Youngster had endured months of physical abuse
The woman who killed 16-month-old Star Hobson is “pure evil” and “ascended from the bowels of hell”, the toddler’s great-grandfather said after she was convicted of murder.
Savannah Brockhill was found guilty of murdering Star by a jury who heard the youngster endured months of assaults and psychological harm before suffering “utterly catastrophic” injuries in her home in Keighley, West Yorkshire.
Brockhill (28) was the partner of Star’s mother, Frankie Smith (20), who cried as she was cleared of murder at Bradford Crown Court yesterday but was convicted of causing or allowing the toddler’s death.
The verdicts come in the wake of the widespread outcry in Britain which followed the case of murdered Solihull six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes earlier this month.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was “shocking and heartbreaking”, adding: “We must protect children from these barbaric crimes and ensure lessons are learned.”
Speaking outside court, Star’s great-grandfather David Fawcett said: “I’m just pleased we got a murder conviction for Savannah Brockhill.
“To me she was just pure evil. I just can’t believe she could do something like that to a baby girl. We were just a quiet, lovely family and she ascended from the bowels of hell and just completely devastated and wrecked our family.”
Mr Fawcett’s partner, Anita Smith (70), was one of five people who reported concerns about Star to social services in the months leading up to her death on September 22, 2020.
Asked about the response of social services, postman Mr Fawcett (61) said: “It’s disgusting because there were five referrals. Not one of them did anything. It’s just beyond belief, really.”
Asked whether social services had missed the “blindingly obvious”, Mr Fawcett, who is Smith’s grandfather, said: “Yes.”
Leader of Bradford Council Susan Hinchcliffe said a review was under way into agencies’ contact with the family, but said: “Star was let down and we all want to know if anything could have been done differently.” Keighley and Ilkley MP Robbie Moore called on Ms Hinchcliffe and the council’s chief executive Kersten England to resign, saying, “Bradford Council bosses should hang their heads in shame.”
The verdicts came less than a fortnight after the stepmother of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, Emma Tustin, was found guilty of his murder in a case that caused widespread shock and revulsion.
The UK’s Department for Education said the death of Star was “deeply disturbing” and said it would “not hesitate” to remove children’s services control from Bradford Council “if necessary”.
Smith cried uncontrollably as the verdicts were delivered as the pair stood in the glass-fronted dock.
Star was taken to hospital from the flat where she lived with Smith in Wesley Place, Keighley, but her injuries were “utterly catastrophic” and “unsurvivable”, prosecutors told the two-month trial.
Jurors heard Smith’s family and friends had growing fears about bruising they saw on the little girl in the months before she died and made a series of complaints to social services.
In each case Brockhill and Smith managed to convince social workers that marks on Star were accidental or the complaints were made maliciously.
Prosecutors described how the injuries that caused Star’s death involved extensive damage to her abdominal cavity “caused by a severe and forceful blow or blows, either in the form of punching, stamping or kicking to the abdomen”.
Jurors also heard there were other injuries which meant that “in the course of her short life, Star had suffered a number of significant injuries at different times”.
Prosecutor Alistair MacDonald QC said there had been two fractures to Star’s right leg “caused by forceful twisting” which had been refractured as they healed.
He also described a fracture to the back of the skull and bruising to Star, “much of which is considered to be non-accidental in origin”.
The jury was shown a series of clips from a CCTV camera which prosecutors said showed Brockhill deliver a total of 21 blows to Star in a car over a period of three hours.
Brockhill (28) and Smith (20) both denied murder and also causing or allowing Star’s death. They will be sentenced today.