'Killing your baby was a dreadful thing to do' - Judge's remarks in full as teen mum sentenced

Paris Mayo murdered her newborn son hours after giving birth and was today jailed for at least 12 years. Credit: PA

A teenager who killed her baby son just hours after he was born was today sentenced by a judge who said "killing your baby was a dreadful thing to do".

Paris Mayo was 14 when she became pregnant and was 15 years and four months old when she gave birth to her son Stanley alone in the living room of her parent's house in Herefordshire in 2019.

But she killed her baby soon after - fracturing his skull and stuffing cotton wool balls in his throat.

On Monday, the prosecution said this was a pre-meditated killing intended to prevent discovery of the pregnancy or the existence of the baby.

But her barrister Bernard Richmond KC said Mayo was a vulnerable and pathetic young girl.

She became pregnant when she was 14 and he said that she behaved the way she did because she wanted people to love her.

He said her home life wasn’t easy, her parents were estranged - and her father could be difficult and emotionally cruel.

Today the judge, His Hon Mr Justice Garnham said:

Paris Mayo, you have been found guilty by the jury of the murder of your newborn son, Stanley Mayo and it now falls to me to sentence you.

For the purposes of sentencing, I reach conclusions against you only when I am sure of those facts. All my findings of facts will be consistent with the verdict of the jury.

The victim's statutory surcharge applies in this case.

This is a sad and troubling case. How it was that Stanley came to meet his death at your hands on 23 March 2019 was explored in very great detail during the trial and it is not necessary for me to do more than summarise those conclusions here.

A teenage mother murdered her newborn son by stuffing balls of cotton wool down his throat before putting his body in a black bin bag.

The Facts

You fell pregnant in the summer of 2018 when you were 14. Although you sought to suggest otherwise, it is a physiological certainty that your periods must have come to an end as a result.

Over the ensuing months, the signs of pregnancy must have become increasingly obvious.

You put on weight, even though you were not eating more. Your breasts became larger.

And certainly, by the third trimester, the overwhelming likelihood is that you must have begun to feel your baby move inside you. Yet, you steadfastly maintained to anyone who asked that you were not pregnant.

I accept, however, that this was not a deliberate campaign to mislead. You were, at least in part, trying to convince yourself that you were not pregnant. It was a reality you feared your family would not be able to handle and that you could not accept.

You simply didn’t want to acknowledge the truth or as your counsel fairly put it, "you refused to face what was becoming obvious". Certainly, by mid-March 2019, it must have been plain.

Yet even then you did nothing to prepare yourself for the process of giving birth, nor for the birth of your child itself.

You sought no medical or midwifery assistance; you told no member of your family, despite the fact that you have sisters to whom you are close and who have children of their own; you did not even tell your mother who you accepted in court would, at least after the initial shock, have been supportive.

During the 22 and 23 March you began to have contractions. It is possible, I accept, for a woman to mistake early contractions for menstrual pains, but you had not had a true period for eight months, you had put on two stone in weight and you must have known that you were pregnant and rapidly approaching your time for giving birth.

Still, you told no one and sought no help.

Despite the fact that, by your own admission, you realised what was happening to you during the course of the evening of 23 March, you still stayed silent.

At about 9.30pm, you went downstairs, to the sitting room at the home you shared with your mother, father and brother, and there at about 9.45pm or 10pm you gave birth.

You were 15 years and 4 months old when you gave birth to Stanley. You were alone and unsupported.

You went through the process of giving birth without the assistance of a midwife, a doctor, a friend or a relative. I find as a fact that you were frightened and traumatised by those events.

I have no doubt that the birthing process was not just painful, but overwhelming for you.

Astonishingly, despite the pain you must have endured, it seems you did not cry out, so anxious were you not to disturb your parents sleeping upstairs.

It is accepted on all sides that Stanley was born alive and breathing. It was what happened after his birth which attracted particular attention at the trial.

I find as a fact that almost as soon as Stanley was born, you had decided you could not allow him to live and you assaulted him about the head.

Paris Mayo, right, outside court during the murder trial of her newborn son. Credit: PA

Precisely how you did that is not clear. Given the symmetrical nature of the fractures to the parietal bones on each side of his skull, I suspect that you crushed his head, probably beneath your foot.

I am sure that you did that with such force that you thought it had killed him. It certainly caused him serious damage to his skull and to his brain.

But, as it happened, that assault did not kill Stanley. He remained alive and continued to breathe for at least an hour.

In my view, it is highly likely that Stanley was still alive when your brother returned home at 10.30pm that night and when you called out to him not to come into the sitting room.

You did not want him to find you with your badly injured newborn son.

Faced with a birth you had sought to hide and a child you did not want, and whom you had tried unsuccessfully to kill, you decided you had to finish Stanley off.

You did so by stuffing cotton wool balls down his throat. There were five balls in all and they were pushed down so far as to damage the oesophagus.

