A 20-year-old woman was “a terrible mother” who was cruel to her toddler daughter but did not kill her, a court has heard.
Sixteen-month-old Star Hobson died on 22 September 2020 after being beaten to death in the flat she shared with her mother, Frankie Smith, in Keighley, West Yorkshire.
Smith admitted child cruelty part way through the trial at Bradford crown court. But she accuses her partner, Savannah Brockhill, a 28-year-old amateur boxer and security guard, of killing Star.
The pair, who had been in a “toxic” relationship for 11 months at the time of Star’s death, are both standing trial accused of murder and causing or allowing her death.
They both deny the charges. But they accept that instead of calling an ambulance they went on the internet, googling “shock in babies” and “how to bring a baby out of shock” 11 minutes before Smith’s phone texted 999.
The trial, which has been running for seven weeks, has heard that numerous friends and family members called social services to express concerns about Star in her short life. The first referral was made in January 2020.
Zafar Ali QC, representing Smith, said he was not going to pretend his client was a good mother. “Frankie Smith was a terrible mother. She was selfish and sometimes callous … and cruel to her own daughter,” he said in his closing speech on Tuesday.
“Her behaviour was more than immature and ignorant. Her behaviour was simply terrible. Frankie Smith’s priorities were all clearly wrong,” he continued.
But he told the jury that Smith had been telling the truth when she said she was in the toilet when Star suffered the catastrophic abdominal injuries that caused her death.
A pathologist previously told the court that Star’s injuries had been caused by “a severe and forceful blow or blows, either in the form of punching, stamping or kicking to the abdomen”.
Ali said that Brockhill punched Star and then tried to cover up what she had done by deliberately performing CPR wrongly on the little girl, pressing hard on her stomach instead of her chest. He called this “theatrics” that were designed to offer an alternative explanation for Star’s injuries, telling the jury that Brockhill had been a “star student” in her first aid class.
A postmortem found Star had other older injuries, including a fractured skull and leg. The prosecution has said Brockhill inflicted these the weekend before her death when she took Star to work with her at a recycling plant in Doncaster overnight so that Smith could go out drinking.
“Frankie is in the bottom 2% of the population for intelligence, with an IQ bordering on what used to be called mentally retarded, but in these politically correct times is referred to as extremely low,” Ali told the jury. He said Smith was “abnormally compliant” and “abnormally prone to going along with what an authority figure is telling her to do”.
But the prosecuting barrister, Alistair MacDonald QC, argued that Smith had been clever enough to convince social services the referrals were malicious.
Last week, Brockhill’s barrister, Katherine Goddard QC, told the jury: “To say the relationship between Savannah Brockhill and Frankie Smith was toxic is about the biggest understatement anyone could make. From the start, it was riddled with distrust and insecurity from both sides.”
The case continues.