree of violence which you inflicted upon Leiland-James that morning, which of necessity must have involved either very severe or considerable impact and oscillation forces to have caused the internal injuries, whilst some of the external injuries were consistent with slapping, pinching and prodding.”

He said she had committed a “significant abuse of trust” as a carer for a looked after child and had caused “dreadful emotional upset” to Leiland-James’s birth mother and his previous foster parents.

The boy’s biological mother, Laura Corkill, branded Castle a “monster” in a letter to the judge, while his previous foster mother Charlotte Day said she was “heartbroken” at learning of the abuse Leiland-James suffered.

David McLachlan QC, defending, said Castle was in the dock “alone and broken” and with “no support whatsoever”.

He said: “Her relationship with Scott Castle is likely to come to an end.

“She is isolated and ostracised in prison due to the verdict of the jury who found she had in fact murdered Leiland-James. Now she must pay the price of that act – an act which resulted in the death of a young baby who will remain an innocent party in these proceedings.”

An independent review into the adoption process is due to report back in July.

Detective Superintendent Dave Pattinson, of Cumbria Police, said: “Leiland-James Corkill died because of continuous, horrific abuse committed by the very person who should have cared for him.

“From the very start of this, Laura Castle has lied about her actions – she denied shaking Leiland-James to both police and medical professionals who were attempting to save his life. It is clear that even now, Laura Castle has never been truthful about her actions that morning of the 6 January – the actions which ultimately led to Leiland-James’s death.

“The horrific text messages she sent show her true nature. She spoke of a little boy in the most despicable of terms, the same child she hoped to adopt on a permanent basis.”

Leiland-James was placed in the home of a monster, says biological mother

Baby murderer Laura Castle has been branded a “monster” by the biological mother of Leiland-James Corkill.

Leiland-James was taken into care soon after Laura Corkill gave birth to him in December 2019.

Ms Corkill said she stayed in frequent contact with his foster mother before his placement for potential adoption with Castle, 38, and her husband, Scott, 35, at their home in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.

She sent a heartfelt letter to the judge, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker, and urged him to hand Castle the maximum sentence possible.

Ms Corkill wrote: “He was placed in the home of a monster.

“A monster that was meant to love, nurture and cherish him as I would have done. A monster that robbed Leiland-James at only 12 months old of his life, robbed me, his brother, sisters and my family of one day opening the door to the wonderful young man that I know he would have become.

“Leiland-James was ripped from my loving arms, but I was always his mammy. I carried him within my body for nine months, with every beat of my heart full of love, full of pride, full of promise. My beautiful blue-eyed baby, love saw his first breath, evil took his last breath here on earth. Mammy was not ready to say goodbye, I will never be ready to say goodbye.

“I carry Leiland-James forever in my heart, I hear his cheeky laughter in the wind that blows, see his beautiful smile in my memories engrained within my sole, his photos on every wall. I have footprints and handprints and a memory box, but all I want is to hold him.”

Castle told medics, police and her family that the death was a tragic accidental fall from a sofa before she pleaded guilty to manslaughter at the beginning of her trial last month.

She continued to deny murder but said she entered the plea to “have justice” for Leiland-James.

Ms Corkill wrote: “The monster has said that she wants ‘her boy to have justice’. He was not and never will be your baby boy. You lost that right the first second it went through your head to hurt him.

“He was a precious baby, vulnerable and innocent, he had no voice, he could not defend himself. The names you called him and the hurt you caused him, the fact that you blamed him for your disgusting behaviour and treatment of him, Leiland-James was a baby! A tiny baby! Shame! shame! on you. You are not a mother, you are a monster.”

In her victim personal statement read to the court she said: “I was told he would be safe and he would have a good life. I was fine with that.

“Now my life is broken.”

Foster mother Charlotte Day, who looked after the youngster up to August 2020, said the Castles “should have been his forever happy family”.

She too had been left heartbroken at the loss of a “beautiful boy with the most contagious laugh”.

Her family all loved Leiland-James, she said, and they often visit his graveside to tell him he is much loved and sorely missed.

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