The woman who murdered 16-month-old Star Hobson must serve a minimum of 25 years in prison, according to a judge who said the toddler’s short life was “marked by neglect, cruelty and injury”.
Bouncer and security guard Savannah Brockhill, 28, was jailed for life at Bradford Crown Court alongside Star’s mother, Frankie Smith, 20, who was handed an eight-year sentence for allowing her daughter’s death.
The killing of Star and details of how she was subjected to months of assaults and psychological harm have caused a national outcry, especially as the trial came so soon after the case of murdered Solihull six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.
Star’s great-grandfather, David Fawcett, has led the questioning over why social services and police did not act despite five different family members and friends raising concerns with the authorities in the eight months before she died.
Sentencing Brockhill and Smith on Wednesday, the judge, Mrs Justice Lambert, praised Mr Fawcett and other family members for the support they offered Star but which was pushed away.
She said: “Those who loved Star are as bewildered as they are angry and sad at all that has been lost.”
The judge told the pair: “(Star) was 16 months when she was murdered.
“Her short life was marked by neglect, cruelty and injury.
“She was murdered by you Savannah Brockhill. Frankie Smith, it was your role as her mother to protect Star from harm.”
She said the “fatal punch or kick” to Star caused the toddler to lose half the blood in her body and damaged her internal organs.
The judge said: “The level of force required to inflict these injuries must have been massive – similar to those forces associated with a road traffic accident.
“Only you both know what triggered that fatal assault.
“The violent attack which led to Star’s death was not, however, an isolated event.”
The judge said Star was also found to have suffered two brain injuries, numerous ribs fractures, the fracture and refracture of her leg and a skull fracture.
“She was also treated with, at best, callous indifference by you both and, on many occasions, with frank cruelty.”
The judge pointed to footage shown many times during the trial of Star “clearly desperately in need of sleep” falling off her chair and “dangerously hitting her head on the floor”.
She said both defendants filmed the incident and “you both found this funny”.
Mrs Justice Lambert said: “The question which those who have watched the evidence unfold will be asking is why anyone would or could behave in such a way towards a young and vulnerable child who should be cherished and protected rather than abused and neglected.
“The answer to that question is clear to me.
“Star was caught up in the crossfire of your relationship.”
The judge said to Smith: “You, as a rather immature and impressionable girl, became obsessed by her (Brockhill)”.
But she said to Smith: “I take into account that you have lost your daughter, Star.
“You played a role in her death by allowing that death. This is something which you will have to live with for the rest of your life.
“I do not underestimate the weight of that burden which you must carry.”
After she was found guilty of murder on Tuesday, Brockhill was branded “pure evil” by Mr Fawcett, who said she had “ascended from the bowels of hell”.
The Bradford Partnership, which includes the agencies which had contact with Star during her short life, said on Tuesday: “We need to fully understand why opportunities to better protect Star were missed.”
The safeguarding partnership said a review into the case will be published next month, but it “deeply regrets” that “not all the warning signs” were spotted.
Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchliffe said Star was “let down”.
Keighley and Ilkley Tory MP Robbie Moore said Bradford Council leaders should “hang their heads in shame” and resign.
Star was taken to hospital from the flat where she lived with Smith in Wesley Place, Keighley, on September 22 2020, 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.
In each case, Brockhill, of Hawthorn Close, Keighley, and Smith, of Wesley Place, Halifax Road, Keighley, managed to convince social workers that marks on Star were accidental or that the complaints were made maliciously by people who did not like their relationship.
Brockhill was jailed for life on Wednesday with a minimum term of 25 years before she is considered for parole.
Smith was cleared of murder but was convicted of causing or allowing the toddler’s death – an offence with a 14-year maximum prison sentence.
Mitigating on Wednesday, Zafar Ali QC, for Smith, said: “She is herself a victim of the murder count, having lost her daughter.”
Mr Ali asked the judge to take a number of things into account before sentencing Smith, including that she is “remorseful for her wilful ill-treatment of Star”.