Mother and grandmother found guilty of killing teenager 'left to rot to death' in bed

Dawn Cranston reportedly described death of her son as a 'blessing', as it meant she would get the day off work

Harry Cockburn
Tuesday 10 July 2018 15:29 BST
Jordan Burling weighed little more than the average 11-year-old at the time of his death
Jordan Burling weighed little more than the average 11-year-old at the time of his death

The mother and grandmother of a teenager who died after being “left to rot to death” on an inflatable mattress at their house in Leeds have been convicted of manslaughter.

Jordan Burling, 18, was said to resemble a Second World War concentration camp victim when paramedics found him lying “lifelessly” on the makeshift bed.

He weighed just 6 stone (38kg), was wearing a soiled nappy and was covered in bed sores as a result of not moving for several weeks when he died from acute bronchopneumonia, Leeds Crown Court heard.

On Tuesday a jury unanimously convicted his 45-year-old mother, Dawn Cranston, of manslaughter, as well as his grandmother, Denise Cranston, 70.

Mr Burling's 25-year-old sister, Abigail Burling, was found not guilty of manslaughter, but guilty of an alternative charge of causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable person.

During the five-week trial, prosecutor Nicholas Lumley QC described the extent of the neglect that the two relatives showed towards the teenager, telling jurors: “Jordan had been allowed to decay, to rot to death, by those closest to him, over a period of, at least, several weeks.”

Paramedic Bridget Shepherd told the court the dying man looked “very, very pale and very emaciated”. She said his bone structure was clearly visible and said his mother told her he “had not been eating for a few weeks”.

While paramedics were attempting to revive the teenager, witnesses reported his mother “did not seem bothered”, and she had even described his unresponsive state as a “blessing” during a 999 call, as it meant she would not have to go in to work that day.

(l to r) Denise Cranston, Abigail Burling and Dawn Cranston at Leeds Crown Court on Wednesday

PC Ben McNamara, who arrived at the home of Dawn and Denise Cranston just hours after the teenager's death, claimed that the first thing the deceased's mother asked him was how much the funeral would cost.

Referencing the comment, he said: “I was surprised by everyone's lack of emotion. It is a strange thing to say after he had just died.”

Another police officer claimed the deceased's mother seemed overly concerned about whether she would be able to get refunds for “a Zimmer frame and American food” she had bought her son from Amazon.

Giving evidence in the trial, Mr Burling's mother claimed that he suddenly started to lose weight in April 2016 but refused to go to the doctors after previously being turned away for arriving “a minute late”.

Crying throughout her account of the months immediately preceding his passing, she claimed that the teenager “suddenly got to the point where he would not move out of the chair or anything like that”.

She added: “He did not think he would die. I did not want him to die.”

Prior to the trial, Dawn Cranston admitted endeavouring to conceal a birth after hiding the remains of her dead baby in a rucksack for around 14 years.

Following the verdicts on Tuesday, Gerry Wareham, from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Yorkshire and Humberside, said Mr Burling's death was “one of the most shocking cases” they have ever dealt with.

He added: “These women had a duty of care towards Jordan. However, the CPS showed the court that instead they allowed him to rot to death in his own home.

“Words cannot begin to convey the extent of Jordan's terrible suffering at the hands of the very people he should have been able to trust the most.

“Those responsible for that suffering have been found guilty of causing his death.”

Agencies contributed to this report

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