Craig Smith, 28, has been found guilty of murdering his girlfriend’s son Teddy
A man has been jailed for life for brutally murdering his girlfriend’s two-year-old using ‘extreme violence’ and beating his twin sister until she was unconscious.
Craig Smith, 28, was today found guilty of murdering Teddy Tilston, two, and of causing actual bodily harm to his twin sister Cassidy.
Teddy was found with 42 devastating injuries including a bleed on the brain caused a week before his death, a torn abdomen and bruises to his head, ear, upper lip, neck, jaw, and back.
He died after a forceful blow to his stomach caused an internal tear to the wall of his abdomen.
In audio played to the jury at Liverpool Crown Court, Smith can be heard weeping into the phone as he tells a 999 operator that Teddy is dead.
He whimpers: ‘He’s not breathing. He’s a little two year old boy. He’s just been in the bath, he’s swallowed water. He’s not breathing his eyes are open. There’s no movement.
‘I’m trying, come on mate, come on. He’s two, come on, mate. I’m trying to breathe air into his lungs. He’s just gone to the world. His eyes aren’t moving he’s unresponsive.
‘He’s just dead as far as I can see. F***. Come on mate. Come on. I’m right by him.’
Despite appearing to be consumed with loss that the toddler was dead, in fact Smith was already trying to cover his tracks.
The court heard how he was ‘prone to fits of rage’ and once stabbed his mother in the face with a corkscrew.
He and the children’s mother Ashleigh Willett, 25, were both found guilty of two counts of cruelty to a person under 16, relating to each twin between July 2016 and March this year.
The court heard the couple smoked cannabis together and spent between £60 and £110 a week on the drug.
Teddy was found unresponsive by paramedics at the couple’s home in Birkenhead, Wirral, on March 1 after Smith rang emergency services to say he found the boy unconscious in the bath – but medics later said he was dry.
Sentencing Smith to serve a minimum of 17 years, Mr Justice Garnham told him: ‘It’s plain that you have a vicious temper and, without compunction, you took that temper out on the young children in your care.’
Teddy was found unresponsive at his home in Birkenhead after Smith rang emergency services to say he found the boy unconscious in the bath – but medical staff said the youngster was dry
Ashleigh Willett, 25, was found guilty of two counts of cruelty to a person under 16, relating to each twin between July 2016 and March this year
JUDGE SENTENCES CHILD KILLER TO 17 YEARS IN JAIL
Sentencing Smith, Mr Justice Garnham told him: ‘I cannot say whether you punched him or kicked him or used your knee on him but I’m quite certain that you struck him in the gut with such force to cause that internal bleeding.
‘I cannot speculate what might have caused that loss of temper but something, probably something trivial, happened in that house that lunchtime that caused you to fly into a rage and strike Teddy Tilston.
‘I’ve no doubt that your frustrations and short temper had resulted over the previous few weeks in numerous other injuries to Teddy and Cassidy.
‘Not all but the majority of bruises on the bodies of the twins were caused, I’m sure, by your actions.
‘It’s plain that you have a vicious temper and, without compunction, you took that temper out on the young children in your care.’
The trial, which lasted just over four weeks, heard Willett was not at home when the toddler died because she had taken Cassidy to hospital.
She returned home from work as a barber earlier in the day after Smith, who was looking after the twins and their three-year-old sister Darcie, told her Cassidy had knocked herself unconscious after running into a table.
But nurses at the hospital raised concerns that Cassidy’s injuries did not match the description of what had happened.
An examination of Cassidy showed she had a fractured wrist which she may have suffered up to six months earlier as well as a number of bruises.
Smith had no previous convictions when he carried out the savage murder but the court heard he had a disturbing history of ‘anger demons’.
Around a week before the toddler died the unemployed former bar manager headbutted the fridge in a rage after an argument with Willett.
After his arrest Smith told mental health nurse Lauren Diggory that he had ‘demons in his head’ and ‘wanted to die so he could not hurt anybody else.’
He also told her how he would ‘tie cats up’.
The detective in the case said: ‘No sentence, however long, will bring Teddy (pictured with his sister) back but Smith will spend a considerable amount of time behind bars and I hope this will bring some consolation to those who will grieve the loss of Teddy for the rest of their lives’
Teddy, pictured with his father Marc Tilston, had a bleed on the brain, as well as bruises to his head, ear, upper lip, neck, jaw, abdomen and back
Smith denied using ‘extreme violence’ on Teddy and told the court he had been ‘devastated’ when Teddy died. He denied deliberately injuring either child.
Willett sobbed while giving evidence as she was taken through the lists of injuries suffered by her children.
Asked if she had believed Smith was capable of injuring the children, she said: ‘Not until I had seen the evidence, no.’
But Nicholas Johnson QC, prosecuting, told the court it was ‘inconceivable’ that the children’s injuries could have gone unnoticed by their mother and her partner.
Detective chief inspector Paul Denn, who led the investigation for Merseyside Police, said outside court: ‘Teddy and Cassidy never stood a chance against his acts of aggression resulting in the tragic death of Teddy.
‘What has made this whole situation worse is that Smith continued to plead his innocence throughout, forcing all those involved to give evidence at a lengthy trial.
‘No sentence, however long, will bring Teddy back but Smith will spend a considerable amount of time behind bars and I hope this will bring some consolation to those who will grieve the loss of Teddy for the rest of their lives.’
The NSPCC said in a statement: ‘Teddy Tilston was murdered in the most shocking and brutal fashion by a man responsible for his care and protection.
‘It is heart-breaking to imagine the pain Teddy suffered and to think that he was powerless to escape his circumstances.
‘His young life has been tragically cut short and Smith’s lies and cowardly refusal to face the reality of his actions only add to the awful distress he has caused.’
Smith pictured with friends. Detective chief inspector Paul Denn said: ‘Teddy and Cassidy never stood a chance against his acts of aggression resulting in the tragic death of Teddy. Smith continued to plead his innocence throughout’
The NSPCC said in a statement: ‘Teddy Tilston (pictured with his sister) was murdered in the most shocking and brutal fashion by a man responsible for his care and protection’
The court heard Smith lost his job as a labourer before Christmas last year and the family had been forced to move house after getting into rent arrears.
Icah Peart QC, defending, said Smith was an inexperienced ‘de facto step-parent’ to the children and their older sister Darcie, three.
He said: ‘The fatal assault was likely to have resulted from an unpremeditated loss of temper.’
In evidence mental health practitioner Lauren Diggory said Smith told her he had not discussed his anger problems with anyone else due to ‘fear.’
She told the court: ‘The fear was that he had been taken to psychotherapy by his father when he was 14. He said he often went into fits of rage he could not recall unless reminded by others.’
Smith had already been visited by Ms Diggory and other medical staff twice on the day of the assessment, on March 5.
During the first assessment Smith had been ‘curled up in the foetal position’, not responding to medical staff, while he ‘dry-sobbed’ and appeared to have scratched his own face in the second assessment.
But Ms Diggory said she felt he was experiencing an ‘acute stress reaction’ to the death of Teddy and the accusations against him, and was not mentally ill.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr Paul Stephenson said Smith told him about ‘hearing voices’, although he later established these were ‘intrusive thoughts’ rather than hallucinations.
Smith admitted spending up to £110 per week on cannabis, and had a high reading of the drug in his blood almost six hours after Teddy’s death.
Willett was bailed to be sentenced at a later date.