Life term for mother who kicked her toddler son to death

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The Independent Online

A mother was jailed for life today for punching and kicking her toddler son to death.

Collette Harris, 30, was ordered to serve at least 16 years for murdering 21-month-old Bobby Louch.

The child had at least 40 injuries and bruises after Harris battered him to death at the family home in Bexleyheath, south-east London, in December 2008.

He had "catastrophic" brain injuries and a blow to his abdomen had damaged vital organs.

Most of the injuries had happened over the weekend but some of his ribs had been fractured at least two weeks before.

Bobby was treated for a broken leg three weeks before his death and kept in for a scan when bruises were seen on his forehead.

Harris complained she was being "victimised" and said the bruises were the result of Bobby banging his head on his cot.

A consultant at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent, who had seen Bobby before, sent him home the next day after checks were made.

Harris, of Dartford, Kent, had denied killing Bobby or causing his injuries, but was found guilty of murder.

She screamed "Oh my God" and collapsed in tears. She was led from the dock shouting: "I didn't do it."

She had tried to blame her new boyfriend, James Phillips, who denied killing Bobby or causing the injuries.

Drug taker Phillips, 25, of Erith, Kent, was found not guilty of murder and alternate charges of manslaughter and causing or allowing the death.

The day before his death, Bobby was vomiting and looking disorientated. He had a burn mark on his right hand which could have been made by it being placed on an oven door.

But Harris refused to take him to hospital. She told a friend she would be suspected of abusing him, the court heard.

She had said: "How can I take him to the hospital with bruises like that on his body. They will think I am beating him up or something."

In the early hours of Monday morning, a neighbour said he heard a voice whimpering and murmuring "mummy".

Later, Harris rang for an ambulance, saying: "My baby won't wake up." Bobby's face was covered in bruises.

Richard Whittam, QC, prosecuting, said: "At the time of his death, Bobby Louch was covered in bruises.

"There is compelling evidence that the multiple injuries were the result of deliberate and repeated violence.

"The likely cause of the injuries to the abdomen is a punch or kick to the stomach area."

Harris ended her relationship with Dan Louch, Bobby's father, in October 2008, and immediately took up with Phillips.

Recorder of London Judge Peter Beaumont told Harris: "This is a terrible thing you did for reasons which are quite incomprehensible."

Bobby's tearful father said later: "Bobby was our little angel and had his whole life to look forward to, but was so cruelly denied this for reasons we still can't fully comprehend.

"This can now bring to a close the traumatic and devastating quest to find some answers as to what happened to Bobby.

"Now we as a family can fully lay him to rest and complete our grieving process."

Detective Sergeant Alan Low, of the Child Abuse Investigation Command, said: "Bobby suffered horrific injuries in the place where he should have been the safest and at the hands of the very person who should have been protecting him."

Andrew Flanagan, chief executive of the NSPCC, called for the new Government to end child abuse.

He said: "It's appalling that yet another defenceless baby should die in such a horrific way at the hands of his mother.

"Tiny Bobby Louch was used as a human punch bag. The level of brutality inflicted on this helpless infant is sickening.

"Sadly since Baby Peter was killed in August 2007 at least 60 more children have been killed, many after awful abuse or neglect."