Social services were contacted five times over concerns about toddler Star Hobson who was murdered by her mum’s partner.
Savannah Brockhill, 28, was found guilty after trial of murdering the 16-month-old in Keighley, West Yorkshire.
Star’s mum Frankie Smith, 20, was also accused of murder, however she was convicted of allowing the toddler’s death.
A timeline of events show social services were contacted several times by family and friends - however Star remained with Smith and Brockhill.
In a harrowing 999 call made after Star sustained her fatal injuries Brockhill can be heard saying there were only other young children in the room with the toddler. She also said the youngster was “floppy” and that she had performed CPR on her.
During the course of the trial, Brockhill had tried to blame a young child for causing the fatal injuries to the tot, claims prosecutors branded “absurd”.
At a glance 5 key points
- Savannah Brockhill found guilty of Star’s murder
- Star’s mum Frankie Smith was cleared of murder but found guilty of allowing the toddler’s death
- Star was taken to hospital on September 22 last year, her injuries were “unsurvivable”
- Family members had raised concerns with social services
- Brockhill and Smith will be sentenced on Wednesday
During the eight-week trial jurors heard that Smith’s family and friends had growing fears about bruising they saw on the little girl in the months before she died and made a series of complaints to social services.
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.
The verdicts come less than a fortnight after the stepmother of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, Emma Tustin, was found guilty of his murder.
Judge Mrs Justice Lambert said Brockhill and Smith will be sentenced on Wednesday.
What has Star’s family said?
Star Hobson’s great-grandmother was so concerned about the toddler’s welfare that she would tell people: “Little Star’s going to finish up a star in the sky”.
Anita Smith’s partner, David Fawcett, said Star’s mother – their granddaughter, Frankie Smith – changed after meeting Savannah Brockhill and described how they were frozen out for the final months of Star’s life, between April and September 2020.
Mr Fawcett, a postman from Baildon, Bradford, said they approached social services when family members told them Brockhill was “slam-choking” Star and threatening to shave off her hair.
He said: “When Anita made her complaint, she actually said, ‘look, we don’t want another Baby P on our hands here, do we?’.
“The lady on the phone from social services said, ‘how do you mean?’, and we were shocked at her reaction.
“Well, Baby P died through abuse, and we’re making a complaint.
“My first reaction would have been, ‘yeah, right, we’re on the ball, we’ll sort this one out, we don’t want another Baby P. Especially with them being the social services.
“It just came across as being a bit shambolic, really, Absolutely shambolic.”
Mr Fawcett, 61, said: “Baby Star, she was amazing.
He said: “Anita can’t bear to look at a picture of Star. She’s so distraught with what’s happened.”
Mr Fawcett said: “I know we’ve lost Star but we’ve also lost Frankie as well. Her life’s ruined now anyway.”
“I’m just pleased we got a murder conviction for Savannah Brockhill. To me she was just pure evil.”
He said: “We were just a quiet, lovely family and she ascended from the bowels of hell and just completely devastated and wrecked our family.”
What were Star’s injuries?
Star was taken to hospital on 22 September, 2020 but the injuries she had suffered were “utterly catastrophic” and “unsurvivable”, Alistair MacDonald QC told Bradford Crown Court when he opened the prosecution case in October.
Brockhill, of Hawthorn Close, Keighley, and Smith, of Wesley Place, Halifax Road, Keighley, both denied murder and also causing or allowing Star’s death.
The jury, which retired on Thursday, heard the injuries which caused the toddler’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”.
Mr MacDonald said Smith and Brockhill were the only adults in the flat at the time.
Jurors also heard there were a number of other injuries on her body sustained at different times”.
Mr MacDonald said there had also been two fractures to the toddler’s right leg “caused by forceful twisting”, which had been refractured as they healed.
He also described a fracture to the back of Star’s skull, and bruising, “much of which is considered to be non-accidental in origin”.
What had been said during the trial?
Jurors were shown a series of clips from a CCTV camera which prosecutors said showed Brockhill delivering 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 video 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.
Another film which was shown to the jury, described by the prosecutor as “disturbing and bizarre”, showed Star falling off a plastic chair and hitting the floor.
