A woman accused of murdering her two-year-old son inadvertently recorded her co-defendant boyfriend allegedly hitting the little boy in “harrowing” audio clips played to jurors.
Phylesia Shirley is said to have carried out the covert phone recordings at her one-bedroom flat to check whether then-partner Kemar Brown was secretly contacting other women.
However, police investigating the death of her son, Kyrell Matthews, discovered that the recordings contained disturbing evidence of the non-verbal boy being hit repeatedly, with Brown saying “shut up”, causing the toddler to cry and scream.
Kyrell died at the flat on 20 October 2019, with a litany of internal injuries, including 41 rib fractures and a 1.6in (4cm) wide cut to his liver.
Brown, who was not Kyrell’s father, and Shirley deny murder.
Prosecutor Edward Brown QC, outlining the prosecution case at the Old Bailey on Wednesday, said the secret recordings offered a glimpse into the alleged abuse taking place at Shirley’s flat in Thornton Heath south London in the months before Kyrell died.
He told jurors: “It makes for harrowing listening, because, say the prosecution, you will hear Kemar Brown hitting that child again and again on different days, and you will hear Kyrell crying and screaming as a result.”
On one recording, the prosecution said Kyrell could be heard getting increasingly distressed amid “slapping sounds” and “hitting noises” as Brown told him to “shut up”. Brown admits it is his voice on the recordings.
The prosecution said Shirley could then be heard asking “What did he do?”, to which Brown is said to have replied “He got up.”
The prosecutor said: “Plainly, she [Shirley] has seen distress at the very least, expecting punishment of Kyrell having taken place by Kemar Brown.
“It is plain, say the prosecution, what you can hear.”
The prosecution described the case as a “determined pattern of repeated and significant assaults on a completely defenceless and young child”.
Jurors were told that on one occasion in the days before he died, Kyrell was apparently “reluctant to go back into his mother’s flat” having spent the day elsewhere.
Jurors heard that the toddler did not attend a nursery and so was in the full-time care of his mother, then aged 21.
Neither defendant was employed in the period leading up to Kyrell’s death, the court heard.
Both also said they left the flat at separate times, briefly, the day the boy died – although only Shirley’s account could be corroborated by CCTV.
Shirley said she raised the alarm by calling the NHS’s non-emergency 111 number after she got home, saying her son had become “floppy”.
Ambulance crews arrived 12 minutes after the call, but attempts to resuscitate him failed.
Both Shirley and Brown denied causing Kyrell any harm.
It was only following his death that forensic examination offered clues about how he died.
Prosecutor Mr Brown said: “This all happened behind closed doors, so to speak.
“After the initial investigation, the long task to examine a huge amount of telephone data was begun and trawled through over many months, and what was found was a section on Phylesia Shirley’s phone that contained a number of recordings.
“They are revealing – indeed they are very harrowing.
“It appears that Phylesia Shirley had taken to setting her phone up to record what might or might not be going on in the flat when she was out, or when she was at least not within earshot.
“It appears that she was checking up on Mr Brown to see if he was contacting other women.
Judge Mark Lucraft QC described the audio footage as “difficult listening”.
Shirley, 24, and Brown, 28, of separate addresses in Thornton Heath, deny murder.
Brown also denies two further charges – causing or allowing death, and causing or allowing serious physical harm to a child.
Shirley has admitted allowing the death and allowing serious physical harm to a child.
The trial continues.
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