Laura Castle, 38, has been found guilty at Preston Crown Court of murdering one-year-old Leiland-James Corkill (pictured)
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A woman who shook a one-year-old baby she was hoping to adopt to death after she ‘lost it’ over his crying has today been found guilty of murder. 

Laura Castle killed 13-month-old Leiland-James Corkill less than five months after council officials had placed him into her care.

The 38-year-old former care worker, from Barrow, Cumbria, was trying to formally adopt the youngster at the time.

However council workers became concerned – enough to consider removing him from her care – after she said she was struggling to bond with the child.

The youngster died in January 2021 after suffering brain injuries at the home of Laura and her partner Scott Castle.

Police later found texts on her phone in which she had described the youngster as a ‘k**bhead’ and a ‘whingebag’.

Though Castle originally denied any involvement in little Leiland-James’s death, she later admitted started shaking the youngster because she ‘wanted him to stop crying’.

She admitted responsibility for the youngster’s death, but denied his murder. 

However jurors at Preston Crown Court took just two-and-half hours on Tuesday to convict her of the baby’s murder. She was also convicted of child cruelty against Leiland-James.

Her partner Scott, a 35-year-old former machinist at defence firm BAE Systems, was found not guilty of allowing Leiland-James’ death.

He was also cleared of child cruelty. He told the court he never had any concerns that anything bad was going to happen with the boy and he trusted his wife.

Laura Castle, 38, has been found guilty at Preston Crown Court of murdering one-year-old Leiland-James Corkill (pictured)

Laura Castle, 38, has been found guilty at Preston Crown Court of murdering one-year-old Leiland-James Corkill (pictured)

Castle, 38, (left) initially claimed Leiland-James Corkill accidentally fell off the sofa at her home despite the youngster having suffered catastrophic head injuries. Pictured right: Castle's husband Scott

Castle, 38, (left) initially claimed Leiland-James Corkill accidentally fell off the sofa at her home despite the youngster having suffered catastrophic head injuries. Pictured right: Castle’s husband Scott

The court previously heard Leiland-James had been living with his prospective adoptive parents – Laura and Scott – when emergency services were called to their home in Barrow-in-Furness on January 6 last year.

Castle, 38, initially claimed Leiland-James accidentally fell off the sofa at her home despite the youngster having suffered catastrophic head injuries.

However, hospital medics raised concerns as the extent of his injuries did not match her account. 

Leiland-James died the following day as Castle maintained to police, as well as family and friends, that the death was a tragic accident while her husband, who works nights, was asleep. 

The defendant continued to maintain Leiland-James’s death was a tragic accident until earlier this month, when she admitted his manslaughter on the eve of her trial at Preston Crown Court.

Castle also lied in her prepared defence case statement before she eventually changed her plea and conceded she had shaken Leiland-James after he would not stop crying and screaming, the court heard.

She said she lied because she was ‘ashamed’ and ‘terrified of the consequences of her actions’.

The youngster was a ‘looked-after child’ who was taken into care at birth before he was approved by authorities to live with Castle and her partner.

Medical experts had previously told the trial though that the degree of force required to cause his injuries would have been ‘severe’ and ‘considerable’. 

The court heard Leiland-James was taken into care by Cumbria County Council two days after his birth on December 21, 2019. 

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 she did not love Leiland-James and was struggling to bond with him.

The following month, the Castles were told by a senior social worker she would not support any application to formally adopt Leiland-James at that stage and recommended further therapeutic parenting sessions.

The possibility of removing Leiland-James from their care was canvassed, but Laura Castle said her extended family loved him so he was ‘not going anywhere’.

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

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

Laura Castle wrote the youngster was a ‘proper n*b head’, ‘s**t bag’ and ‘top t**t’, while her husband said he was a ‘d**k baby’, ‘fat s**t’ and ‘toss bag’.

