Leiland-James Corkill: Laura Castle guilty of murdering one-year-old boy she was trying to adopt

Foster mother, 38, admitted she ‘leathered’ youngster in derogatory text messages

Chiara Giordano
Tuesday 17 May 2022 19:35 BST
Leiland-James Corkill died from catastrophic head injuries less than five months after he was placed with prospective adoptive parents
Leiland-James Corkill died from catastrophic head injuries less than five months after he was placed with prospective adoptive parents (Supplied)

A woman has been found guilty of murdering a baby she was trying to adopt.

Laura Castle was convicted at Preston Crown Court of murdering one-year-old Leiland-James Corkill.

Leiland-James had been placed with Castle and her husband Scott Castle by authorities in Cumbria less than five months before his death from catastrophic head injuries.

The youngster was a “looked-after child” who was taken into care at birth before he was approved to live with his prospective adoptive parents from August 2020.

Ms Castle rang for an ambulance on the morning of 6 January last year and reported Leiland-James had fallen off the sofa, injured his head and was struggling to breathe.

However, hospital medics raised concerns as the extent of his injuries did not match her account.

Leiland-James died the following day as Castle maintained to police, as well as family and friends, that the death was a tragic accident while her husband, a night shift worker, was asleep.

She stuck to her story until the day the jury was sworn in last month for her trial at Preston Crown Court when she pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Her new version of events was she had shaken Leiland-James after he had not stopped crying at breakfast and his head hit the armrest of the sofa before he fell off her knee onto the floor.

However, medical experts told the court the degree of force required to cause Leiland-James’ injuries would have been “severe” and likely to be a combination of shaking and an impact with a solid surface.

Prosecutor Michael Brady QC said it was the Crown’s case she killed the boy as she lost her temper and suggested she smashed the back of his head against a piece of furniture.

Former care worker Castle denied intending to kill Leiland-James or seriously harm him but jurors took just two-and-half hours on Tuesday to convict her of murder.

She was also convicted of child cruelty.

Preston Crown Court heard one-year-old Leiland-James Corkill was a ‘look-after child’ who was taken into care at birth (PA)

Scott Castle, a machinist at defence firm BAE Systems, was found not guilty of allowing Leiland-James’ death.

He was also cleared of child cruelty.

He said he never had any concerns that anything bad was going to happen and he trusted his wife.

The Castles had been selected by an adoption panel following an application process overseen by Cumbria Children’s Services Department, the court heard.

In November 2020, concerns were raised after Laura Castle said during a home visit she did not love Leiland-James and was struggling to bond with him.

The following month, the Castles were told by a senior social worker she would not support any application to formally adopt Leiland-James at that stage and recommended further therapeutic parenting sessions.

The possibility of removing Leiland-James from their care was canvassed, but Laura said her extended family loved him so he was “not going anywhere”.

Concerns remained about the lack of emotional bond, the court heard, and a review by social services was set to take place in the new year.

When detectives examined the mobile phones of the defendants following their arrest they found text messages which were derogatory towards Leiland-James.

Castle wrote the youngster was a “proper nob head”, “s*** bag” and “top t***”, while her husband said he was a “d*** baby”, “fat s***” and “toss bag”.

Laura Castle said the texts reflected her “sense of humour” and should not be taken literally, Scott said he was now “ashamed” at sending the messages but he did not mean malice and was trying to sympathise with his wife.

She messaged on several occasions she had “leathered” Leiland-James, although she told the jury that only meant smacking.

In one exchange in September 2020, she wrote: “I’m seriously at my wits end, no one tells you about all this s***. I’m just an abusive parent so it seems.”

He responded: “Your not an abusive parent, baby. Not at all. Don’t say that. I think he’s a little too f**** up for us to handle.

“Let’s just call it quits. I don’t want you to have a mental breakdown. Your more important to me than him.”

Scott Castle no longer works for BAE Systems, a spokesperson for the company said after the hearing.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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