Barrow woman who killed boy she hoped to adopt 'did not intend to cause him serious harm'

A woman alleged to have murdered a 12-month-old boy she was hoping to adopt says she did not mean to cause him serious harm, a court has heard.

Leiland-James Corkill died in hospital on 7 January 2021, a day after suffering brain injuries at the home of Laura Castle, 38, and her husband Scott Castle, 34, in Barrow, Cumbria.

In the run up to Leiland's death, the 38-year-old sent her husband aggressive text messages - one saying she needed to stop smacking Leiland, because she said "if I start I won't stop", Preston Crown Court was told.

On the morning of 6 January 2021, Laura Castle dialled 999 from her home Eskdale Avenue, Barrow-in-Furness, and reported Leiland had fallen from a sofa, injured his head and was unresponsive.

Jurors were told he was rushed to Furness General Hospital, and was later transferred to Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, in cardiac arrest and with a bleed on the brain.

But doctors at the Children's Hospital raised concerns the injuries were not consistent with the account given by the defendant.

Leiland never regained consciousness and died on 7 January from catastrophic head injuries.

Leiland was taken to Furness General Hospital after Laura Castle rang emergency services to say he had fallen and was unresponsive.

Leiland had been placed with the couple by authorities in Cumbria less than five months before his death, after he had been taken into care at birth.

Laura Castle admits manslaughter but denies murder and two child cruelty offences.

Scott Castle denies causing or allowing Leiland death and two child cruelty counts.

Opening the prosecution case, Michael Brady QC said the couple were arrested and their mobile phones seized and examined.

He said text messages on the phones revealed that in the months leading up to Leiland-James’s death the Castles had referred to him in aggressive and unpleasant terms.

Mr Brady said: “They had discussed Laura Castle’s use of unlawful physical chastisement… the Crown says that Scott Castle was not only aware of how his wife behaved towards Leiland-James but actively encouraged it.”

Mr Brady told the court it was clear Laura Castle was struggling within days of the placement as family members assisted with his care.

On 23 September 2020, Mrs Castle texted aerospace nightshift worker Mr Castle: “I honestly really don’t like him lately, he's an absolute moaning winge bag and I totally regret doin this.

“I’m goin to lose my mind. He just p***** me off all the time, can never just have a nice day or night ever.

“Although I need to stop smacking him cos if I start I’ll not stop at one point and it’s not getting us anywhere and then I feel bad.”

Foster was sentenced in his absence at Preston Crown Court. Credit: MEN Media

The next day she messaged: "I’ve just absolutey leathered him, I can(‘t) take this anymore, he’s gonna have to go.”

Scott Castle replied: “Right OK baby. He’s really ruined it. At least we have tried.”

On 25 September she wrote: “I’ve just leathered him again, I don’t wanna do this. I’m seriously at my wits end, no one tells you about all this s***. I’m just an abusive parent so it seems.”

Her husband responded: “Your not an abusive parent, baby. Not at all. Don’t say that. I think he’s a little too f****d up for us to handle.

“Let’s just call it quits. I don’t want you to have a mental break down. Your more important to me than him.”

The couple had earlier been selected by an adoption panel following an application process overseen by Cumbria Children’s Services Department, the court heard.

In November 2020, a social worker reported her concerns after a visit, that Laura Castle had said she did not love Leiland and that he “didn’t like standing”, was “lazy” and “big”.

The following month, a review took place of the placement and the Castles were told the local authority would not support an application for a permanent adoption unless further therapeutic work was undertaken.

However the couple remained determined to go ahead with the process, the court was told, and a care planning meeting with social workers was recommended for the new year.

Mr Brady told the jury that Laura Castle had pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Leiland-James but did not accept she intended to cause him really serious harm or kill him.

He said: “It is the Crown’s case that set against a background of frustration, borne out of highly stressful domestic circumstances – including financial difficulties and an inability to bond with Leiland-James – Laura Castle’s frustration with Leiland-James turned to hostility as evidenced by her physical abuse of him culminating in his murder.”

The prosecutor said pathologist Dr Alison Armour, who conducted the post-mortem examination, believed the degree of force needed to produce the serious head injuries was “considerable”.

He said she thought that most of the injuries were consistent with assault and that bruising to the head and face were consistent with slapping, gripping, pinching, prodding and poking.

The trial was adjourned until Tuesday 3 May.