The mobile phone footage had been slowed down with music added, plus a caption which said “in this moment she realises she has messed up”.
Another clip, filmed on both defendants’ phones, showed Star being so exhausted that she fell forward and went to sleep in a bowl of food.
Mr MacDonald told the court the couple tried to pin the blame on another child when quizzed by cops.
During a 999 call Brockhill claimed she had been in the kitchen making coffee when she “heard a bang”. She can be heard telling the operator: “She was crying, she stopped crying, she was sick and now she’s just a little bit floppy to be honest with you.”
Later in the call she said: “She started to lose breath so I performed CPR on her.”
What happened with complaints to social services?
In January a friend of Smith’s makes the first contact with social services over concerns about domestic violence and how much time she is left looking after Star.
Police and social workers visit Star but no concerns are raised. In early February Star goes to live with her great-grandparents, David Fawcett and Anita Smith at their home in Baildon, Bradford, after Smith says she has split up with Brockhill.
In April 26 Star is removed from Anita Smith’s house by her mother and taken to live with Smith and Brockhill in Keighley.
Anita Smith contacts social services after she is told about Brockhill “slam-choking” Star.
In June David Fawcett posts a picture of Star with bruises on Facebook alongside a happier shot and with the caption “From this to this in five weeks, what’s going on Frankie?”
On 21 June Star’s father, Jordan Hobson, contacts social services. Police take Star for a hospital examination. Smith says her daughter had hit her face on a coffee table. Two days later another friend of the Smith family contacts social services with concerns.
On 14 August David Fawcett and Anita Smith see Frankie and Star for the last time. Later that month David Fawcett is sent a video of Star with bruises and confronts Brockhill.
At the start of September another of Star’s great-grandfathers, Frank Smith, contacts social services after seeing video of bruises on the youngster’s face. Social workers make an unannounced visit.
On 15 September social services closes the case after concluding the referral to be malicious.
What have social services said?
A joint statement from safeguarding agencies in Bradford said they “deeply regret” missing warning signs in Star Hobson’s case.
The statement was given by Marium Haque, interim director of children’s services at Bradford Council, Helen Hirst, chief officer, Bradford District and Craven Clinical Commissioning Group, and Bradford District Commander Chief Superintendent Sarah Jones of West Yorkshire Police.
It said: “We want to say first and foremost that we’re sorry for the death of Star. This was a child’s life cut cruelly short.
“Two people have been brought to answer for their crimes – one has been convicted of murder and one of causing or allowing the death of a child.
“Anyone who has followed the trial will want to know what more could have been done to help protect Star. As agencies who have a joint responsibility to protect children, this has been at the forefront of our minds. Any death of a child, wherever it happens, is one death too many, but this happened in our district, in our community and has had a devastating impact.
“We are very aware as partners that there is much that we need to learn from this case. We have already put in place actions that will improve our practice so that we learn those lessons. But we need to fully understand why opportunities to better protect Star were missed.
“We must also learn everything we can from the awful murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. A national review has been established to enable this to happen. If we can contribute our learning to this review, we will do.
“We offered support and assistance to Star’s family for what we believed their needs to be, at that given time, but we all deeply regret that not all the warning signs were seen that could have led to firmer statutory enforcement action.
“A Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review is being written by an independent author. This is almost complete and, now the trial is concluded, the review will be finalised and published in January 2022.
“It will provide partners and colleagues in our district and across the country with clear recommendations so we can better protect children in our care.”
What was said after the verdict?
Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Swift, of the Homicide and Major Enquiry team, who led the investigation, said: “This was one of the most distressing and heart-breaking cases our team has seen. Star was a young baby who had her whole life ahead of her and she tragically died at the hands of those who were meant to protect and care for her.
“I welcome the verdicts from the jury for both Smith and Brockhill, their actions were absolutely barbaric against a defenceless young baby, whose life was cruelly cut short.”
Meanwhile, an NSPCC spokesperson said: “This awful case comes as many of us are still upset and horrified over what happened to Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. We must do all we can to prevent cruelty and abuse to children. As always, we urge anyone who has concerns about the safety or wellbeing of a child to contact the local authorities, the police or the NSPCC helpline.”
This article will continue to be updated with more information.
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