The baby boy killed at the hands of the woman meant to care for him

-Credit: (Image: Lancashire Police)
-Credit: (Image: Lancashire Police)

When Gemma Collinge dropped off her baby at his childminders with a kiss and a cuddle she had no idea that would be last time she would see her little boy alive.

Like most working mums, she felt sad to leave her baby behind, but felt comfortable knowing he was safe with a certified and experienced childminder. Karen Foster, 62, had over two decades of experience of caring for children alongside being registered with Ofsted. She had certificates in paediatric first aid and safeguarding.

But shortly after arriving at work Gemma received the call no parent wants. She was told Harlow, who loved Peter Rabbit and milkshakes, had suffered a 'medical episode' while at Foster's home in Hapton and had been rushed to hospital. Gemma and her partner, Allen Frangleton, rushed to their son's side.

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While they waited for news on their nine-month-old baby, they prayed the medics caring for Harlow would be able to save him. But as doctors informed them that Harlow was to be transferred to Manchester's Children Hospital, the parents received yet another devastating blow.

Foster had been arrested on suspicion of GBH. The doctor's believed what had happened to Harlow was no accident.

Karen Foster was a certified childminder -Credit:Lancashire Police
Karen Foster was a certified childminder -Credit:Lancashire Police

Gemma and Allen sat beside their little baby's bedside for four days hoping for a miracle but sadly on March 5, 2022, Harlow passed away from the injuries he sustained at the hands of his childminder.

His parents wanted to donate Harlow's organs to help other babies but were denied due to a police investigation now being underway and their son's body being a crucial piece of evidence as they tried to piece together how he had died. For 15 months police investigated into Harlow's death before charging Foster with murder on the July 4 2023.

The childminder appeared at Preston Crown Court, showing no emotion, as she entered a not guilty plea and denied the injuries that cost pink wafer loving Harlow his life.

Despite a trial date being set for January 4, 2024, the date came and went prolonging the family's want for justice for their little boy. Further delays came in March until finally on Wednesday June 5, Foster entered the dock wearing a white blouse and supported by a walking stick.

But before a jury could be sworn in, the press bench and packed public gallery were told there would be a delay to the start of the trial and it would not begin that day. It was the same on Thursday and again on Friday when Foster's defence team asked for the charge to be put on her again.

Muffled sobs could be heard from the gallery, as Foster stood in the dock and admitted she was 'not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter'.

With Foster admitting she had killed baby Harlow, High Court judge Mr Justice Cotter confirmed that the prosecution would accept her plea.

Baby Harlow is remembered as a little boy who loved Peter Rabbit -Credit:Lancs Live
Baby Harlow is remembered as a little boy who loved Peter Rabbit -Credit:Lancs Live

She admitted that shortly after Gemma had dropped off her son, he had fell from a chair and bumped his head, causing him naturally to start to cry. But his childminder lost her temper and shook him 'in frustration'. The fatal injuries which cost the baby his life, were caused purely by the shaking from Foster and not from his fall the judge confirmed.

Foster was remanded in custody and will be sentenced on 13th June. Mr Cotter warned her she would be facing a lengthy prison sentence.

Following Harlow's death, a close friend of Allen and Gemma, Mel Moon, set up a fundraising page in Harlow's honour and to give him 'the best send off' while also to support the family through the trial process.

She said: "We ask you remember Harlow for more than a headline. He was a funny, playful baby who loved Peter Rabbit, milkshakes and pink wafer biscuits. He loved it when his sister sang Adele songs to him, he loved his doggies and running around in his baby walker. He loved his family, his Mummy and Daddy, brother and sisters, and his grandparents so much.

"He has left a Harlow shaped hole no one can fill."