Stepmother allegedly killed autistic stepson Harvey Borrington with 'multiple' head slaps

Leila Borrington is on trial for murder at Nottingham Crown Court Credit: PA

A stepmother allegedly murdered her autistic three-year-old stepson by inflicting a broken skull and unsurvivable brain damage while slapping him "multiple times" around the head, a jury has been told.

Leila Borrington is accused of inflicting a serious head injury on Harvey Borrington, who was largely non-verbal, while they were at their home near Nottingham on August 7 2021.

Borrington, who is also accused of five other attacks – including one in which the youngster suffered a broken arm – went on trial for murder and manslaughter at Nottingham Crown Court on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old, who has denied wrongdoing, said Harvey "fell backwards" off a leather armchair at home, causing the fatal brain bleed.

Harvey, who spent most weekends with Borrington, died in hospital on August 9 after paramedics were called and found him "unconscious", "unresponsive" and with "abnormal body posture".

Jonas Hankin KC, opening the prosecution’s case, said Borrington was caring alone for the youngster, while Harvey’s father was at work, when the deadly injury was likely inflicted at the couple’s home in Main Road, Jacksdale, near Nottingham.

Harvey was taken to King’s Mill Hospital in Sutton-In-Ashfield and transferred to Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical, where he died.

Describing the findings of a post-mortem examination, Mr Hankin said: "He had suffered trauma to the head.

"That had caused damage to the brain itself and bleeding overlying the brain which, together, squashed and damaged the brain, ultimately causing his death."

Several medical experts and doctors, instructed by the prosecution, provided a "majority view" as to how the boy died, Mr Hankin said.

He said: "Whether the fatal injury was inflicted prior to collapse as most of the experts, from whom you will hear, believe, or some hours prior to collapse, as one of them believes, they are all in agreement – Harvey was unlawfully killed.

"In other words, the fatal injury was as the result of an assault – an assault which involved multiple blows to the head to explain the deep bruising to the front, both sides and back of head.

"At least one – possibly more than one – severe impacts to the head capable of causing a skull fracture and an unsurvivable brain injury rendered him immediately unconscious."

It is one medical expert’s view fatal brain damage was inflicted "some hours prior to collapse" by "one or more forceful hand strikes or slaps to the side of the head, followed by a substantial later impact, causing the skull fracture", Mr Hankin said jurors will be told.

Several "older injuries" were found on Harvey's body after he died, the court heard

He had a broken arm, which jurors were told Borrington will say may have happened "while trying to stop him falling down the stairs".

Borrington is also accused of an attack which left Harvey with bruises on a cheek and eye and another where his left arm was left swollen.

Jurors were told Borrington also faces an assault allegation in connection with bruising on the boy’s back, which she will claim happened when he "scraped" himself falling off a breakfast bar stool.

She is also accused of causing bruising to both the boy’s cheeks but will claim this is because the child would hold food in his mouth, which had to be removed to avoid him choking, the court was told.

Mr Hankin said: "The prosecution’s case is the defendant is also responsible for these previous abusive injuries while in her sole care in the weeks and months leading up to his death.

"She denies assaulting Harvey at any time."

The jury was told Harvey’s natural mother, and father, 31-year-old Jonathan Borrington, split when he was 14 months old.

As a result, Harvey spent the week at his mother’s and weekends with his father and Borrington, but that, "in practice, because of Mr Borrington’s working hours, Harvey’s time was spent for most part in care of his stepmother, the defendant," Mr Hankin said.

Jurors were told Harvey was diagnosed with autism just after his second birthday, and while he only used a “handful” of words, could communicate through taking a person’s hand and by using “different types of scream”.

"He enjoyed a diverse range of play and enjoyed attention to detail such as lining up his toys neatly,” Mr Hankin said.

Harvey is also said to have had “a high pain threshold”, “sometimes didn’t cry” and had “become a bit more clumsy” about a year before he died.

Jurors were also told about an entry made in Harvey’s education health and care plan, identifying his particular needs.

Mr Hankin said: “This document lists among things Harvey doesn’t like: ‘Harvey doesn’t like going to his dad’s’.”

Borrington denies murder, manslaughter, one count of wounding and four charges of assault.

The trial continues.