Mother who beat toddler son to death is jailed for a minimum of 16 years

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The Independent Online

A mother has been jailed for a minimum of 16 years after being convicted yesterday of murdering her young son.

Collette Harris, 30, had denied killing Bobby Louch, aged 21 months, or causing his injuries.

The toddler was found with more than 80 bruises and injuries at his home in Bexleyheath, Kent, in December 2008. He had fatal damage to his brain and abdomen, the Old Bailey heard.

Harris's former boyfriend James Phillips, 25, of Erith, was acquitted of murder and alternative charges of manslaughter and causing or allowing the death.

Most of the child's injuries were sustained in the 48 hours leading up to his death on 29 December 2008, the court was told. Bobby had been left alone with each adult over the weekend at the family home in Bexleyheath.

He was kicked in the stomach on the Saturday with such force that it damaged vital organs. The next day, he was vomiting and looked disorientated. However, despite Bobby's injuries, Harris refused to take him to hospital.

In the early hours of Monday morning, a neighbour said he heard "a baby whimpering" and murmuring "mummy". Harris later rang for an ambulance, saying: "My baby won't wake up." Among his injuries, the toddler had two broken ribs, bleeding in the spine, massive damage to the brain and severe injuries to the abdomen, including a damaged liver and pancreas. He had been treated for a broken leg three weeks before his death and was kept in for a scan when bruises were seen on his forehead.

Harris was jailed for life with a minimum term of 16 years. She screamed, "oh my God", and collapsed in tears as the jury found her guilty of murder.

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

Bobby's father, Dan Louch, said: "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."

Andrew Flanagan, of the NSPCC, said: "It is appalling that yet another baby should die in such a horrific way at the hands of his mother."