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Mother and partner jailed after abused toddler died with brain, spine and rib injuries

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
·4-min read
Martin Currie (left), who has been found guilty at Sheffield Crown Court of murdering his partner's two-year-old son Keigan O'Brien, and Sarah O'Brien (right), who was convicted of causing or allowing the death of a child and child cruelty. (PA/South Yorkshire Police)
Martin Currie (left), who has been found guilty at Sheffield Crown Court of murdering his partner's two-year-old son Keigan O'Brien, and Sarah O'Brien (right), who was convicted of causing or allowing the death of a child and child cruelty. (PA/South Yorkshire Police)

A mother who left her two-year-old son with her partner who violently murdered him has been jailed.

Sarah O’Brien, 33, was given eight years in prison on Tuesday for allowing or permitting the death of her son Keigan.

A judge said the mother was “aware, or ought to have been aware” of the harm posed to her boy by her then-partner Martin Currie, 36, who was jailed for a minimum of 22 years for murder.

Keigan O’Brien, who died in January just days after his second birthday, suffered a bleed on the brain, which caused his death.

Medical evidence found the force used against his head would have been similar to a crushed skull injury, a fall from a height or a road accident. Jurors were told this could have come from his head hitting a wall or floor.

Read more: Dad jailed for manslaughter of teen son who died from baby injuries

Sentencing, Mrs Justice Eady said to O’Brien: “The jury found that you were aware, or ought to have been aware, of the risk of serious physical harm posed to Keigan by Martin Currie.

“At the very least, you failed to protect Keigan, leaving him with Martin Currie to be subjected to the very significant force used in the incident that led to his death.”

During their trial, Sheffield Crown Court heard Currie and O’Brien had referred to the toddler as “w***stain” and “s***head” in messages to each other.

O’Brien did not get help when Keigan suffered two black eyes while under heroin addict Currie’s care in October 2019.

She said to a friend that he fell down the stairs and that she would not take him to hospital because “they will start asking questions”.

Police and an ambulance were sent to Keigan’s home in Adwick le Street, near Doncaster, on 8 January, when it was reported he was unconscious and not breathing.

A general view of Sheffield Crown Court, Sheffield.
The two were sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court. (PA)

He had been in the care of Currie while O’Brien was out, and the former had searched the internet for “irregular breathing”, “gurgling” and “unconscious” two hours before he sought help.

The couple claimed they found him in bed, not breathing, and did not explain his injuries.

The toddler was resuscitated and taken to hospital but he died the next day.

It was found the boy had suffered a fractured arm around the same time as the head injury, and in the weeks up to his death had also endured a fractured spine and fractured ribs, as well as previous bleeding on the brain.

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Blood was found on the wall by Keigan’s high chair, though this was not from when he was killed, and on Currie’s clothes, jurors were told.

The pair were found guilty of their charges on 10 November, with O’Brien also convicted of child cruelty, and sentenced on Wednesday.

O’Brien, who was cleared of murder and manslaughter, began a relationship with Currie six months before Keigan died. She was warned not to date him and witnesses said her attitude and behaviour towards her son changed.

Sentencing Currie, the judge said: “These offences involved the grossest abuse of a position of trust.

“You placed yourself in the role of Keigan’s father, your duty was to protect him, instead you abused, injured and killed him.

“You inflicted appalling physical suffering on Keigan before he died.”

The judge said Currie was “apparently triggered by a fit of temper” at being interrupted as he looked at porn on his phone, and “violently yanked” Keigan’s arm, which fractured his wrist, before shaking him and throwing him down.

His head hit the hard surface and he was left to “bleed on to his pillow”, and Currie ignored the wounded toddler to browse gambling and porn websites and contact his drug dealer in a “pathetic sign of your self-absorption”, Justice Eady continued.

She said: “It’s chilling to think that the gaps in your internet use provide the best evidence as to the time Keigan was fatally assaulted.”

The judge said Currie, 36, went on to search the internet for terms including “irregular breathing”, “unconscious” and “gurgling”, and, “in a particularly pathetic sign of your self-absorption”, made contact with his drug dealer.

Keigan’s biological father, whose name was not released by police, said: “Keigan was such a special little boy. He was lovable, playful, energetic and full of fun.

“He will always have a place in our hearts and will be missed terribly. He will never be forgotten and we are truly heartbroken.”

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