Footage shows Laura Castle lying to police after killing one-year-old Leiland-James Corkill

Laura Castle lies to police after the death of Leiland-James - the baby she hoped to adopt. Credit: Cumbria Police

Leiland-James Corkill was murdered at 13-months-old by Laura Castle - the woman who hoped to adopt him.

As Castle is jailed for life for a minimum of 18 years, we look at events leading up to Leiland-James' death, the lies she told to police, and if the tragedy could have been prevented.

Who was Leiland-James and who were his prospective adoptive parents?

Leiland-James Corkill was born on 21 December 2019 in Whitehaven, Cumbria, and was taken into the care of Cumbria County Council just two days after his birth.

His birth mother believed he would be "safe and have a good life" when he was placed into the care of a foster family.

Laura Castle was hoping to adopt Leiland-James with her husband, Scott. Credit: ITV News

His foster mother for the first eight months, Charlotte Day, said Leiland-James was "a beautiful little boy with the most contagious laugh".

In May 2020, Leiland-James was matched with a prospective adoptive family - the Castles - from Barrow, in South Cumbria.

The couple had been considering adoption and formally started the process in 2019.

They were selected by an adoption panel following an application process overseen by Cumbria Children’s Services Department. It was hoped this couple would be the baby's parents.

Leiland-James died in Alder Hey Children's Hospital at 13 months old.

Were there signs leading up to Leiland-James' death?

Concerns were first raised in November 2020, that Mrs Castle said she "did not love" the baby and was struggling to bond with him.

The Castles were told by a senior social worker she would not support any application to formally adopt Leiland-James.

When removing the one-year-old from their care was suggested, Mrs Castle said her family loved him so he was “not going anywhere”.

Concerns remained about the lack of emotional bond and a review by social services was set to take place in the new year.

There were derogatory messages from Laura Castle to her husband complaining of being unable to cope with the baby crying so much.

She called the baby a “proper n** head”, “s*** bag” and “top t***”.

He would respond in similar terms saying she was not abusive and Leiland-James was the problem.

On several occasions, she said she had “leathered” Leiland-James, although during her trial she said that she "only meant smacking".

Leiland-James died of 'catastrophic' head injuries after Laura Castle 'shook' him.

What happened to Leiland-James?

On 6 January at 6am, Mrs Castle woke her husband who was sleeping after a nightshift. She was clutching the body of Leiland-James.

She claimed he had fallen from the sofa in the living room and lost consciousness - a story she repeated to paramedics.

Leiland-James was rushed to the Furness General Hospital in Barrow and then Alder Hey Children's Hospital inh Liverpool, where he later died.

Medics raised concerns with police as the extent of his injuries did not match her story.

Experts said the degree of force required to cause the baby's injuries would have been “severe” and likely to be a combination of shaking and an impact with a solid surface.

When it became clear that her first story did not account for Leiland-James’ injuries, Laura Castle Googled what might cause a bleed on the brain, whilst Leiland-James was in hospital, and then gave a different account to police in an interview.

Laura Castle lies to police during an interview, in which she says Leiland-James fell from her knee onto the floor

In footage released by police, Laura Castle claimed the child was sitting on her lap as he ate his breakfast when she leaned over to put some wipes away.

Castle can then be seen jumping to her feet as she lies to officers about how he suffered his fatal injuries.

She said: "I tried to put the wipes back in the coffee table drawer so I'm leaning over and I stood up like that... and he fell on the floor.

"I didn't put him on the sofa, I was just frightened because I didn't have hold of him.

"I picked him up... he was struggling, like gasping."

In a second interview, Castle replies "no comment" to police as they ask about times she admitted "slapping" the baby

Castle, 38, finally admitted manslaughter the day before her trial was due to begin, saying she wanted "justice for her little boy".

She told the jury that she had shaken Leiland-James because he was crying, and she had lost control.

Laura Castle was convicted of murder and child cruelty at Preston Crown Court and her husband, Scott Castle, was acquitted by the jury of allowing the death of a child and child cruelty.

Detective Superintendent Dave Pattinson, the senior investigating officer in this case, said:  “No child should ever have to experience the sustained abuse Leiland-James suffered. He was only 13 months old, and he was completely defenceless. 

“I hope the manner in which it this has been dealt with and the outcome, will reassure the public that the Constabulary will act robustly and bring those responsible for such abuse to justice.” 

Laura Castle was sentenced to life in prison.

What do Cumbria County Council say?

Cumbria County Council say they are "deeply sorry" for the death of Leiland-James and there will be an independent review into how the Castles were approved as adopters.

John Readman, executive director for people at Cumbria County Council, said: "Abuse of a child by adopters is almost unheard of and we are determined to do everything we can to prevent this happening again - here or anywhere else."

What do the NSPCC say?

A spokesperson said: “This is a profoundly sad case. Leiland-James had been placed with Laura Castle so he could be cared for and nurtured.

"But rather than a place of refuge, his new home became a place of danger, with Castle’s violence against him resulting in tragic consequences. 

“Castle has now faced justice but nothing can undo what she did. However, it is vital that all agencies involved in Leiland-James’ short life wholly take onboard any learnings concluded by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review.

“We must do all we can to learn how we can prevent cruelty and abuse to children. It is also crucial that anyone with concerns for the wellbeing of a child contacts the local authorities, the police or the NSPCC helpline.”

Children can contact Childline on 0800 1111. Adults with concerns about a child can phone the NSPCC helpline on 0808 8005000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk