14 December 2021

Woman found guilty of murdering toddler Star Hobson

14 December 2021

A woman has been found guilty of murdering 16-month-old Star Hobson, who endured months of assaults and psychological harm before suffering “utterly catastrophic” injuries in her home.

Savannah Brockhill, 28, was the partner of Star’s mother, Frankie Smith, who was cleared of murder at Bradford Crown Court on Tuesday but convicted of causing or allowing the toddler’s death.

Star was taken to hospital on September 22 2020 from the flat where she lived with her mother in Keighley, West Yorkshire, but her injuries were “utterly catastrophic” and “unsurvivable”, prosecutors told the two-month 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 in a case that caused widespread shock and revulsion.

Judge Mrs Justice Lambert said Brockhill and Smith will be sentenced on Wednesday.

According to those in court, Smith cried uncontrollably as the verdicts were delivered.

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”.

Prosecutor Alistair MacDonald QC said there had been two fractures to Star’s right leg “caused by forceful twisting” which had been refractured as they healed.

There was also a degree of cruelty and psychological harm

He also described a fracture to the back of the skull and bruising to Star, “much of which is considered to be non-accidental in origin”.

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.

Mr MacDonald said 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. She also grabbed Star by the throat.

Another video 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 slept in a bowl of food.

Mr MacDonald told the jury 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 youngster in the weeks and months before she died as well as physical assaults.

A number of relatives and friends of Smith told the jury of concerns they had over bruises they saw on Star which, in some instances, they filmed.

Brockhill, 28, of Hawthorn Close, Keighley, and Smith, 20, of Wesley Place, Halifax Road, Keighley, both denied murder and also causing or allowing Star’s death.

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