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'Manipulative, selfish' mother gets 24 years for toddler Ayeeshia's murder

Published 11/04/2016

Kathryn Smith wept as the jury returned its verdict
Kathryn Smith wept as the jury returned its verdict

A "devious, manipulative and selfish" young mother will serve at least 24 years behind bars after brutally stamping her toddler daughter to death in the child's bedroom.

Kathryn Smith, 23, was jailed for life on Monday following her conviction for murder after the savage attack on 21-month-old Ayeeshia Jane Smith at the family home in Staffordshire on May 1 2014.

Mrs Justice Geraldine Andrews, sentencing a weeping Smith at Birmingham Crown Court, said: "You are a devious, manipulative, selfish, young woman who would stop at nothing to get your own way.

"To that end you were prepared to tell lie after lie."

The judge added: "Ayeeshia was a particularly vulnerable victim, thin and slight of frame, deserving of protection and under the protection of social services for the whole of her short life.

"She was killed in her own home by her own mother - that is the grossest breach of trust."

The judge jailed Ayeeshia's stepfather, 22-year-old Matthew Rigby, for three years and six months after he was convicted of causing or allowing the death of a child.

Ayeeshia collapsed at the flat in Britannia Drive, Burton-upon-Trent, after suffering a fatal heart laceration - a type of injury usually only found in crash victims.

It emerged after the toddler's death that what the judge described as a "delightful little girl" had previously suffered a bleed on the brain from an assault at her mother's hands in February 2014, and a pattern of recent injuries including a huge bruise on her spine.

Ayeeshia, who was taken into care for a period in mid-2013, also had several broken ribs, and other marks and abrasions on her fragile body.

Smith, of Sandfield Road, Nottingham, who cried in the court dock throughout sentencing, and Rigby, of Sloan Drive, Nottingham, had denied having anything to do with the youngster's death but were convicted by a jury on Friday.

Mrs Justice Andrews told Smith: "You wanted to take care of Ayeeshia yourself but not at the expense of running your life, and especially your love life, the way you wanted."

As the young mother, wearing a grey sweater hoodie and with her dyed red hair pulled into a ponytail, gazed out from the dock, the judge told her Ayeeshia had come "a poor second" in her brief life.

She said: "She was a defenceless child, thin and fragile for her age, and it was your responsibility as mother to take care of her and protect her from harm, yet on the afternoon of May 1 2014, for no apparent reason, her life was brutally snuffed out in a vicious beating in her own bedroom, surrounded by her toys and playthings."

The judge criticised Smith for "maintaining a wall of silence" over what triggered the murderous attack, robbing the child's natural father, Ricky Booth, and other loved ones of vital answers regarding the toddler's last moments.

She told the young woman: "The picture you wished to paint of yourself of the down-trodden subservient mother is far from the truth."

Concluding her remarks, the judge added: "Neither immaturity nor lack of intelligence was a significant factor in the commission of these offences.

"Just a case of venting your anger on a defenceless child."

Rigby, meanwhile, who was unanimously cleared of murder and a separate cruelty charge, was guilty of what the judge called his "failure to act" over the obvious violence being inflicted by the little girl's mother.

The judge accepted he had become "a doting father substitute" to Ayeeshia, but had failed to stop Smith's violent outbursts against the youngster.

She told him: "You knew of the risk of serious violence to Ayeeshia but chose to do nothing about it."

The judge added: "Your failure to act when you could and should have done is something you'll have to live with for the rest of your life."

Mrs Justice Andrews said the abuse and neglect of Ayeeshia, known to social workers since birth, took place "under the noses" of child protection agencies including Derbyshire County Council social services.

"The outburst of savage violence which killed Ayeeshia was not an isolated incident and that violence was inflicted upon her repeatedly under the noses of all the various agencies that were supposed to be protecting her," she said.

A serious case review is currently being carried out by the Derbyshire safeguarding children's board to examine what lessons can be learned from the child's death.

After their convictions on Friday, Mr Booth had said in a court statement: "It's pure evil. No punishment is good enough and nothing will bring AJ back and I will always be left with the guilt that I wasn't able to protect her."

Detective Inspector Andy Maxfield, of Staffordshire Police, said: "Kathryn Smith is a vile, manipulative individual - the judge said as much - and I think the fact that she's going to prison for a minimum term of 24 years is appropriate."

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