Mother guilty murdering her baby son

PUBLISHED: 17:01 14 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:56 25 August 2010

A MOTHER who battered her 21-month-old son to death at the height of the Baby P scandal facing a life sentence today.

A MOTHER who battered her 21-month-old son to death at the height of the Baby P scandal facing a life sentence today.

Collette Harris, 30, of Byron House, Chapel Close, Dartford, left Bobby Louch with 40 injuries including severe brain damage, ruptured internal organs and two fractured ribs.

The toddler was still wearing a plaster cast for a broken leg he suffered in her care three weeks earlier.

Harris and Phillips of Dale View, Erith, both denied murder and causing or allowing the death of a child.

The mother was convicted of murder at the Old Bailey but Phillips was cleared of murder, manslaughter and causing the death of a child.

He had pleaded guilty to supplying cocaine.

Hospital doctors had given the Harris and her partner James Phillips, 25, the all-clear and ruled the fracture was 'accidental' after she insisted he had fallen off the sofa.

Bobby, who was fed only on custard creams and milk, was found dead in his cot on the morning of December 29, 2008.

Both Harris and Phillips insisted they never witnessed Bobby being hurt and blamed each other for the injuries.

Phillips shouted "Yes, yes yes" as the verdict was announced while his partner slumped in the dock sobbing "Oh my God".

Bobby Louch, nicknamed 'Warthog' because of his snoring, was born on March 5, 2007, while Harris was in a tempestuous relationship with Dan Louch.

The couple split up after returning from holiday in October 2008 and within a week she was seeing Phillips.

She appeared 'besotted' with him and allowed him to come and go to her home in Halcot Avenue, Bexleyheath, whenever he pleased.

Phillips was also allowed to look after the baby on his own despite being a drug addict.

He used £50 of skunk cannabis and up to £80 of cocaine a week and admitted in court that he could get 'paranoid' and 'senseless' on the drug.

The first warning sign came on December 9, 2008, when Harris called NHS Direct saying her son was unable to stand up on his right leg.

She said: "I was in the kitchen, he was in the front room. I came in and he was crying. He just falls over himself, he's a very clumsy child."

Harris also claimed that Bobby had fallen off the sofa the previous day.

But she later admitted that she first noticed he was hurt after leaving him in the care of Phillips for just half an hour.

When the child was taken to Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, he also had 'fingertip' bruises on his head.

Staff were initially suspicious of the injuries and gave Bobby a full child protection examination. They also checked Bexley Social Services to see if he was on their records - but he was not.

Harris complained to Bobby's father that she was being 'victimised' but was eventually given the all-clear.

An x-ray revealed the boy had a broken leg just above his ankle - but doctors may have missed two fractured ribs that were still healing when he died.

Consultant paediatrician Mariano Da Costa said: "I examined the skin very carefully to look for any suspicious bruises.

"This is immediately after Baby Peter so we were snowed with referrals.

"We have to make a judgement on what we see and what the interaction was."

Mr Da Costa eventually decided the injuries were non-accidental and Bobby returned home on December 10.

A week later Harris unusually asked Bobby's father to take care of him for a week.

Bobby returned home on December 27 without any bruises but the next morning he had bruises on his chest and was vomiting green bile.

It is believed that he had been punched or kicked in the stomach so hard that his liver, intestine and pancreas had ruptured.

When asked by a friend why she did not take him to hospital, Harris replied: "How could I take him to hospital with bruises like that? They will think I'm beating him up."

That night after Bobby was put to bed, Harris and Phillips watched a film on a new Freeview box that he had installed that day before having sex.

He then downstairs to play on the X-Box games machine.

At 2.30am on December 29, a neighbour heard a whimpering sound and cries of "Mummy, mummy".

A postmortem revealed he had 40 injuries including bruising to his head, face and chest.

Both continued to deny knowledge or involvement during the trial but implied the other was responsible.

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