A woman who filmed her autistic stepson as he lay dying has been jailed for 15 years.
Leila Borrington, 23, killed three-year-old Harvey by slapping him “multiple times” around the head. She had subjected him to two other attacks in the previous four months which left him with a broken arm and marks on his face.
Nottingham Crown Court was told she lied about what had happened to Harvey, who had severe non-verbal autism, when paramedics arrived at her home in Main Road, Jacksdale, near Kirkby-in-Ashfield, in August 2021. The stepmother also delayed calling emergency services after inflicting “unsurvivable” injuries, including a skull fracture, on Harvey, instead sending a text message to the boy’s father reading: “Why does this happen to me?”
Borrington was found guilty of manslaughter and separate charges of assault and causing grievous bodily harm in February. Passing sentence on Thursday (16 March), Mr Justice Nicklin told Borrington: “You were 21 when the first offence was committed and 22 when you assaulted and killed Harvey.”
Borrington showed “lack of care and concern”
The “history” of the use of violence against Harvey was an aggravating factor in the offence of manslaughter, the judge said, adding that the cause of the youngster’s death “must have been a sustained violent assault”. The judge also said text messages sent by Borrington, and her immediate response after Harvey was fatally assaulted, had shown a “shocking lack of care and concern”.
He told Borrington: “During the trial we saw video footage of Harvey playing with his toys and placing items into the dishwasher. Within less than 30 minutes, further video footage showed Harvey unconscious on the living room floor.
“Precisely what happened to Harvey only you know.”
Borrington filmed Harvey as he lay “unmoving”
Borrington was found guilty last month of manslaughter and separate charges of assault and causing grievous bodily harm to Harvey, relating to incidents in April and July 2021. The 23-year-old, who was acquitted of murder, claimed Harvey “fell backwards” off a one-seater leather sofa at home, causing the fatal brain bleed.
Harvey, who spent most weekends with Borrington, died in hospital on 9 August, two days after paramedics were called and found him “deeply unconscious”, “unresponsive” and with “abnormal body posture”. Borrington’s trial was shown footage, filmed by her moments after Harvey’s collapse as he was lying on his side.
In the video – shot on Borrington’s phone and sent to Harvey’s father – she was recorded taking the boy’s left arm, lifting it up and letting it drop loosely to the floor, before continuing to film as he lay unmoving on a living-room rug. Prosecutor Jonas Hankin KC said the defendant’s behaviour was very unusual in the circumstances, did not appear to be an attempt to rouse him and suggested an absence of compassion.
“The lifting and dropping of his arm in that way, similarly, appears to show indifference to the obvious severity of his condition,” he told jurors. The prosecutor also claimed that Borrington targeted Harvey, who communicated through hand gestures and a handful of words, because he was unable to articulate when he was in pain.
Harvey described as “most loving little boy”
Prior to sentence, Harvey’s mother, Katie Holroyd, read a victim personal statement to the court, in which she paid tribute to her son as “the most loving little boy anyone could have wished for”. She told the court: “Harvey’s life was cruelly ended when he was only three years old. To this day I cannot bear to think of him lying on the floor dying with her filming him and delaying getting medical help.”
Describing Harvey’s death as a recurring nightmare from which she will never be able to wake, Miss Holroyd added: “We will always treasure the short time we had to spend with him. She (Leila Borrington) knew what she had done to him and she could have said so from the start.”
Instead, Miss Holroyd said, Borrington had “chosen to lie, no doubt to try and save herself”.