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Childminder branded ‘a monster’ by family of baby she shook to death

Harlow Collinge died after being violently shaken by his childminder (Lancashire Police/PA)
Harlow Collinge died after being violently shaken by his childminder (Lancashire Police/PA)

A heartbroken mother said a childminder who shook her baby boy to death is a “monster” who should be “haunted” by her actions.

Karen Foster, 62, was also branded an “evil woman” for killing nine-month-old Harlow Collinge after taking on too many children to care for and losing her temper with the youngster, Preston Crown Court heard.

Relatives of the “happy, healthy” boy shouted, “Scumbag bitch” from the public gallery as Foster was jailed for 12 years and seven months on Thursday.

Grandmother and mother-of-two Foster, a registered childminder with Ofsted, had hugged Harlow’s mother, Gemma Collinge at the hospital but later tried to suggest Ms Collinge was responsible for the child’s collapse on March 1 2022.

Foster finally admitted responsibility and pleaded guilty to manslaughter last week.

Ms Collinge, in a victim impact statement, said: “Harlow was enjoying his little life. He was a happy smiling baby.”

She also spoke of the “guilt” she felt, having made arrangements to move him to a nursery six weeks after first using Foster as a childminder, due to her own concerns about the number of children being looked after.

“All the red flags I missed,” she continued before recalling Foster trying to comfort her at the hospital, claiming Harlow had choked on pasta.

Karen Foster court case
Childminder Karen Foster admitted the manslaughter of Harlow Collinge (Lancs Police/PA)

She added: “She even put her arms around me. I can’t think of anything more evil. It is despicable. I blame myself every day for my son’s death. This monster, Karen Foster, deserves nothing. I hope her actions haunt her.”

Harlow’s father, Allen Frangleton, described Foster as “this evil woman” and added: “She knew the risk of shaking a defenceless baby.”

Outside court, in a joint statement, Harlow’s family said: “We do not know where to begin explaining what it is like losing our son in the most horrific of circumstances.

“Harlow’s last few days of life were absolutely terrible.

“He tried so hard to fight but, in the end, he just didn’t have the strength, she had done so much damage to him.”

Foster had been accused of murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter just before her trial started last week, for the first time admitting “forceful shaking” of Harlow causing his death.

Jailing her, Mr Justice Barry Cotter said that Foster, despite ill health and pain in her hip, chose to carry on looking after more children than she should have under Ofsted rules, and this contributed to her “loss of temper”.

“You should have been a safe pair of hands to which Gemma Collinge could ensure her precious child,” he said.

“I have no doubt you snapped on the first of March 2022, in part due to the fact that you were not coping with the demands of caring for four children.”

Earlier, Anne Whyte KC, prosecuting, said Foster had been a childminder registered with Ofsted for nine years before Harlow’s death.

But when she first registered in 2014, she did not say she was married and lived with her husband or that she sometimes sought help with childminding from other unregistered individuals, or that her health was poor.

In fact, Foster made two benefit claims for Personal Independence Payments in 2018 and 2022, claiming she felt constantly drowsy and tired, that sometimes she could barely move, or safely carry out daily living activities.

One complaint had already been made to Ofsted in December 2021 about Foster looking after up to 10 children, which she denied.

And Ms Collinge spoke of the same concerns to her family and she had already made arrangements to move Harlow to a local nursery, but they could only take him after his first birthday.

On March 1 2022, Foster was looking after two children aged four, and two more, including Harlow, under 12 months – breaking the rules of her registration with Ofsted.

He was dropped off by Ms Collinge at about 11am but in the early afternoon Foster dialled 999 to say Harlow was not breathing, adding: “I think he’s choking, he’s had like a fit and he’s not breathing.”

But the truth began to emerge as scans were taken of the boy, showing significant injuries to his brain, associated with the shaking of a baby and he was transferred to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

Consultants there agreed surgical intervention was not possible due to the “catastrophic” injuries to his brain. He died four days later in his parents’ arms.

Outside court, Detective Superintendent Allen Davies, of Lancashire Police, said Foster had spun a “web of lies” to hide the truth of what she had done.

He added: “My thoughts remain with Harlow’s family who have behaved with dignity while dealing with such an unimaginable and unexpected loss.”