UK

Mother Rebecca Shuttleworth Guilty Of Murdering Two-Year-Old Son Keanu Williams

24/06/2013 19:51 BST | Updated 24/08/2013 10:12 BST
PA

A mother is facing a life sentence for murdering her two-year-old son after professionals failed to take action to save him from months of "horrifying" ill-treatment and abuse.

Rebecca Shuttleworth was described as a "monster" by a senior detective after being convicted of murdering Keanu Williams and four counts of child cruelty.

Shuttleworth, who will be sentenced tomorrow at Birmingham Crown Court, beat Keanu to death after apparently convincing her support worker that she had turned her life around.

The 25-year-old is also known to have explained away numerous injuries to her son by saying he had been fighting with siblings or was clumsy.

A serious case review into Keanu's death, which is expected to examine social services contact with his mother, will be published in the near future.

In a statement issued after Shuttleworth was unanimously convicted following a six-month trial, the chair of Birmingham's Safeguarding Children Board acknowledged that chances to take action had been missed.

Jane Held, the independent chair of the multi-agency Board, said: "This is an extremely sad case and my sympathies are with those who knew Keanu.

"The person responsible for his death has been held to account; following a trial Keanu's mother Rebecca Shuttleworth has been convicted of murder.

"Her partner Luke Southerton has been convicted of wilful assault."

Ms Held added: "It is already clear that there are lessons to learn from how various agencies worked together to support Keanu and his family.

"The serious case review into Keanu's death will now be completed and will be published shortly.

"This review will identify those lessons, establish what has changed since Keanu's death and importantly make recommendations on how we can further improve the safeguarding of children in Birmingham.

"While we can't go into detail prior to the review being made public, it is clear from this trial that professionals in the different agencies involved missed a significant number of opportunities to intervene and take action."

Southerton was cleared by the jury of murder, manslaughter and causing or allowing Keanu's death, but convicted on one count of cruelty.

Shuttleworth closed her eyes briefly, bit her lip, looked upwards and shook her head after the jury found her guilty on all the charges she faced.

Keanu, whose body showed 37 external marks of injury, was pronounced dead on January 9, 2011, after paramedics arrived at Southerton's flat in Old Moat Way, Ward End.

Southerton, 32, and Shuttleworth, formerly of Hay Mills, Birmingham, both denied any involvement in Keanu's death at their trial.

The todder's lifeless body was found by paramedics after Southerton dialled 999, claiming the boy had stopped breathing, was pale and had not been well.

Although fatal injuries had been inflicted on the boy up to 48 hours earlier, Shuttleworth did not seek medical help before the 999 call was made at 7.42pm on January 9.

It is thought Keanu, known to his family as "Kiwi", suffered his fatal injuries after arriving with his mother to stay at Southerton's flat on January 7.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Christopher Hotten QC told the jury Keanu's injuries were not an "isolated event" but had been the culmination of a long period of ill-treatment.

Mr Hotten claimed the fact that Shuttleworth had not sought help for Keanu "until it was too late" was potent evidence that she knew his injuries were "incapable of sensible explanation".

The majority of the bruising found by pathologists was to Keanu's lower chest and abdomen, but there were also areas of bruising to the head and back.

A post-mortem examination also identified "tramline" bruising consistent with Keanu having been struck with an object such as a stick or rod with some force.

A fist-sized tear was also found in part of Keanu's abdomen, which had caused substantial bleeding.

Shuttleworth, who faces a mandatory life term, was remanded in custody and will be sentenced alongside Southerton, who remains on bail.

Southerton, whose barrister said he would be seeking a non-custodial sentence, was convicted of one aspect of one count of child cruelty - an assault on Keanu - but unanimously acquitted of all the other charges he faced.

Speaking outside the court building, Detective Chief Inspector Caroline Marsh, who led the inquiry, said: "Whilst we have seen justice done, it does not change the fact that Keanu has lost his life in heart-breaking circumstances.

"My sympathy rests with the friends and family he left behind."

Describing the case as extremely tragic, the detective went on: "The investigation team have all worked extremely hard to find their way through the last two years.

"It's extremely difficult to understand how someone could do that to their own child.

"Rebecca Shuttleworth is clearly somebody who is not like a normal member of society. In the past, I have described her as a monster and perhaps I would stand by that.

"He suffered at the hand of his mother, who should have loved him unconditionally.

"To do the type of things that she has done to Keanu is just unthinkable."

Asked whether more could have been done by agencies involved with Shuttleworth to protect Keanu, Ms Marsh replied: "Everyone will have their own view on whether anything else could have been done.

"Perhaps the answer to that question will be in the serious case review."

Tom Rahilly, of the NSPCC, said: "This is an extremely sad and distressing case.

"It is clear that little Keanu, a defenceless toddler, had suffered unthinkable abuse and neglect at the hands of his mother Rebecca Shuttleworth for many months prior to the final, brutal beating which led to his death.

"Tragically, Keanu's short life was blighted by abuse by the person who should have cared for and protected him from harm. Today's guilty verdict means we are one step closer to gaining justice for Keanu.

"It's vital that we spot the signs of abuse and take early action to prevent harm."