A woman has been found guilty of murdering her partner’s 16-month-old daughter who suffered “unsurvivable” and “utterly catastrophic” injuries.
“Psycho” Savannah Brockhill, 28, was today convicted of killing Star Hobson at her home in Keighley, West Yorkshire.
The child’s mum Frankie Smith was found guilty of causing or allowing the toddler’s death, but was cleared of murder and manslaughter.
Security guard Brockhill admitted saying she was the “number one psycho” and threatened to “put someone in a chair for the rest of their life” if they messaged her partner, the court heard.
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.”
He added: “We were just a quiet, lovely family and she ascended from the bowels of hell and just completely devastated and wrecked our family.”
Star’s murder has disturbing echoes of Baby P, the 17-month-old boy who died in London in 2007 after suffering more than fifty injuries over an eight-month period.
Prosecutors said Star suffered weeks of physical assaults and psychological harm.
The tot was taken to hospital on September 22 2020 but the injuries she had suffered were “utterly catastrophic” and “unsurvivable”, Alistair MacDonald QC told Bradford Crown Court when he opened the prosecution case in October.
The toddler died despite five different people warning social services her life was in danger.
The jury has heard that the injuries which caused the toddler’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”.
Mr MacDonald said Smith and Brockhill were the only adults in the flat at the time.
The prosecutor said investigations had found evidence on the little girl’s body which meant that “in the course of her short life, Star had suffered a number of significant injuries at different times”.
Mr MacDonald said there had also been two fractures to the toddler’s right leg “caused by forceful twisting”, which had been refractured as they healed.
He also described a fracture to the back of Star’s skull, and bruising, “much of which is considered to be non-accidental in origin”.
Jurors were shown a series of clips from a CCTV camera which prosecutors said showed Brockhill delivering a total of 21 blows to Star in a car over a period of nearly three hours, some as the toddler sat in a car seat.
The footage came from a camera at a recycling plant in Doncaster where Brockhill was working as a security guard, and was filmed about eight days before Star’s death.
The video appeared to show Brockhill punching and slapping Star with what the prosecutor described as “considerable force”, and at one point the youngster fell out of the vehicle. Brockhill also grabbed Star by the throat.
Another film which was shown to the jury, described by the prosecutor as “disturbing and bizarre”, showed Star falling off a plastic chair and hitting the floor.
The mobile phone footage had been slowed down with music added, plus a caption which said “in this moment she realises she has messed up”.
Another clip, filmed on both defendants’ phones, showed Star being so exhausted that she fell forward and went to sleep in a bowl of food.
Mr MacDonald told the jury the toddler was “clearly exhausted but treated completely without love”.
He said “there was also a degree of cruelty and psychological harm” inflicted on Star in the weeks and months before she died, as well as physical assaults.
A number of relatives and friends of Smith told the jury of concerns they had over bruises they saw on Star which, in some instances, they filmed.
Jurors were told that a number of referrals were by them made to social services from January 2020.
Brockhill, of Hawthorn Close, Keighley, and Smith, of Wesley Place, Halifax Road, Keighley, both deny murder and also causing or allowing Star’s death.
Summing up the case on Thursday, Mrs Justice Lambert told the jury that the prosecution case is that it was Brockhill who inflicted the fatal injuries on the toddler.
The judge said both women deny inflicting the injuries and each says it must have been the other.
Smith told the jury she was not in the room when Star suffered the fatal injuries, but did not suspect Brockhill until she reassessed the situation in prison.
Brockhill described how she ran into the room after hearing a thud and found Star on the floor groaning. She said she administered CPR to the youngster and called 999.
Five different people came forward to warn social services Star’s life was in danger.
The murder has chilling echoes of Baby P, who suffered more than fifty injuries over an eight-month period 14 years ago.
He was repeatedly seen by the London Borough of Haringey Children’s services and National Health Service health professionals during that time.
Star’s great-granddad David Fawcett, 61, from Shipley in West Yorkshire, who is the partner of Frankie Smith’s nana Anita, described the social services’ failings as “shambolic”.
Mr Fawcett said of Star: “She was so safe and then dragged down to hell” and said of granddaughter Frankie, that she too had been suffering domestic abuse.
“We could see from the bruises that Savannah was hitting Frankie and we were fearful she would hit Star. Our referral was classed as malicious, but there was no malice on our part. Anita has friends who are in the same sex relationships and she also has gypsy friends.
“We can’t understand why social workers didn’t come to see us. They had five chances to help Star and failed every time. It was shambolic.
“If social services had taken more notice Star would be alive today.”
A statement from the Bradford Partnership, Working Together to Safeguard Children, was released.
It read: “We want to say first and foremost that we’re sorry for the death of Star. This was a child’s life cut cruelly short. Two people have been brought to answer for their crimes – one has been convicted of murder and one of causing or allowing the death of a child.
“Anyone who has followed the trial will want to know what more could have been done to help protect Star. As agencies who have a joint responsibility to protect children, this has been at the forefront of our minds. Any death of a child, wherever it happens, is one death too many, but this happened in our district, in our community and has had a devastating impact.
“We are very aware as partners that there is much that we need to learn from this case. We have already put in place actions that will improve our practice so that we learn those lessons. But we need to fully understand why opportunities to better protect Star were missed.
“We must also learn everything we can from the awful murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. A national review has been established to enable this to happen. If we can contribute our learning to this review, we will do.
“We offered support and assistance to Star’s family for what we believed their needs to be, at that given time, but we all deeply regret that not all the warning signs were seen that could have led to firmer statutory enforcement action.
“A Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review is being written by an independent author. This is almost complete and, now the trial is concluded, the review will be finalised and published in January 2022. It will provide partners and colleagues in our district and across the country with clear recommendations so we can better protect children in our care.”