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Mother who murdered her newborn girl jailed for life

Rachel Tunstill Credit: Lancashire Police

A mother has been jailed for life after she was found guilty of murdering her newborn child.

Mental healthcare boss Rachel Tunstill, 26, stabbed Mia Kelly to death with a pair of scissors in the bathroom of her home in Burnley, Lancashire, and then placed her body in plastic bags before dumping it in the kitchen bin.

Tunstill accepted she had inflicted more than 15 puncture wounds on Mia's body but claimed she had no memory of doing so.

The psychology graduate claimed she was unaware her pregnancy was virtually full-term and thought she was having a miscarriage at the flat in Wellington Court she shared with her partner, forklift driver Ryan Kelly, 31.

It was said that her balance of mind was disturbed in the period following the birth on the evening of January 14 and that she suffered "an acute stress reaction".

But a jury at Preston Crown Court rejected that explanation and convicted Tunstill of murder.

She must serve a minimum of 20 years in jail before she can be considered for parole.

Opening the prosecution case earlier this month, Louise Blackwell QC said Tunstill was someone who had difficulties in her early childhood but went on to achieve a degree in psychology and a master's degree in forensic psychology.

She was working as a deputy manager at a local residential home for people with mental health issues at the time of her daughter's death.

Miss Blackwell said she only told a very limited group of people about her pregnancy, Mr Kelly and her employers at Healycare Ltd, but that she was only in the early stages.

Tunstill eventually went to Burnley General Hospital on the morning of January 16, where she told staff she was nine weeks' pregnant, had suffered bleeding and was concerned she had had a miscarriage.

On examination, said Miss Blackwell, medics found her pregnancy had in fact reached 36 or 37 weeks, as part of the umbilical cord was still attached to the uterus.

Police examined the defendant's mobile phone and iPad and found internet searches relating to being 36 weeks pregnant and stomach cramps, a drug that would bring about an abortion, and searches on notorious killer Mick Philpott "faking it" before it emerged he had murdered six of his own children in a house fire.

Following sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Jill Johnston, of Lancashire Police, said: "This was a truly horrific incident involving the callous and brutal murder of a defenceless newborn baby. I cannot begin to understand why Rachel Tunstill committed this horrendous act.

"The person who should not be forgotten in this is the victim. This poor child should have been able to look to Rachel Tunstill for the protection and love of a parent.

"Instead this defenceless baby found herself subjected to the dreadful injuries which sadly caused her death.

"My thoughts remain with the wider family of baby Mia who have been through so much over the last year. They have conducted themselves with tremendous dignity and I hope that this conviction and sentence can offer them some comfort as they try to move on with their lives.

"Finally I would like to thank the jury for their careful consideration of this case and all of the police officers and staff involved in this very difficult and upsetting inquiry. They have conducted themselves with great professionalism. I would also like to thank again the community in Burnley for their co-operation and understanding throughout this time."

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