Alfie Steele: Mum and partner jailed for killing son, 9, who endured months of 'sadistic' abuse

Alfie Steele, who was 9, died at the hands of his mother and her partner, after he was "assaulted, beaten and held in a cold bath" as punishment. Credit: ITV News Central

Warning: Readers may find the details in this article upsetting

A mum and her partner have been jailed for a total of almost 60 years for killing her nine-year-old son in a cold bath after months of horrific abuse.

Alfie Steele died after being "repeatedly assaulted, beaten", and "held" in a cold bath as punishment by his mother Carla Scott, 35, and her partner 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.

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

During a trial at Coventry Crown Court, prosecutors said Alfie was subjected to a cruel and "sinister" regime of correction by Scott and Howell at his home in Droitwich, Worcestershire, prior to his death in February 2021.

Howell was jailed for life with a minimum of 32 years for Alfie's murder and charges of child cruelty.

Scott remained composed in the dock as her partner Howell was sentenced for murdering Alfie.

Howell slumped forward in the dock, with his right hand cupping his chin, as Mr Justice Wall told the 41-year-old: “I am sure that you got pleasure from inflicting pain and discomfort.

“In my judgment some of your actions can properly be described as sadistic.

“The risks of killing him by your conduct were real and obvious.”

Scott was jailed for 27 years for manslaughter and child cruelty to Alfie, which was committed over an 18-month period.

The judge told her she had killed Alfie “in circumstances which carried a high risk of causing his death or causing him really serious injury” and then made determined attempts to mislead the police “in order that they should think” Howell was not involved.

The Crown Prosecution Service said: “We welcome today’s sentencing which reflects the severity of their crime and brings an end to what has been a long and complex case.

 “The Crown Prosecution Service worked with West Mercia Police to build a strong case against Carla Scott and Dirk Howell to prove they were jointly responsible for the death of an innocent and defenceless child.

“As a mother, Scott tragically put her loyalty to her partner above her duty to protect her child. It is a tragedy that Alfie’s life was cruelly taken away by the people who were supposed to love and care for him.

“Our expert prosecutors presented a compelling case to the court, leading Scott to be convicted of manslaughter, while Howell was found guilty of murder. Both defendants will now face significant prison sentences as a result of their actions.

“We hope these verdicts are a reminder that child abuse will not be tolerated, and that those who choose abuse over compassion can expect to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

 “I would like to take a moment to express my heartfelt sympathies to Alfie’s family. While the jury’s verdict cannot replace their loss, I hope it brings them a small measure of comfort that the people responsible have been brought to justice.

“The CPS would also like to extend our thanks to West Mercia Police and to the witnesses who gave evidence in this case.”

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.