Jail sentence announced for Sheppey baby killers
A mother of nine and her boyfriend have been jailed for causing the death of her baby boy from a catastrophic brain injury.
Danny Shepherd, 26, was sentenced to 13-and-a-half years today, while Katherine Cox, 33, received an eight-year term.
As well as the head injury, five-month-old Eli Cox was found to have 28 fractures to bones in his body and had also been exposed to drugs at his home on the Isle of Sheppey.
Shepherd and Katherine Cox, now of Faversham, denied causing or allowing the death of a child between April 12 and 28 last year and causing or allowing physical harm to a child.
They also denied possessing the Class B drug amphetamine on April 14, but a jury convicted them of all charges in August.
The judge, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith, said: “I am sure it was you Danny Shepherd who inflicted the injuries on April 13 that killed Eli.
“You continue to deny it but you know it’s true. I am also sure you inflicted the earlier injuries disclosed by expert evidence.”
He told Cox: “I am not sure you either took part in or were present when Danny Shepherd inflicted the injuries… but I am sure, and it is consistent with the jury’s verdict, that you knew well before April 13 that Danny Shepherd caused significant injuries to Eli, and there was a risk he would do it again.
“It is one of the shocking features of this case that you put your infatuation with Danny Shepherd before the safety of your baby.”
Maidstone Crown Court heard Eli suffered the fatal injuries at his home in Lapwing Close, Minster.
A medical expert said the 28 fractures of varying ages to 19 bones were consistent with being “twisted, pulled, crushed and bent in half”.
It was suggested the injuries were inflicted on many different occasions leading up to the child’s collapse on Wednesday, April 13 last year. He died two weeks later.
“Both were aware in the weeks leading up to April 13 and on the day of his death that Eli Cox was at serious risk of physical harm.”
Miss Knight said at the sentencing hearing: “There is a blatant and deliberate disregard for the welfare of the child by both defendants.”
Shepherd’s QC Nadine Radford told the judge: “Our instructions remain the same. He has dealt with the matter in the same way from beginning to end.
“He doesn’t accept any responsibility for it. He doesn’t accept any knowledge of the drugs found on his premises.”
Mrs Radford suggested Shepherd was naive in taking on the family.
He had been “battered” in prison locally, she said, and would have to serve his sentence some distance from home and hope other inmates did not find out why he was there.
Mr Justice Stuart-Smith said Eli died as a result of “a shaking impact type of injury”.
“I have no doubt that it occurred because of shaking and impact inflicted on Eli by Danny Shepherd on April 13 2016 in the short time he was upstairs and before he called for help,” he said.
“It was the head injury that killed Eli. At that time Danny Shepherd had amphetamine in his system, but it is not possible to say whether, and if so to what extent, it affected his behaviour.
“The fact he was taking amphetamines when also taking a major part in the care of a baby’s life is a further shocking aspect of the case.”
The judge said the groups of fractures would have inflicted significant pain on the child, though he would not have been old enough to express it like a grown-up child or adult.
He treated the fact that cocaine and amphetamine were found in hair samples from the baby as a marker for both Cox and Shepherd “of the chaotic and dysfunctional nature of Eli’s short life while you were meant to be caring for him”.
The judge said he was satisfied the possession of amphetamine found in the shed was not a one-off, as they were both experienced in using unlawful drugs.
The judge told Shepherd: “I sentence you on the basis that you inflicted the injuries before April 13 2016 that were found at post mortem, and that you caused the death of Eli Cox by what you did to him on April 13.
“The fact of prolonged and multiple incidents of serious cruelty and the significant level of force that you used both before and on April 13 indicate a high level of culpability on your part.
“The effect of what you did was that for much of his life Eli would have been in pain from fractures you inflicted.
“Eli was particularly vulnerable and could do nothing to protect himself or draw attention to his suffering. You knew what you had done in the past and you knew full well you were in danger of doing it again.
“You did nothing to keep out of Eli’s way and did nothing to obtain medical help for him after you injured him. It is, on my view, a very serious case of causing serious physical harm to, and eventually, death of a child.
Following the trial, Kent County Council confirmed that the Kent Safeguarding Children Board was carrying out a Serious Case Review to establish if Eli’s death could have been prevented.
Such reviews are carried out if abuse or neglect is thought to have been a factor in the death of a child.
However, the results of the process are not expected to be known until next year.
A KCC spokesman said: “The Serious Case Review is under way, but is unlikely to be concluded and published before February at the earliest.”
An NSPCC spokesman added: “Instead of nurturing and protecting baby Eli, Cox and Shepherd robbed him of the chance to live a long and happy life.
“Eli suffered unimaginable pain and suffering during his five short months and we hope the upcoming serious case review will shed further light on the circumstances surrounding his death and if lessons can be learned.
“Babies and young children are completely dependent on those who care for them and we all have a duty to look out for their welfare.”
Anyone who suspects a child is being neglected is urged to call police on 101 or the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000. Children who are being abused can call Childline on 0800 1111.