ITV News Northern Reporter Sangita Lal reports from the court room about the trial into the death of 12-month-old Leiland-James Corkill, after his prospective adoptive mother, Laura Castle, admitted to jurors that she shook him to death.
As the jury was sworn in for the third week of the trial into the death of Leiland-James Corkill, the prosecution started from where they left off and Laura Castle took to the stand.
Puffy-eyed and seemingly exhausted she began answering questions. Today though, it seemed all she wanted to say was she was sorry and admitted she’d killed her son.
Leiland-James was just one year old when he died from brain injuries after being in the care of 38-year-old Castle.
She refers to him as her son but he’s not her birth son. She and husband Scott Castle were in the process of adopting him and as part of that process, Leiland-James had been living with the Castles for almost five months.
During that time though, the court heard how Laura Castle admitted she had started to struggle.
“I was just mentally drained. Scott worked away a lot of the time. I should have asked for help and I didn’t,” she told the court on Wednesday.
Social services were reviewing Leiland-James' care and during the trial, the jury were told they would not have recommended him for permanent placement with his hopeful adoptive parents.
The court heard a social worker had voiced her concerns that Castle said she did not love Leiland-James during a home visit in November 2020. Another social worker said Castle told her she felt the little boy didn't like them.
After carrying out a "looked-after child" review, Penny Hindle, a social worker of 35 years’ experience, said she couldn't support a permanent adoption application from the Castles.
She said another round of “therapeutic parenting sessions” took place at their home in December and a meeting was scheduled “very early in the New Year” to discuss Leiland-James’ placement.
They had concerns, and they were right to.
On January 7, 2021, Leiland-James died after suffering brain injuries.
Preston Crown Court heard that Castle initially reported he had fallen from the sofa at her home in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. But medics at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children's Hospital raised concerns when the injuries they recorded didn’t match her account.
She has consistently denied murdering Leiland-James throughout the trial, but on Tuesday she admitted she had shaken him on the morning of January 6.
Castle told her barrister: “I shook my beautiful boy. I just wanted him to stop crying.”
She told how Leiland-James hit his head on the back of the arm of the sofa and fell off her knee to the floor. He began gasping but she thought he was "winded," she said.
Appearing in court on Wednesday, Castle bent forward crying while being questioned why she did what she did.
The prosecution asked: "What was so frustrating about this baby that caused you to act in that way?"
She replied through tears: “I was tired and drained and overwhelmed. I couldn’t take the noise. There was just so much noise.”
"Why not walk away?" Pressed the prosecution.
“I think about that every second of the day and regret what I have done and I have to pay the consequence for that. I accept that and that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to give my boy justice,” she said.
The prosecutor replied: "In what way are you going to give him justice?"
“That it’s my fault," she continued. “I just wanted the screaming to stop. I’m so sorry."
As she described what she did that day, her husband Scott Castle, 35, was crying too.
She then went on to re-enact how she claims she shook Leiland-James. While trembling and anxiously fiddling with her hands and papers, she moved both arms forward and gestured how she shook the one-year-old. She then loudly cried for a few minutes afterwards.
The jury were told that health workers advised Castle that there was no shame that the placement wasn’t working out.
But the court heard Castle replied: “When you have your own birth child you have moments when you think 'this is hard, what have I done?'
"But you never think 'I’m going to return them'… there are moments that are really hard and moments that are really amazing.”
She later admitted to the court she initially lied to police because she couldn’t accept responsibility for her actions at the time - but now she can.
Castle denies murder but pleads guilty to manslaughter.
“I felt like I was failing and I was just doing my best,” she said.
“I just remember that I couldn’t take the noise anymore.”
Laura Castle denies murder and child cruelty. Scott Castle denies causing or allowing the death of Leiland-James and also child cruelty.
The trial continues.