The mother of an 18-month-old boy and her former partner have been found guilty of his murder after a night of “violent discipline” where he suffered 70 injuries to his body.
Alfie Phillips was beaten to death and smothered in an overnight attack by the pair fuelled by whisky and cocaine, and died with a “myriad of bruises”, broken ribs, arms and leg, and traces of cocaine in his body.
Following a nine-week trial at Maidstone Crown Court, Sian Hedges, 27, and Jack Benham, 35, will face life imprisonment for his murder, which took place in Benham’s caravan in Hernhill, near Faversham, Kent.
The boy was discovered blue and floppy on the morning of November 28 2020, and paramedics said it was “immediately apparent” to them that Alfie had been dead for some time.
Jurors took nearly 10 hours to reach a unanimous guilty verdict for the murder of Alfie.
Prosecutor Jennifer Knight KC had told jurors: “It is clear that he had been deliberately injured on more than one occasion, culminating in an assault perpetrated on him during the night of 27 to 28 November 2020 that led to his death.”
She added: “Jack Benham and Sian Hedges were in the caravan together throughout the night.
“Had either defendant not been joining in with the assaults, that defendant who was not part of it would have stopped the attack and removed Alfie Phillips from the caravan, and from the presence of the other who was carrying out these attacks.
“The fact that this did not happen can only be because both defendants agreed that the assaults should take place … they both agreed in meting out some sort of aggressive, violent discipline to Alfie that night which resulted in his death.”
During the trial, both defendants denied harming Alfie.
The court heard Benham, who is not Alfie’s father, said he woke up with the toddler under his leg in bed and he thought he had suffocated him.
The court had heard from Benham how he and Hedges began their relationship around September 2020 through meeting regularly at the same friend’s house where they would buy drugs.
Jurors had heard about older injuries Alfie sustained in the months before his death and their explanations for them, such as a cut under Alfie’s eye from playing with keys and his fingers being caught in the dog gate in Benham’s parents’ home.
Alfie was described as “good as gold” and “lively” by his father, Sam Phillips, adding there was “never a dull moment” with the toddler, who he said was always playing and laughing.
On the night before Alfie died, Benham said the pair were drinking, chatting and watching YouTube videos that evening as “just normal”.
But the prosecution said this was the time Alfie must have been violently assaulted.
Ms Knight said: “It was all a lie, the truth is you and Sian were both present and involved in that assault, you and Sian both killed Alfie.”
Benham, of Hernhill, Kent, and Hedges, of Yelverton, Devon, will be sentenced on December 19.
Reacting to the verdict, Kent Police’s senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Kath Way, said: “Today’s verdict will not bring Alfie back, but it does mean that Hedges and Benham lose their right to freedom and life as they know it.
“Alfie should have been protected and loved by his mum, instead Hedges and Benham inflicted unimaginable suffering on him during a sustained and lengthy night of violence.”
She added that the pair refused to admit what they had done and instead subjected Alfie’s family to a trial where details of “horrendous abuse” were detailed.
“Alfie would have been four now and would have recently started school. Instead, his life was cruelly taken away by those he should have been able to trust the most.”
An NSPCC spokesperson also commenting on “heart-breaking” case said the cruelty inflicted on Alfie is “devastating”.
They added: “We know that very young children are particularly vulnerable to abuse because they are completely reliant on the adults around them for care and protection.
“It is so important that anyone who is worried about a child’s safety speaks out about their concerns. People can contact the local authority, the police or the NSPCC Helpline.”
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