Teen found guilty of murder after causing 'catastrophic' brain injury to shaken baby

A teenager has been found guilty of murder after shaking his partner’s four-month-old baby to death when he was aged 16. Carl Alesbrook, now 19, caused bleeding on the brain, whiplash-type injuries and multiple bone fractures to Elijah Shemwell.

The horrific incident came just seven weeks after he met the child’s mother, India Shemwell, in November 2021. Alesbrook, of Matlock in Derbyshire, denied causing any harm to Elijah but was unanimously convicted of both murder and causing grievous bodily harm with intent by the jury at Derby Crown Court on Thursday.

Medical evidence presented to a five-week-trial showed Elijah suffered brain damage from being shaken on at least three separate occasions, including New Year’s Day and January 2, 2022.

Carl Alesbrook, 19
Carl Alesbrook -Credit:Derbyshire Constabulary/PA Wire

He also had 17 bruises around his chest, back and stomach, consistent with grip marks, and suffered rib and limb fractures, while his fatal head injuries were described in court as “catastrophic”.

Alesbrook told the court that he looked after Elijah alone while Shemwell was working away from her home in Belper, Derbyshire.

The court was told that days before Elijah was rushed to hospital on January 2, Alesbrook sent a Snapchat message to Shemwell calling her baby a “c***”, but he denied being “unduly angered or irritated” by the child.

India Shemwell
India Shemwell -Credit:Derbyshire Constabulary/PA Wire

Shemwell, who was aged 21 at the time but is now 23, has admitted to two counts of child cruelty, including the fact that she did not dial emergency services more quickly after Elijah became unwell.

The court heard she sent a video of Elijah unresponsive with a floppy arm to friends on Facebook to ask for advice on his condition on January 1. CCTV shown to Alesbrook’s trial showed Shemwell visiting a shop on the night of the fatal assault.

Jurors were told Shemwell also filmed videos of Elijah struggling to breathe before she dialled 999 at 10.33pm on January 2, leading to him being taken by paramedics to Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham. He died three days later on January 5.

Baby Elijah Shemwell
Baby Elijah Shemwell -Credit: Derbyshire Constabulary/PA Wire

Shemwell was described during her ex-partner’s trial as “a thoroughly inadequate mother” who both generally and specifically neglected Elijah and failed to seek prompt medical attention for him on both January 1 and 2.

Prosecutor Vanessa Marshall KC told the jury trying Alesbrook: “Whilst the prosecution heavily criticise Miss Shemwell for this neglect towards Elijah, it is not the prosecution’s case that she caused any of the injuries.”

Ms Marshall continued: “The prosecution is confident that a careful review of the evidence in this case puts this defendant alone with Elijah moments before the critical incidents… so as to make it inexplicable on the basis of coincidence that it was not this defendant who was responsible for causing Elijah’s injuries and death.”

At the start of the trial it was alleged that Shemwell’s sexual relationship with her baby’s father, who she was separated from, may have caused Alesbrook “some understandable frustration at the uncertainty of the status of his relationship” with her.

The prosecution also alleged that a toothache suffered by Alesbrook at the time caused him to “lose his temper” with Elijah.

Alesbrook denied that either of these factors caused him to act violently, but he was unanimously convicted by the jury after around 10 hours of deliberations. He and Shemwell will be sentenced on a date to be fixed.

Adjourning the case, High Court Judge Mr Justice Jeremy Baker excused the members of the jury from jury service for the next 10 years.

Opting not to order pre-sentence reports, the judge said of Alesbrook: “I know something of his background, which on any view is relatively sad.”

He then told Alesbrook, who faces a mandatory life term: “There is only one sentence that can be imposed but part of that sentence will be a determination of the minimum term that you will have to serve.”

Don't miss the latest news from around Scotland and beyond. Sign up to our daily newsletter.