Alfie Steele: Mum and partner convicted of killing boy, 9, after months of abuse

Alfie Steele was just 9 years old when he died. Credit: West Mercia Police

Warning: Readers may find the details in this article upsetting

A mother and her partner have been found guilty of killing her nine-year-old son in the bath after months of abuse.

Carla Scott has been convicted at Coventry Crown Court of the manslaughter of her young son Alfie Steele and her partner Dirk Howell has been convicted of murdering the youngster, who was repeatedly assaulted.

Alfie died after being "repeatedly assaulted, beaten", and "held" in a cold bath as punishment by Carla Scott, 35, and Dirk Howell, 41 - both from Birmingham.

He had 50 injuries all over his body - only a handful, medical experts say, would be likely down to normal childhood bumps and scrapes.

The schoolboy, who died on 18 February 2021 at their home in Droitwich, was subjected to a cruel and “sinister” regime of correction by Scott and Howell, both of whom denied murder.

Alfie Steele died after being "repeatedly assaulted, beaten", and "held" in a cold bath. Credit: West Mercia Police

What happened when the emergency services arrived?

During CPR, paramedics noticed water coming out of Alfie's mouth, although it is not known whether it got inside before or after death.

Alfie was taken to Worcester Royal Hospital, but despite medics' best efforts he was pronounced dead at 3.55pm.

A post-mortem examination concluded the cause of his death was "unascertained".

In court last month, Michelle Heeley KC, prosecuting, said: "He didn't die of natural causes, he had bruises all over his body, and signs that he had been deprived of oxygen.

"The prosecution case is that these defendants are responsible for his unlawful death."

Ms Heeley said Scott had claimed to police officers at her home that she had last seen Howell "a couple of days ago".

"That was a lie. In the first moments when her child was dead her first thought was to lie," she said, adding Scott "lied to protect him".

Howell, who the prosecution said had stayed overnight at the address, was in fact seen by a police officer "by chance"  in a nearby street at 2.30pm, just six minutes after Scott's 999 call.

"CCTV footage recovered from houses around the area showed Howell going from Vashon Drive to Droitwich railway station, where he was seen running, not away from the trains, but towards them," said Ms Heeley.

"In fact he tried to open the door of a stationary train, but at that stage police officers who were by now looking for him, arrested him.

"There is no dispute he tried to hide the fact he had been at the house at the time Alfie died and Carla Scott lied to help him.

"What were they both trying to hide at that point? Their guilt. They knew what they had done and Dirk Howell's first instinct was to run."

Jurors were told Howell, of Princip Street, Birmingham, had admitted cruelty offences against other children before the trial.

Alfie Steele

What was said in court?

PC Paul Pickering gave evidence at Coventry Crown Court last month confirming he arrived at the address and went upstairs where he found Scott, wearing a "black top and black knickers", in a bedroom where Alfie was lying on the floor on his back.

He said: "She was in distress and in a state of panic."

Asked if Alfie was moving at all the officer added: "Not at that time, there were no signs of life whatsoever. His body was cold to the touch. It was pale. There was no sort of colour or pigmentation.

"I could see the entirety of his body. There was no movement."

PC Pickering told the court he gave chest compressions. He confirmed at one stage he asked Scott what had happened and stated she initially replied that she found Alfie in the bath "about an hour ago" before clarifying it was "about ten minutes ago".

He confirmed he arrested Scott on suspicion of child cruelty at 3.51pm.

Scott stated she did not want to get herself or partner Howell "into trouble" by admitting to police he had been at her property when she found Alfie collapsed in the bath.

Giving evidence at Coventry Crown Court last month, Scott said Howell had told her to lie about him being in the property in the lead-up to Alfie's death.

Scott told the jury that day she ran a "warm" bath for Alfie and went downstairs to do some cleaning in the kitchen before she was alerted to the fact he had gone "beneath the water".

She said: "I went into the bathroom and I seen he was under the water. I just put my hand underneath his head and lifted him by his legs."

Scott stated she took Alfie into her bedroom and put him on a towel on the floor.

She told the court Howell, also known as 'Dean' as well as Dirk, told her to call 999 while he gave CPR. She added he left the house while she was still on the phone to the emergency services.

Scott said: "He told me to say he wasn't there."

She confirmed she repeated the lie to police when they arrived, claiming Howell had not been at her home for a "couple of days".

Scott added: "I didn't want to get into trouble and didn't want him to get into trouble. I didn't want them to jump to conclusions."

She denied striking Alfie, interfering with his breathing as well as encouraging or assisting Howell to do either, answering "no" to each question.

Scott accepted a few days before Alfie's death she was made aware of an allegation Howell had hit him with a belt.

She told the court when she tried to ask Howell about it he did not answer and walked into another room.

Asked why she did not end the relationship over it Scott replied: "I didn't want to believe he could do something like that, even though I knew he did."

Confirming details about the early part of their relationship she stated Howell had disclosed to her "from the start" he had previously been in "trouble with the police".

She agreed she made a request through the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme under Clare's Law but there was no such information about him.

Scott accepted she and Howell came up with "rules" about chores and duties which he wrote and she stuck up on walls around the house.

What has West Mercia Police said?

Detective Chief Inspector Leighton Harding, the Senior Investigating Officer who led the case, said: "I am pleased that justice has been done today for Alfie and our thoughts remain with his family, who have shown incredible strength and dignity throughout the investigation and trial.

"Alfie suffered the most horrifying physical and emotional abuse at the hands of Scott and Howell. It is unimaginable to consider the fear and distress Alfie must have felt during the events that led to his collapse and death in his home on the morning of 18th February 2021.

"Alfie should have expected unconditional love and protection of Scott, yet she deliberately neglected his needs, choosing to prioritise her own needs and relationship with Howell, knowing the cruel treatment he was inflicting upon Alfie.

"Scott and Howell did nothing to protect Alfie and inflicted or permitted the torrent of physical and emotional abuse to continue time and time again.

“Both continued to lie to social services and police to protect themselves from their abuse being discovered, and even confronted and threatened neighbours and members of the public who reported concerns over their treatment of Alfie. At no stage has either of them shown any remorse or acceptance of responsibility for their actions."

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