Leiland-James Corkill: Foster mother who murdered baby she hoped to adopt jailed for life

·3-min read
Leiland-James Corkill was on a life-support machine in hospital with catastrophic head injuries (Supplied)
Leiland-James Corkill was on a life-support machine in hospital with catastrophic head injuries (Supplied)

A woman has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 18 years for murdering a baby she was trying to adopt.

Laura Castle, 38, was convicted of battering 13-month-old Leiland-James Corkill to death less than five months after she and husband Scott Castle, 35, had been granted care of the boy.

He was said to be a “looked-after child” who was taken into care at birth before he was approved to live with his prospective adoptive parents in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, from August 2020.

Preston Crown Court previously heard how Castle told authorities Leiland-James had fallen off the sofa when he was taken to hospital with catastrophic head injuries in January 2021.

Castle rang for an ambulance on the morning of 6 January 2021 and reported Leiland-James had fallen off the sofa, injured his head and was struggling to breathe.

However, hospital medics raised concerns as the extent of his injuries did not match her account.

Leiland-James died the following day as Laura Castle maintained to police, as well as family and friends, that the death was a tragic accident while her husband, a night shift worker, was asleep.

She stuck to her story until the day the jury was sworn in last month for her trial at Preston Crown Court when she pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Her new version of events was she had shaken Leiland-James after he had not stopped crying at breakfast and his head hit the arm-rest of the sofa before he fell off her knee on to the floor.

Laura Castle has been jailed for life for the murder of one-year-old Leiland-James Corkill (Cumbria Police/PA)
Laura Castle has been jailed for life for the murder of one-year-old Leiland-James Corkill (Cumbria Police/PA)

Medical experts told the court though that the degree of force required to cause Leiland-James’ injuries would have been “severe” and likely to be a combination of shaking and an impact with a solid surface.

Prosecutor Michael Brady QC said it was the Crown’s case she killed the boy as she lost her temper and suggested she smashed the back of his head against a piece of furniture.

Former care worker Laura Castle denied intending to kill Leiland-James or seriously harm him – but jurors took just two-and-half hours convict her of murder.

She was also convicted of child cruelty against Leiland-James.

Sentencing, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker told her: “Precisely what took place on 6 January may never be known as even now I do not consider you told the jury the full circumstances leading up to the death of Leiland-James.

Laura Castle, 38, videoed herself pulling faces while a child lay crying in a hospital bed (SWNS)
Laura Castle, 38, videoed herself pulling faces while a child lay crying in a hospital bed (SWNS)

“I consider your account significantly underplays the extent and degree of violence you inflicted.”

Scott Castle, who worked as a machinist at defence firm BAE Systems, was found not guilty of allowing Leiland-James’ death.

He was also cleared of child cruelty.

He said he never had any concerns that anything bad was going to happen with the boy and he trusted his wife.

When detectives examined the couple’s mobile phones following their arrest, they found text messages which were derogatory towards Leiland-James.

Laura Castle wrote that the youngster was a “proper nob head”, “s*** bag” and “top t***”, while her husband said he was a “d*** baby” and a “toss bag”.

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

In November 2020 concerns were raised that Laura Castle had said during a home visit that she did not love Leiland-James and was struggling to bond with him.

The possibility of removing the youngster from their care was later canvassed, but Laura Castle said her extended family loved him so he was “not going anywhere”.

An independent review into the adoption process is due to report back in July.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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