Laura Castle said the texts reflected her ‘sense of humour’ and should not be taken literally, while Scott Castle he was now ‘ashamed’ at sending the messages but he did not mean malice and was trying to sympathise with his wife.

She messaged on several occasions she had ‘leathered’ Leiland-James, although she told the jury that only meant smacking.

In one exchange in September 2020 she wrote: ‘I’m seriously at my wits end, no one tells you about all this shit. I’m just an abusive parent so it seems.’

The youngster was a 'looked-after child' who was taken into care at birth before he was approved by authorities to live with Castle and her husband, Scott, 35, from August 2020

The youngster was a ‘looked-after child’ who was taken into care at birth before he was approved by authorities to live with Castle and her husband, Scott, 35, from August 2020

Scott Castle responded: ‘Your not an abusive parent, baby. Not at all. Don’t say that. I think he’s a little too f***ed 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.’

At an earlier hearing, Prosecutor Michael Brady QC had suggested to Castle that she had ‘smashed the back of Leiland-James’s head with significant force against the arm-rest of the sofa’.

He asked Castle: ‘What was so frustrating about this baby that caused you to act in this way?’

She said: ‘I was so tired and drained and overwhelmed. There was so much noise.’

Mr Brady said: ‘Why not simply walk away?’

Castle said: ‘I honestly think about that every second of the day and regret what I have done, and I have to pay the consequence for that. I accept that. What I’m trying to do is give my boy justice.’

Mr Brady said: ‘In what way are you going to give Leiland-James justice?’

She replied: ‘That this is my fault.’ Mr Brady asked: ‘Are you continuing to lie now?’

Castle said: ‘No. I accept that my child has died because of me.’

Preston Crown Court previously heard Castle ‘lost her mind’ when Leiland-James wouldn’t stop crying after she gave him breakfast on the morning of January 6.

She told her barrister, David McLachlan QC: ‘I shook my beautiful boy. I just wanted him to stop crying.’

Mr McLachlan asked: ‘How much force did you use to shake him?’

She said: ‘I don’t know but I would say a lot.’

She explained Leiland-James hit his head on the back of the arm of the sofa and fell off her knee to the floor.

Castle said: ‘I picked him up. I just couldn’t take the crying. I don’t know who that person is and then it’s like I realised what had happened and I thought he was winded. 

‘I picked him up and his hands were like stiff, then he went floppy. He was like gasping and I just thought he was winded.’

In tears, Castle accepted she had killed Leiland-James. Mr McLachlan asked: ‘What went through your mind when you shook the life out of Leiland-James?’

Jurors at Preston Crown Court took just two-and-half hours on Tuesday to convict Castle of the baby's murder. She was also convicted of child cruelty against Leiland-James

Jurors at Preston Crown Court took just two-and-half hours on Tuesday to convict Castle of the baby’s murder. She was also convicted of child cruelty against Leiland-James

Castle said: ‘Please stop crying, please stop crying. I just wanted it stop.’

She said at the time she told her husband the boy had fallen off the sofa, but omitted to inform him about the shaking.

Mr McLachlan said: ‘Why didn’t you tell the people trying their best to save Leiland-James’s life what had happened?’

Castle said: ‘I don’t have an excuse. I just panicked. I was just terrified of the consequences of my actions and ashamed.’

Her barrister said: ‘And police officers in interview gave you every opportunity to tell the truth?’

The defendant said: ‘Yes they did. I told the truth but I didn’t tell everything like I should have done.’

She admitted she had not also given a full account in her prepared defence statement ahead of the trial.

Castle said: ‘I found it so hard to admit that your child has died because of your actions, and I can’t take that back.’

Mr McLachlan asked: ‘When you shook Leiland-James, what did you intend Mrs Castle?

She replied: ‘I didn’t have any intention. I just lost my mind.’

Laura Castle will be sentenced on 25 May. Cumbria County Council said an independent review was under way into the death of Leiland-James, with a report expected to be published in July.

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