The uppermost one filled his mouth, pushing his tongue back to the roof of his mouth.

Stanley died from asphyxiation together with the consequences of the head injury.

You then decided to dispose of his body by dropping it into a black plastic bin liner which you left near the back door.

You texted your brother, asking him to take it out in the morning and put it in the rubbish bin.

In fact, when your brother went to lift it he noticed the unusual weight and the presence of smears of blood beneath.

Your mother opened the bag and came across the ghastly sight of her hours-old grandson dead lying in the rubbish bag.

I accept that you have had a difficult teenage hood. Like many children of that age, you were insecure.

You wanted to be thinner; you were worried about being too tall; you did not like what you looked like.

You began having sex when you were 13. You told the court that you did so because "it was a way to get people to like me".

You had unprotected sex with the boy who fathered Stanley because he didn’t like wearing a condom and you “wanted him to like me, so I would do whatever he wanted to keep him happy”.

Your parents had separated and you lived part-time with your mother and part-time with your father.

Your father was not an easy man to live with. He could be emotionally cruel.

Your father became very ill, and you, your brother and your mother moved back in with him so that your mother could be his carer.

Previously, it had been you and your brother who had to provide some of the care. Your father had a heart condition, diabetes and kidney disease.

He was on dialysis at home. As it happened, he died just 10 days after the birth of Stanley.

Your mother had her own problems and offered precious little support to you at the best of times.

These were not the best of times. You and your brother were very conscious of not bothering or upsetting your parents.

As you put it during the trial, you thought your mother had “enough on her plate” without you bothering her with the possibility of you being pregnant.

However, as difficult as your circumstances might have been, killing your baby son was a truly a dreadful thing to do.

Jurors at Worcester Crown Court took eight hours and 38 minutes of deliberation to find her guilty of her son Stanley Mayo’s murder. Credit: PA

I am required by law to pass on you a sentence of detention at His Majesty’s pleasure, and I do so.

I am also required to fix the minimum term you must serve in custody before you are even eligible to apply for parole.

The starting point for the minimum term in the case of a person aged 15 to 16 at the time the offence is committed, is set out in paragraph 5A of Schedule 21 to the Sentencing Act 2020.

Both parties submit that the starting point, in accordance with that schedule, is normally 10 years but as is also agreed and as I accept the Court of Appeal has held that the table is not automatically determinative.

I have born in mind in this regard the police interviews I saw or read, and the evidence of the medical practitioners who saw you after the event, notably the midwife at the Hereford County Hospital.

Your reaction to what had happened was, on any view, surprising, suggesting as it did that you were not able fully to process its significance.

In my view, your maturity was somewhat less than might be expected of an average 15-year-old girl.

I reflect that in the decision I take as to the appropriate starting point here. On the particular facts of this case, I will adopt a starting point of 9.

I have then taken into account the aggravating features in your case, which would increase the minimum term and the mitigating features which would decrease it.

There are a number of statutorily recognised aggravating factors in this case.

The first is the fact that the victim, Stanley, was particularly vulnerable because of his age.

A human being is probably never more vulnerable than at the moment of their birth.

Second, and the opposite side of that coin, you were guilty of a fundamental abuse of the trust that is placed in every mother by her child. Taken with the vulnerability of the child this is a very significantly aggravating feature.

Third, I have to consider the mental or physical suffering inflicted on the victim before death.

Stanley was subjected to two serious assaults, separated by at least an hour, leading to his death.

There was an assault to his head causing extensive bone fractures, a subdural haemorrhage and a tearing injury to the periosteum, the fibrous covering of the skull.

That is a well-innervated structure, so damage to it is capable of causing pain. However, a blow to the head can also cause a loss of consciousness.

I do not have evidence to support a conclusion that Stanley was conscious between the injury to his skull and his death.

Somewhere between 45 and 90 minutes later, as I find it to be, you suffocated your son by pushing the cotton wool balls down his throat and pinching his nose closed, leaving the marks seen at post-mortem.

Although it was plainly your intention to kill, there is no proper basis on which I can conclude that he was conscious at the time.

I cannot find therefore that he suffered any prolonged pain as a result of your attacks on him.

Nonetheless, the violence of these two attacks and your determination to ensure Stanley’s death are matters that aggravate the offending.

Fourth, there was a somewhat half-hearted attempt to conceal what you had done and to dispose of the body.

The steps you took – wiping up some of the blood, leaving Stanley’s body in a bin bag near the doorway and asking your brother to put it in the bin when he got up the following morning, suggest there was no real forethought or planning as to what you would need to do to hide what you had done.

You are far from stupid or uneducated and if you really had planned in advance to kill your child and conceal the evidence of that crime, there were obvious steps you could have taken.

As you yourself pointed out in evidence, and as I accept, it might well have been possible on 23 March for you to move over to your Aunt’s house where you were unlikely to be disturbed.

