In the photographs, Liam Fee looks like a happy toddler. We see him playing with toys at nursery or sitting in his pram, and he’s smiling.
We now know the two-year-old suffered prolonged abuse for much of his short life before he was murdered by the two people he relied on for love and protection.
Liam was born in Ryton, Tyne and Weir. His mother, Rachel Trelfa, left his father and started a civil partnership with Nyomi Fee. The pair moved to Glenrothes, Fife.
It was Liam’s parents, Rachel and Nyomi, who killed him with a fatal blow. The toddler was struck with such force it caused his heart to rupture. A paediatric pathologist told the court the two-year-old would have died quickly.
However, Liam was found with more than 30 injuries. The worst of these included a broken leg and a broken arm which had been left without any medical attention for several days. The jury in this case wept when they watched a police video showing Liam’s body hours after he was killed.
Liam would have been in visible pain with these broken bones, and his parents knew he was suffering, but still they refused to get him treatment. Instead, their internet history reveals they were searching “how long can you live with a broken bone” and “hip brace for toddlers".
The day before Liam was murdered, Rachel’s phone was used to search: “Can wives be in prison together?”
Rachel and Nyomi denied murdering Liam, but their denial was characteristically cruel, callous, and twisted. First, they tried to convince another young boy in their care that he’d killed Liam. They forced that child to put his hand into Liam’s lifeless mouth, and said to him: “Look what you’ve done.”
Then they waited.
The court heard that the women waited almost an hour before they called 999, and that was only after Nyomi made three phone calls with her mother. She deleted records of these calls from her mobile phone, but investigators found them.
When they finally did call the ambulance, they said Liam had been killed by another boy. When police later arrived, they made that child tell an officer he had strangled Liam.
But the police investigation soon uncovered the true horror of what had been going on behind the closed doors of this family’s home in Fife.
Children were kept in cages made of fire guards and cable ties. They would be forced to spend hours trapped inside, stripped naked and with their hands bound behind their back.
Sometimes the children in their care would be tied to a bed frame in a room full of pet snakes and rats. Sleep and food deprivation were used as methods of punishment, and Rachel and Nyomi held a child under a cold shower because he wet the bed. When Liam was found, he had bruising around his private parts.
The catalogue of cruelty goes on, and the details are shocking. Unspeakable acts of torture had been carried out against children in Rachel and Nyomi’s care for two years.
Liam’s parents went to great lengths to cover their crimes. Few people ever got to know Liam because he was kept out of sight at home. Any time he was out, he would be kept in his pram and was usually covered by a blanket. His development had been stunted.
Liam did go to nursery, though. It was his teachers there who noticed how terrified the toddler was whenever his parents came to pick him up. When they spotted bruising on the toddler’s body, they decided to report it to social services.
A social worker did call at Liam’s house, along with police, after the nursery reported the injuries. However, they were told Liam had simply bumped his head, they accepted this explanation, and left.
When the social worker dealing with the case then went off sick, nobody was assigned as cover, and the Fee household was left unmonitored.
It was at that point Rachel and Nyomi withdrew Liam from the nursery.
In court, a social worker admitted Liam’s case had “dropped off the radar”.
The murder of Liam in his family home will raise serious questions about how society protects known, vulnerable children. Many of these questions are, tragically, all too familiar now.
The blame for the murder, though, lies with two people - the two women who were capable of sickening acts of violence against children in their care. The two women who took the life of one child and tried to ruin the life of another by falsely blaming him for the murder.
Rachel and Nyomi Fee are the two women who tortured and then murdered their defenceless child. They will be sentenced on July 6 at the High Court in Edinburgh.