Woman jailed for murdering one-year-old baby Leiland-James Corkill she hoped to adopt

Video report by ITV Granada Reports correspondents Elaine Willcox and Fiona Marley Paterson

A woman who murdered a one-year-old baby she was hoping to adopt has been jailed for a minimum of 18 years

Laura Castle, 38, from Barrow-in-Furness, was sentenced at Preston Crown Court for killing the Leiland-James Corkill, who died of catastrophic head injuries in January 2021.

Speaking ahead of the sentencing, Leiland-James' birth mother said Castle was a "monster" and "no sentence will ever be long enough".

The baby had been placed with Castle and her 35-year-old husband Scott by authorities in Cumbria less than five months before his death.

The youngster was a “looked-after child” who was taken into care at birth before he was approved to live with his prospective adoptive parents in Barrow-in-Furness from August 2020.

Leiland-James was 13 months old when he was murdered by Laura Castle.

Laura Castle rang for an ambulance on the morning of January 6 last year and reported that Leiland-James had fallen off the sofa, injured his head and was struggling to breathe.

The little boy died the following day as hospital medics raised concerns over the defendant’s account.

Laura Castle maintained the death was a tragic accident until the day the jury was sworn in last month for her trial at Preston Crown Court.

She entered a plea of guilty to manslaughter and went on to say that she had shaken Leiland-James because he would not stop crying, and his head hit the armrest of the sofa before he fell off her knee on to the floor.

However, medical experts told the court that the degree of force required to cause his injuries would have been “severe” and likely to be a combination of shaking and an impact with a solid surface.

Prosecutor Michael Brady QC said it was the Crown’s case that Castle killed the boy as she lost her temper and suggested she smashed the back of his head against a piece of furniture.

Jurors convicted her of murder and a separate offence of child cruelty.

Castle sobbed loudly in the dock at Preston Crown Court as victim impact statements were read from the birth mother and foster carer of Leiland-James Corkill.

The Honorable Mr Justice Jeremy Baker said Castle put her "selfish desire for a perfect family" ahead of the welfare of Leiland-James, who was just 13-months-old.

Laura Castle has been jailed for life for a minimum of 18 years. Credit: Cumbria Police

Scott Castle was acquitted of allowing Leiland-James’s death and child cruelty.

When detectives examined the defendants’ mobile phones following their arrest they found text messages which were derogatory towards Leiland-James.

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

In November 2020 concerns were raised that Laura Castle had said during a home visit that she did not love Leiland-James and was struggling to bond with him.

The possibility of removing the youngster from their care was later canvassed, but Laura Castle said her extended family loved him so he was “not going anywhere”.

An independent review into the adoption process is due to report back in July.