Mum who killed son she feared she'd lose in custody battle faces life sentence

Speed feared she would lose her son in a custody battle (SWNS)
Speed feared she would lose her son in a custody battle (SWNS)

A mum who murdered her seven-year-old son is facing life in prison.

Lesley Speed, 44, strangled Archie Spriggs with a scarf before smothering him with a cushion on the day she and her ex Matthew Spriggs were due at a family court in a custody battle.

One week before Archie was found dead, Speed wrote a chilling letter to Mr Spriggs, saying: ‘I hope this pain lives with you until your dying breath.’

Their son was found dead on his bunk bed by Speed’s partner Darren Jones at their home in Church Stretton, Shrops, on September 21.

Mr Jones, who also found Speed on the bathroom floor with self-inflicted knife wounds to her neck, arms and wrists, claims she told him: ‘I killed him. I smothered him. I can’t put him through this.’

Letters found at Speed’s home also said she would ‘rather that Archie be dead than see him leave with his father’.

A jury of ten women and two men took five-and-a-half hours to find Speed guilty by unanimous verdict following a two-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court.

Lesley Speed denied killing her son (SWNS)
Lesley Speed denied killing her son (SWNS)
Speed, 44, strangled her son with a scarf (SWNS)
Speed, 44, strangled her son with a scarf (SWNS)

Speed, who wore a grey cardigan and jogging bottoms, burst into tears when the verdict was read out and shouted: ‘No, no, you’ve got it wrong.

‘My kids are my life, they are my world. Nothing would make me take their life, my kids are my world.’

Speed’s new partner Darren Jones, who found Archie’s lifeless body, said she was stressed and had sent a string of disturbing text messages before the murder.

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One text mentioned her son: ‘I really don’t want to be here. I wish we could just go to the coast and never come back or die so I don’t have to feel like this again.

‘I feel like I am losing it and I have an overwhelming feeling I am going to lose Archie.’

Just one week before the murder, teachers at Rushbury Church of England School in Church Stretton, alerted social services after becoming alarmed at Speed’s state of mind.

The court heard how Speed had been diagnosed with depression in 1998 and 2014.

Speed always denied murdering Archie and claimed she found his body hanging from his bunk bed but forensics revealed he had probably been strangled and smothered.

Ms Speed became so distressed that proceedings had to be halted (SWNS)
Ms Speed became so distressed that proceedings had to be halted (SWNS)

Following the sentencing, Speed became too distressed to appear in court.

Mr Justice Andrew Nicol said: ‘I think it probably is best if we leave things to tomorrow. That will give her a chance to compose herself and reflect if she is willing to come back.

‘It is an important matter for her.’

Rachel Brand QC, defending, said: ‘My client intends no discourtesy to your Lordship, she is very upset and doesn’t wish to be present to any proceedings this afternoon.’