The father of murdered toddler Star Hobson has said he will never recover from the “callous and cruel way” in which his “precious daughter” was taken from him.
Bouncer and security guard Savannah Brockhill was jailed for life and told she must serve at least 25 years for the murder of Star Hobson.
The court also heard how Brockhill, and Star’s mum Frankie Smith who was locked up for eight years for allowing her death, had found it funny when the toddler fell off a chair and hit her head.
Brockhill, who was branded “pure evil” by Star’s family, kicked or punched the tot leading to her bleeding to death, the force to cause her injuries was so “massive” it was similar to that of a road accident.
After she died it was found 50% of Star’s blood had “escaped” into her abdomen.
The pair appeared at Bradford Crown Court on Wednesday for sentencing, during the hearing 20-year-old Smith’s defence said she was a “victim” having lost her daughter to murder.
While the court heard Brockhill had two cardiac arrests and seizures during the trial.
The verdicts came in the wake of the widespread outcry over the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, and the case was described by Boris Johnson as “shocking and heartbreaking”.
What did Star’s father say?
Jordan Hobson, who is a university student, split with Smith before she started a toxic relationship with Brockhill, a judge heard earlier this week.
He said on Friday: “The horrific death of my beautiful baby daughter has left me devastated and I will never recover from the callous and cruel way in which Star was taken from me.
“No sentence that a court can impose will ever bring back my precious daughter.”
What happened to Star?
The jury heard on Tuesday that Star endured months of assaults and psychological harm before suffering “utterly catastrophic” injuries in her home in Keighley, West Yorkshire on 22 September last year.
It had emerged that friends and family had contacted social services five times over their concerns about Star, yet the toddler remained with her mother and Brockhill.
In each case, Brockhill and Smith managed to convince social workers that marks on Star were accidental or that the complaints were made maliciously by people who did not like their relationship.
Star was taken to hospital from the flat where she lived with Smith in Wesley Place, Keighley, on September 22 2020, but her injuries were “utterly catastrophic” and “unsurvivable”, prosecutors told the two-month trial.
Prosecutors described how the injuries that caused Star’s death involved extensive damage to her abdominal cavity “caused by a severe and forceful blow or blows, either in the form of punching, stamping or kicking to the abdomen”.
Jurors also heard there were other injuries on her body which meant that “in the course of her short life, Star had suffered a number of significant injuries at different times”.
What did the judge say?
Sentencing Brockhill and Smith, Mrs Justice Lambert told them Star’s life was marked by “neglect, cruelty and injury.”
Mrs Justice Lambert said the “fatal punch or kick” to Star damaged her internal organs.
The judge said: “The level of force required to inflict these injuries must have been massive – similar to those forces associated with a road traffic accident.
“Only you both know what triggered that fatal assault.
“The violent attack which led to Star’s death was not, however, an isolated event.”
The judge said Star was also found to have suffered two brain injuries, numerous ribs fractures, the fracture and refracture of her leg and a skull fracture.
“She was also treated with, at best, callous indifference by you both and, on many occasions, with frank cruelty.”
The judge pointed to footage shown many times during the trial of Star “clearly desperately in need of sleep” falling off her chair and “dangerously hitting her head on the floor”.
She said both defendants filmed the incident and “you both found this funny”. Brockhill went on to send it to friends with a caption: “I’ve laughed so hard”.
Mrs Justice Lambert said: “The question which those who have watched the evidence unfold will be asking is why anyone would or could behave in such a way towards a young and vulnerable child who should be cherished and protected rather than abused and neglected.
“The answer to that question is clear to me.
“Star was caught up in the crossfire of your relationship.”
The judge said to Smith: “You, as a rather immature and impressionable girl, became obsessed by her.”
Brockhill delayed calling an ambulance for 11 minutes, though it was said in hindsight this would not have saved Star.
Mrs Justice Lambert said: “Instead of calling the emergency services you delayed whilst you Google searched home remedies for the serious effects of the injury which you had inflicted.”
What did Star Hobson’s grandfather say?
Star Hobson’s grandfather, Bernard Hobson, asked a court: “What did she do to deserve that her life, which had just begun, be snuffed out so prematurely?”
Mr Hobson, whose son Jordan is Star’s father, had to pause a number of times to compose himself as he read out a personal statement.
He said: “What did Star do to deserve that her life, which had just begun, be snuffed out so prematurely?
“It’s hard to comprehend that a girl that we knew could do something so heinous.”
He told a judge: “Star was snatched away, her life had barely started.
“We will never see her grow into a beautiful toddler. She would now be two years and seven months old.
“We will never see her start school and become a teenager and a beautiful woman with the world at her feet.
“We never had the chance to hear her talk, hear her call us grandma and granddad and see her grow up as a treasured member of our family.”
Mr Hobson said it was hard to hear during the trial about the “living nightmare” of her last months.
He said: “We will always have to live with the horror of what has happened to her.”
He added that he will be “forever filled with remorse and regret” that they could not keep her safe.
But Mr Hobson said he will cherish the good times he had with “a sunny, happy and delightful baby girl”.
He told the court: “We will never have another Christmas with Star but we will always have the memories of her first and only Christmas Eve and Christmas Day that were spent with her dad and us, her grandparents.
“We were so happy to see the delight on her face as she sat among her many presents.”
Mr Hobson said his son could not bring himself to make a statement himself but said he is “heartbroken and haunted by his baby daughter suffering in her little life and her tragic death which didn’t need to happen”.
What did Brockhill and Smith’s defence say?
During Wednesday’s hearing Frankie Smith’s barrister said she is herself a victim of her daughter’s murder, her barrister has told a judge.
Addressing Bradford Crown Court, Zafar Ali QC, for Smith, said: “She is herself a victim of the murder count, having lost her daughter.
“She was plainly unaware of the seriousness of the assaults being inflicted on her daughter.”
Mr Ali asked judge Mrs Justice Lambert to take a number of things into account before sentencing Smith, including that she has no previous convictions and is “remorseful for her wilful ill-treatment of Star”.
Kath Goddard QC, for Brockhill, said her client had written to the judge on Wednesday morning but the content of this note was not read to the court.
She explained how Brockhill’s arrest had put her whole family in danger and described how her brother-in-law had been subject to an “extremely violent assault”, leaving him with a fractured skull.
Ms Goddard said: “The wider Brockhill family have been, and I anticipate they will continue to be, subjected to intimidation or, at the very least, unpleasant behaviour which they do not deserve.
“Miss Brockhill is extremely conscious that she had brought this on her family.”
Ms Goddard said her client collapsed at the beginning of the trial and suffered three seizures and two cardiac arrests.
She said she discharged herself from hospital so the trial could continue but the cause of this illness has not yet been determined.
What was said during the trial?
The jury was shown a series of clips from a CCTV camera which prosecutors said showed Brockhill deliver a total of 21 blows to Star in a car over a period of nearly three hours, some as the toddler sat in a car seat.
The footage came from a camera at a recycling plant in Doncaster where Brockhill was working as a security guard, and was filmed about eight days before Star’s death.
The footage appeared to show Brockhill punching and slapping Star with what the prosecutor described as “considerable force”, and at one point the youngster fell out of the vehicle. Brockhill also grabbed Star by the throat.
The jury also saw another video, described by the prosecutor as “disturbing and bizarre”, showing Star falling off a plastic chair and hitting the floor.
Prosecutor Alistair MacDonald QC told the court the youngster was “clearly exhausted but treated completely without love”.
He said “there was also a degree of cruelty and psychological harm” inflicted on the toddler in the weeks and months before she died as well as physical assaults.
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