On the question of pre-meditation, I reject the prosecution’s suggestion that the previous six or seven months had been devoted to avoiding detection of your pregnancy or concealment of the forthcoming birth or that this was an offence with significant pre planning.

The prosecution relied on the evidence of Dr Harding, but I regret to say that I found his evidence somewhat unsatisfactory. It is apparent he had formed a clear and unshakeable view of your culpability from the time of his very first meeting with you.

He had told the police that you ought to be prosecuted, a surprising opinion for an expert called to give evidence on a defendant’s mental state to express and one which he agreed in his oral evidence ought not to have appeared in his report.

I also regard it as unfortunate that Dr Harding did not know, or at least was unable to call to mind, the standard of proof that would have to be applied by the court considering his opinion.

In my view, he demonstrated in his oral evidence an inflexibility of thinking that seemed to me unhelpful in as complex and difficult a case as this one.

However, I accept the prosecution's submissions that, on any view, you knew you were pregnant and about to give birth an hour or so before you did so.

At that time there is no question of the balance of your mind being disturbed by pregnancy denial or any other condition.

You could have asked your mother for help or rung the emergency services. Whilst there might have been grounds for doubting how your mother would have coped, that cannot be said of the emergency services.

I am accordingly driven to the conclusion that at that stage at least you had decided you would have to kill your baby.

You knew there were alternatives to giving birth and bringing up a child, namely abortion or adoption.

You were, however, a rather pathetic (in the true sense of that word) 15-year-old girl, faced with a problem of such appalling dimensions and consequences, as you saw them to be, that you could not see through it, and so resorted to a process of denial during much of your pregnancy.

But by the evening of the 23 March, you knew what was happening to your body and in those last minutes, you decided that you had to get rid of this baby. To that extent, this was a pre-meditated killing.

In my view, however, there was no careful or detailed planning; nor were your actions well thought out. And this pre-meditation was not long-standing.

Nonetheless, the fact that there was a degree of pre-meditation was an aggravating feature.

Taken together all the aggravating features in this case would lead me to increase the minimum term from nine to 14 years.

There are a number of mitigating features I take into account in your favour. I bear in mind that the starting point reflects your age and, subject to the point about the delay to which I will return, it would amount to double counting to take that into account a second time. But your mitigating factors are these.

First, your previous good character. I have regard to the fact that on this occasion you acted in a way that was wholly out of character. However, in the context of a case of this seriousness, that can carry only a little weight.

Second, your mental health. Paragraph 10(c) of Schedule 21 requires me to consider whether you suffered from any mental disorder or disability which, although not providing you with a defence, lowered your degree of culpability.

Whilst the Jury did not accept that the balance of your mind was disturbed so as to justify a verdict of infanticide, in my judgment you had suffered from a degree of pregnancy denial, a condition that is, at least, recognised in the medical literature.

Furthermore, the emotional and physical effect of your giving birth alone and unassisted was profound.

I accept that you experienced acute stress and anxiety at the time of the offence, which affected your conduct and your judgment, even though it fell short of what is required to satisfy the partial defence of infanticide.

Third, I take into account the serious delay in this matter coming to trial. I make no criticism of the prosecution in this regard and accept that some of the delays is explained by the sophisticated medical evidence the prosecution had to gather in order to rebut the case you had advanced.

Nonetheless, this offence was committed in March 2019; it came to trial in May 2023. A delay of that sort, especially in the case of a 15-year-old child, is very significant.

Although you have been on bail for the bulk of the time and were able to continue with your education for a while, this matter has been hanging over your head for 20% of your life.

Fourth, I bear in mind my overall conclusion that when you committed this awful offence, you were a 15-year-old girl, vulnerable yourself, ill-supported at home and facing a reality you had spent nine months telling yourself could not be true.

Finally, I have regard to what your counsel said in his written submissions about the effect that this conviction and sentence will have on the rest of your life, on the likely press and social media reaction, on your likely reception in prison, on society’s likely view of you in the future.

As Mr Richmond fairly put it, this will be a life sentence for you in every sense.

Taken together the mitigating features lead me to reduce the minimum term that I would otherwise impose by two years.

In my judgment, balancing the aggravating features against the mitigation available to you, produces a minimum term of 12 years.

I would add this, although it is not strictly speaking a matter for me. Despite listening to all the evidence in this case over the last six weeks, I have detected nothing to suggest you would be a danger to children or to anyone else, (with the possible exception of another child of your own if you were to fall pregnant again in similar circumstances, which is a remote possibility given the sentence I am about to impose).

Stand up. Paris Mayo, I sentence you to detention at His Majesty’s pleasure. You will serve a minimum of 12 years before you will be eligible to apply for parole.

Sixteen days were spent in custody and 237 on electronic curfew. Accordingly, 135 days fall to be deducted.

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