Leiland-James Corkill: woman accused of murdering baby boy she hoped to adopt

Leiland-James Corkill died from catastrophic head injuries five months after being approved to live with Laura Castle

A foster mum is accused of murdering a 12-month-old boy she hoped to adopt after her frustration with him turned to hostility, a court heard.

Laura Castle, 38, has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Leiland-James Corkill, but denies murder and two child cruelty offences. She is on trial at Preston Crown Court.

Leiland-James, who was taken into care at birth, died from catastrophic head injuries five months after being approved to live with Ms Castle and her husband Scott Castle, 35, by authorities in Cumbria.

Mr Castle denies causing or allowing the youngster’s death and two child cruelty counts.

Leiland-James Corkill died from catastrophic head injuries

What happened to Leiland-James?

Ms Castle called 999 on the morning of 6 January last year from her home in Eskdale Avenue, Barrow-in-Furness, and reported that Leiland-James had fallen from a sofa, injured his head and was unresponsive.

He was rushed to Furness General Hospital and later transferred to Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in cardiac arrest and with a bleed on the brain.

Medics at Alder Hey raised concerns that his injuries were not consistent with the account given by the defendant, and Leiland-James died on 7 January having never regained consciousness.

Laura Castle, 38, has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Leiland-James Corkill (Photo: Getty Images)

Opening the prosecution case, Michael Brady QC said the couple were arrested and their mobile phones seized and examined.

Text messages on the phones revealed the couple had referred to Leiland-James in aggressive and unpleasant terms in the months leading up to his death, with Ms Castle calling him a “s**t bag” and “a d**k”.

Mr Brady said: “They had discussed Laura Castle’s use of unlawful physical chastisement … the Crown says that Scott Castle was not only aware of how his wife behaved towards Leiland-James but actively encouraged it.”

In messages sent to her husband, Ms Castle referred to Leiland-James as “a proper nob head”, “a d**k” and “a s**t bag”, while her husband said the baby was “a fat s**t”, “a n*b head” and “a t**s bag”.

Mr Brady told the court it was clear Ms Castle was struggling within days of the placement as family members assisted with his care.

On 23 September 2020 she texted aerospace nightshift worker Mr Castle: “I honestly really don’t like him lately, hes an absolute moaning winge bag and I totally regret doin this.

“I’m goin to lose my mind. He just pisses me off all the time, can never just have a nice day or night ever.

“Although I need to stop smacking him cos if I start I’ll not stop at one point and it’s not getting us anywhere and then I feel bad.”

The next day she messaged: “I’ve just absolutey leathered him, I can(‘t) take this anymore, he’s gonna have to go.”

Scott Castle replied: “Right OK baby. He’s really ruined it. At least we have tried.”

In a message sent on 25 September, she wrote: “I’ve just leathered him again, I don’t wanna do this. I’m seriously at my wits end, no one tells you about all this shit. I’m just an abusive parent so it seems.”

Her husband responded: “Your not an abusive parent, baby. Not at all. Don’t say that. I think he’s a little too fucked up for us to handle.

“Let’s just call it quits. I don’t want you to have a mental break down. Your more important to me than him.”

The prosecutor said pathologist Dr Alison Armour, who conducted the post-mortem examination, believed the degree of force needed to produce the serious head injuries was “considerable”.

He said she thought that most of the injuries were consistent with assault and that bruising to the head and face were consistent with slapping, gripping, pinching, prodding and poking.

Frustration turned to hostility

The Castles had been selected by an adoption panel following an application process overseen by Cumbria Children’s Services Department, the court was told.

In November 2020 a social worker reported from a statutory visit of her concerns that Ms Castle had said she did not love Leiland-James and that he “didn’t like standing”, was “lazy” and “big”.

The following month a review took place of the placement and the Castles were told the local authority would not support an application for a permanent adoption unless further therapeutic work was undertaken.

But the couple remained determined to go ahead with the process and a care planning meeting with social workers was recommended for the new year.

Mr Brady told the jury that Ms Castle had pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Leiland-James but did not accept she intended to cause him really serious harm or kill him.

He said: “It is the Crown’s case that set against a background of frustration, borne out of highly stressful domestic circumstances – including financial difficulties and an inability to bond with Leiland-James – Laura Castle’s frustration with Leiland-James turned to hostility as evidenced by her physical abuse of him culminating in his murder.”

The trial was adjourned until next Tuesday.