A drug addict has been found guilty of murdering his girlfriend’s baby son after a campaign of “sadistic” abuse.
Jake Drummond, 33, fatally shook and hit 15-month-old Jacob Lennon early on 17 August 2019, leaving him with a face like a “panda”, the Old Bailey heard. In the weeks before, Jacob suffered yet more injuries to his face, body and genitals while the boy’s mother Louise Lennon, 32, failed to stop it, jurors were told.
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Five days before the killing, Drummond sent her a sinister message saying he was putting Jacob into the “torture chamber” in reference to his bedroom, jurors heard. It followed a meme of the Hollywood actor Ben Stiller in the film Happy Gilmore with the quote: “Now you will go to sleep or I will put you to sleep.”
In another message, Lennon referred to Jacob as looking like “a little madman” because of his bruises. The pair had denied wrongdoing and blamed each other for Jacob’s horrific injuries.
Following a trial at the Old Bailey, Drummond was found guilty of murder and wounding Jacob with intent. Lennon, 32, was found guilty of causing or allowing the death of a child having earlier admitted child cruelty.
The court had heard how social services had placed Jacob under a child protection plan under the category of emotional abuse in December 2018. But on 20 August 2019 Lennon lied to the social worker by saying she was on holiday in Hastings to skip a planned visit.
Meanwhile, Drummond had already embarked on “a campaign of deliberately assaulting and hurting Jacob”, Sally O’Neill KC, prosecuting, said. Drummond was frustrated at Jacob staying in bed with him and Lennon rather than his cot as the defendant struggled sleeping due to his cocaine habit.
On the day before the fatal attack, Drummond was also angered at having to go to a police station after a former girlfriend accused him of harassing her in a way that was “little short of obsessive”. Early the next day, Jacob was taken out of bed and shaken and hit so severely he fell unconscious, jurors were told.
Afterwards, Lennon concocted a story for emergency services that Jacob had fallen out of his cot. She also claimed he had tripped on the way from a supermarket back to their flat in Roehampton, south-west London, days before.
Medics found Jacob’s eyes were so swollen they could not open and he “looked like a panda”. He had more bruises on his forehead, temples and cheeks and his skull was described as being soft and spongy.
Jacob, who was later found to have traces of cocaine in his body, was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead just over an hour later. A post-mortem examination found he died from a fatal head injury, likely from being hit against a blunt surface while being shaken.
Some of his injuries were inflicted days or weeks before the final assault. Ms O’Neill told jurors: “There were 20 marks of recent injury on Jacob’s head, face and neck, 11 to his upper limbs, seven to his lower limbs and seven to his trunk.” She also said there were “sadistic” injuries to Jacob’s genitals.
The court heard that Drummond received a juvenile warning in 2005 for holding a knife against his mother’s throat and a conviction in 2008 for assaulting another ex-girlfriend by pushing her against a wall.
The other ex-partner he was warned against harassing also claimed he had previously grabbed her around the neck to the point she nearly passed out, jurors were told The jury deliberated over two days to find the pair guilty of the charges against them.
Mr Justice Sweeting adjourned sentencing until 24 April for reports to be prepared. Lennon was granted continued bail and Drummond was remanded into custody. Thanking the jury, the senior judge said: “It’s been a difficult case, I know, with a lot of distressing evidence for you to hear.”
An NSPCC spokesperson said: “The marks found on the body of little Jacob tell a heart-rending tale of cruelty dominating a life cut brutally short by Drummond’s cocaine-fuelled abuse.
“Jacob was utterly failed by those who should have been his protectors, and a child safeguarding practice review must leave no stone unturned in establishing whether more could have been done by agencies to protect him. We owe this little boy nothing less than a detailed investigation and a full explanation into the circumstances surrounding his tragic death.”