Couple guilty of murdering abused boy, 3

A couple were today found guilty of murdering three-year-old Ryan Lovell-Hancox who died in hospital on Christmas Eve after being abused, neglected and beaten.

A jury at Wolverhampton Crown Court took seven hours to convict Christopher Taylor and Kayley Boleyn of killing the boy in an attack at their flat in Bilston, West Midlands, in December 2008.

A four-week trial heard that Ryan's mother was paying around £40 a week for Taylor, 25, and 19-year-old Boleyn to look after Ryan while she decorated her home in the month before the boy's death.

The pair were also convicted of child cruelty.

The defendants, who will be sentenced later this year, had been looking after Ryan - who suffered more than 70 injuries - for almost a month when he was subjected to a serious assault at their flat in Slim Avenue on December 22, 2008.

The trial was told that Ryan - who died in hospital two days later - was seen at the bedsit by a housing support officer hours before the attack which led to his death.

The court heard that the officer, who gave Boleyn a lift to a job centre, assumed Ryan was asleep after seeing one of his legs sticking out from under bedding.

It also emerged that a child had also been seen by housing officials at the flat on previous occasions.

Boleyn and Taylor, who both face mandatory life sentences, showed little emotion when the unanimous verdicts were returned, although the female defendant appeared to be on the verge of tears.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Christopher Hotten QC said Ryan's mother Amy Hancox was struggling to cope with Ryan on her own when she agreed that Boleyn should look after him.

Mr Hotten told the jury: "Some time around November or perhaps the very beginning of December 2008, the arrangement appears to have been for Kayley and Christopher to look after Ryan at Slim Avenue until Christmas.

"In return, Amy was to give Kayley a sum of money each week - one says £20, the other says £40 - and a contribution towards food, gas and electric bills."

The court heard that it was also agreed that Miss Hancox would visit Ryan each day, although she subsequently failed to visit him for two or three days at a time.

Both defendants initially claimed Ryan had hit his head after falling in the bath, but the court heard they later changed their accounts in police interviews.

Ryan was taken to Wolverhampton's New Cross Hospital and then transferred to Birmingham Children's Hospital after paramedics were called to the flat at about 10.25pm on December 22.

Giving evidence on the second day of the trial, Miss Hancox told jurors she knew nothing of the abuse and last saw Ryan at her house in Bilston for around 20 minutes on December 20.

Ryan had been clingy and upset, his mother said, and did not want to let go of her before leaving with the defendants.