A life of abuse: What happened to Keighley toddler Star Hobson?

Star Hobson suffered months of abuse at the hands of her mother and her partner Credit: Family photograph

Warning: Some readers might find the details in this article upsetting.

For the family of Star Hobson, all that remains are daily reminders of the pain they face, knowing they will never see their little 'blue-eyed girl' again.

Star was just 16-months-old when her life was taken from her at the hands of her mother's girlfriend, Savannah Brockhill.

Star's mother, Frankie Smith, brought Brockhill into their lives in November 2019, when Star was just six-months-old. The abuse began soon after and during the Keighley toddler's short life, she was subjected to repeated beatings by Brockhill.

During a six-week trial at Bradford Crown Court, the court heard how Star was subjected to "kicking and stamping" as well as a "slam choke" in order to "toughen her up".

Star was just 16 months old when she was killed at her home. Credit: Family Handout

On the day she died, the toddler vomited large amounts of brown fluid in an ambulance prior to being rushed to hospital. She later suffered a cardiac arrest and died.

Star was found to have several fractured bones and broken ribs.

These were discovered in addition to her fatal injuries, which were shown to be internal bleeding caused by a "severe blow or blows" in the form of stamping on or kicking to the abdomen.

She also suffered a laceration to her liver, damage to her bowel, and bruising to her lung and pancreas.

Alistair McDonald, prosecuting, told the jury Star had suffered such "catastrophic" injuries there was never any real chance of saving her life.

Frankie Smith (left) and Savannah Brockhill (right)

Healed fractures showed Star had been repeatedly beaten on previous occasions, but bruises which her wider family has raised concerns about were always dismissed by Smith and Brockhill as falls, such as hitting her face on a coffee table.


Timeline of events leading to Star's death

Star was born on 21 May, 2019. Here are some of the key events leading to her death:

2019

  • November - Star's mother Frankie Smith, begins relationship with Savannah Brockhill.

2020

  • 23 January - Smith's friend Holly Jones contacts social services over concerns about domestic violence. Police and social workers visit Star but no concerns are raised.

  • February - Smith says she has split up with Brockhill and Star goes to live with her great-grandparents, David Fawcett and Anita Smith in Baildon, Bradford.

  • 26 April - Star is taken by her mother to live with Smith and Brockhill in Keighley.

  • 4 May - Anita Smith contacts social services after she is told about Brockhill "slam-choking" Star.

  • June - David Fawcett posts a picture of Star with bruises on Facebook alongside a happier shot and with the caption "From this to this in five weeks, what's going on Frankie?"

  • 21 June - Police take Star to be examined in hospital after Star's father, Jordan Hobson, makes contact with social services. Smith says her daughter had hit her face on a coffee table.

  • 28 August - David Fawcett receives a video of Star with bruises and confronts Brockhill.

  • 2 September - Social workers make an unannounced visit after another of Star's great-grandfathers, Frank Smith, contacts social services with concerns.

  • 15 September - Social services close the case after concluding the referral to be malicious.

  • 22 September - Star is seriously injured at the flat in Wesley Place, Keighley, and dies later in hospital.

2021

  • 22 October - Savannah Brockhill and Frankie Smith go on trial, accused or murdering 16-month-old Star Hobson. Both deny murder.

  • 14 December - Following a trial at Bradford Crown Court Brockhill is convicted of Star's murder. Smith is convicted of causing or allowing the toddler's death.


Following the trial, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, described the case as "shocking and heartbreaking", adding: "We must protect children from these barbaric crimes and ensure lessons are learned."

Meanwhile, Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Swift who led the investigation described it as one of the "most distressing and heart-breaking cases" his officers had ever worked on.

Star's paternal grandparents Bernard and Sharon Hobson, said: "We wish to say that whilst the conviction brings us no pleasure, as it cannot bring Star back, seeing justice for Star will be our only comfort."

Speaking to ITV News of his heartbreak, Star's great-grandfather David Fawcett explained how he wakes up every morning and thinks of Star.

He said: "It's the thought that you're never going to see her again, that's what hurts."


  • Great-grandfather David Fawcett plays the guitar for baby Star.


Star's referrals to social services were made during a time when Bradford Council's Children Services department was rated as inadequate.

In a statement, Bradford Metropolitan Council has said it deeply regrets that not all the 'warning signs were seen' that could have led to firmer statutory enforcement action:

"We are very aware as partners that there is much that we need to learn from this case. We have already put in place actions that will improve our practice so that we learn those lessons. But we need to fully understand why opportunities to better protect Star were missed."

The results of an independent review of Star's case are expected shortly.