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 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.
Sentencing, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker told her: ‘Precisely what took place on January 6 may never be known as even now I do not consider you told the jury the full circumstances leading up to the death of Leiland-James.
‘I consider your account significantly underplays the extent and degree of violence you inflicted.’
Laura Castle, 38, was convicted of murdering 13-month-old, who died in January 2021
In a statement read out to the court, Leiland-James’s birth mum Laura Corkill said she’d been broken by his death and she believed it wouldn’t have happened if he was with her.
In the statement, she said: ‘I have felt hurt and broken at what has happened.
‘What has got to me the most is that Leiland-James was taken from me because of the threat of emotional or physical harm and he suffered that at the hands of his adoptive parents.
‘I never imagined on the day I handed Leiland-James over that anything bad would happen.
‘During my pregnancy I didn’t think he would be taken from me, but 48 hours after he was born, he was removed and it broke me.
‘It breaks me to know I’ll never see his face again. When I first found out about Leiland-James’s death, I stayed up crying for days.
Handout grab from video issued by Cumbria Police of Laura Castle’s during a police interview
Leiland-James Corkill had been placed with Laura Castle, 38, and her 35-year-old husband Scott by authorities in Cumbria
Laura Castle, 38, of Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, was found guilty of murdering 13-month-old Leiland-James Corkill last week at Preston Crown Court. Footage shows her pulling faces as the infant cried in hospital
On January 6, 2021, paramedics found Leiland-James unresponsive and floppy when they attended his foster parents’ home in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria
‘When I heard he had died I stopped eating and stopped caring for myself.
‘No one ever thinks they will lose a child. I was looking forward to letters and updates about his life.
‘I was told he would be safe and would have a good life. I was fine with that. I believe this would never have happened if he was with me.
‘My hopes and dreams were for him to grow up safe, healthy and happy.’
Castle 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.
After 13-month-old Leiland-James was admitted to hospital, Preston Crown Court heard how his foster mother Laura Castle had searched online for what might cause a bleed on the brain
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’, ‘sh** bag’ and ‘top tw**’, while her husband said he was a ‘d*** baby’ and a ‘t*** 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’.
An independent review into the adoption process is due to report back in July.