A 20-year-old mother accused with her lover of killing her 16-month-old daughter by ‘stamping on her abdomen’ had ‘disconnected’ from her baby when the pair entered a relationship, a murder trial today heard.
Frankie Smith developed a ‘strange and unhealthy obsession’ with her new girlfriend Savanah Brockhill, 28, at the expense of her daughter, Star Hobson, a judge was told.
Smith and Brockhill are currently standing trial charged with murder and causing or allowing the death of the baby in their flat in Keighley, West Yorkshire, on September 22 last year.
Brockhill stated ‘we’re going down for murder’ the day after Star died when the veins carrying blood back to her heart from her legs and organs of the abdomen had been torn, causing major blood loss, jurors were told.
Bradford Crown Court also heard on Wednesday how Smith’s brother, Benjamin, became concerned for the baby’s welfare after seeing a video showing bruises on her face.
Frankie Smith developed a ‘strange and unhealthy obsession’ with her new girlfriend Savanah Brockhill, 28, at the expense of her daughter, Star Hobson (pictured), a judge was told
Smith (left) and Brockhill (right) are currently standing trial charged with murder and causing or allowing the death of the baby in Keighley, West Yorkshire, on September 22 last year
Mr Smith said he was then left ‘fuming’ after seeing his sister out boozing a week later, having left Star with a baby sitter.
He told jurors: ‘I was disgusted Star had just been dumped with a sitter again so they could go out drinking.’
He also agreed that his sister ‘could have done more to protect’ her baby during this period, while being cross-examined by Zafar Ali QC, defence counsel for Smith.
In his evidence, Mr Smith explained that he initially viewed his sister as a ‘good’ mother.
He said she had chosen to move with her baby to the house that he shared with his mother, Anita Smith, and her long-term partner, David Fawcett.
Mr Smith added: ‘Frankie came down one day and said to Anita, “I need help, I can’t have her”. Anita said, “We’ll have her, it’s ok until you get yourself right”.’
‘We loved her. We adored her. Anita and her partner David were fantastic with her.’
However, he told the court that Frankie’s behaviour towards her child seemed to change as time went on and she was seemingly more interested in going go the pub than caring for her child.
The court heard how Anita referred Smith to social services on May 4, as her concern grew over the baby’s welfare.
Mr Smith told the court he was sent a Snapchat video by a friend on August 28, 2020, of Star displaying a set of injuries which made him feel ‘sick’.
He added: ‘Star had bruising all round her ears, all-round her cheeks and down the side of her little face.
‘I wasn’t happy at all, I just wanted to go and get Star, [but] I got told I’d be done for kidnap if I did.’
Alicia Szepler, Smith’s sister, also gave evidence at the trial on Wednesday.
A short time before Star’s (pictured) death Smith’s aunt Melissa Dalby took Smith shopping and whilst in the car Brockhill phoned to say Star was ‘really ill’ and was being sick
She told jurors that that ‘everything changed’ when the couple started dating. She said a ‘disconnect’ emerged between Smith and her baby daughter and the rest of the family.
Miss Szepler agreed when Mr Ali QC said: ‘They’d sit on FaceTime for hours and be texting all the time, and Smith would have to be prompted by you and your mum to look after Star.’
The court heard how the relationship became violent as it progressed and Miss Szepler saw an incident at The Sun pub in Bradford where Brockhill punched Smith in the face.
Initially, Brockhill tried to brush the assault off as a mistake, but Miss Szepler confirmed in her police interview that there was intent in her actions.
In her statement, read out in court by Mr Ali, Miss Szepler said: ‘Savannah tried saying she didn’t even notice Frankie was stood there, and she’d done it by accident, but I literally watched her face and watched her do it, she literally just punched her in the face.’
Mr Ali asked Miss Szepler: ‘Two days later, when you next saw Smith, she had black eyes and bruising on her legs and arms.’ Miss Szepler said: ‘yes’.
In a text exchange read out by Mr Ali in court, Brockhill accused Miss Szepler of being a liar. She said: ‘I’ve had enough of what’s going on and accusations from last week.’
Miss Szepler wrote: ‘Where have the bruises come from? I know Frankie is a liar, but you are both as bad as each other.’
The court heard of another incident when Miss Szepler was babysitting her niece, along with her aunt, Antonia, who put a picture of the baby on Facebook after they went to get ‘chocolate’.
Mr Ali said: ‘Smith got very upset when she saw the photo and begged for them to be removed, as she was scared how Brockhill would react to the photos.’
Brockhill (pictured with Smith) stated ‘we’re going down for murder’
Miss Szepler agreed.
The baby’s death came days after a referral in May 2020 by Smith’s grandmother Anita Smith was dismissed as ‘malicious’. Case workers then closed the file on Star.
Bradford Crown Court had heard that Smith was ‘childish’ and played with toy dolls until she was 17 year old – the age she had Star.
Miss Szepler took photos of her niece’s injuries on June 21, 2020 and sent them to the police, who visited her at home.
As well as the photos, Miss Szepler told police her sister would shout at Star ‘shut up you little c**t’ and deprive her of food.
Miss Szepler, under cross examination, agreed that Smith was a ‘slack mother’ before she met Brockhill.
A short time before Star’s death Smith’s aunt Melissa Dalby took Smith shopping and whilst in the car Brockhill phoned to say Star was ‘really ill’ and was being sick.
Mrs Dalby told the jury: ‘I said she needed to get Star checked over if it continued, by a doctor.’
But Smith replied that she couldn’t take her to a doctor because she was scared Social Services would get involved and Star would be taken off her.
The day after Star died Mrs Dalby was at her sister’s home, Smith’s mother, when Brockhill phoned up. During the call Brockhill said ‘we’re going down for murder’ and that none of Star’s family would be allowed to attend the toddler’s funeral.
Brockhill and Smith, both from Keighley, deny murder and also causing or allowing Star’s death.
Bradford Crown Court (pictured) had heard that Smith was ‘childish’ and played with toy dolls until she was 17 year old – the age she had Star
Prosecutors say the injuries were caused by a severe and forceful blow or blows, ‘either in the form of punching, stamping or kicking to the abdomen’.
When paramedics arrived at the flat, they found Star apparently lifeless, pale and wearing only a disposable nappy.
She was in cardiac arrest and as they attempted CPR, Star vomited ‘large amounts’ of brown material and a suction device was used to remove it.
She was then rushed to Airedale hospital – just six minutes away – where clinicians did everything they could to save her but she was pronounced dead that afternoon.
Smith and Brockhill deny murder and causing or allowing the death of a baby.
The trial continues.