‘My baby son was taken away by social services – then murdered by the woman trying to adopt him’

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The heartbroken mum of a baby boy murdered by his foster mum has spoken of how he was taken away by social services after his birth against her will.

Mum Laura Corkill had a room decorated for little Leiland-James Micheal Corkill and his name chosen out before his birth, which happened by emergency Caesarean four days before Christmas in 2019 at West Cumberland Hospital.

This room was now something of a shrine to Laura’s children, in particular, Leiland-James.

Laura had been looking forward to taking her baby home when, 48 hours after he was born, he was taken away by a social worker who turned up at the hospital.

Speaking to the BBC, Laura said her world was “shattered” when her son was taken away.

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Little Leiland-James was just 13 months old when he was
killed by his foster mother ( Image: Lancs Live/MEN Media)
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Leiland-James’ mum Laura said she was left ‘shattered’
by his death ( Image: SWNS)

Over the course of 2020 Laura Corkill tried to get her son back, but days after his first birthday, the foster mum chosen by social workers murdered him.

Foster mum Laura Castle was in May of this year jailed for life after being found guilty of murdering 13-month-old Leiland-James Corkill.

A courtroom heard shocking testimony of how she had “leathered” the child who suffered fatal head injuries.

Over the course of 2020 Laura Corkill tried to get her son back, but days after his first birthday, the foster mum chosen by social workers murdered him.

Foster mum Laura Castle was in May of this year jailed for life after being found guilty of murdering 13-month-old Leiland-James Corkill.

A courtroom heard shocking testimony of how she had “leathered” the child who suffered fatal head injuries.

Laura was not involved in Castle’s murder trial, nor in Cumbria County Council’s review into her son’s death.

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Laura says she was reassured her baby would not be taken from her ( Image: BBC Breakfast)

Laura had a history with social services; years before giving birth to Leiland-James she had suffered domestic violence, but after asking for help to remove her abusive partner from the home, her children were taken instead.

However, when pregnant with Leiland-James, she said she was in a good place with support from a women’s organisation and had hoped to put her past behind her.

She claimed social services had appeared happy with preparations made for the baby at home, she said.

The devastated mum said they had reassured her there wasn’t any reason the baby would be taken into care.

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She claims to have received little help from her local council ( Image: BBC Breakfast)

Laura believed everything changed when a second social worker replaced the first and dug into her history with an abusive partner and children being removed from her care.

Laura feared they were going to “whip everything away” but said she was determined to carry on and “jumped through every hoop” to bring Leiland-James home.

However, Cumbria County Council claimed this was not how things played out.

A spokesperson said in the last month of Laura’s pregnancy the plan had been to remove her son at birth.

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Leiland-James had been placed in the care of Laura Castle and her husband, Scott Castle, 35, in August 2020 ( Image: SWNS)
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Laura Castle was jailed for a minimum of 18 years for the murder of Leiland-James ( Image: PA)

While they claimed Laura was notified of this three times about the plan to take her son away, she said she was still waiting to see the paperwork and only received confirmation when the social worker was taking her son from the hospital.

Laura’s liaisons at Women Out West, an organisation that helps women who have suffered domestic and sexual violence, Aishea and Rebecca Todd, said they had no idea her baby was going to be taken away.

They had their own plan which would have seen Laura supported at home with the baby.

The liaisons helped with several attempts to negotiate with Cumbria County Council to bring him home after he was removed.

They claimed they were not listened to.

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Evil Laura Castle, 38, made bizarre expressions while Leiland-James bawled nearby, in footage seen in court ( Image: SWNS)

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During Castle’s trial this year, it emerged she had constantly beaten and abused Leiland-James ( Image: SWNS)

A council spokesperson said when there were concerns about a child’s needs being met, they had a duty to act.

However, Laura, Aishea and Rebecca believed decisions were made based on Laura’s past – decisions which ultimately proved fatal.

Laura suffered a number of miscarriages following violence at the hands of a previous partner and had her two children removed from the family home as a result.

She claims to have received little help from her local council, she said, and suffered a mental health breakdown shortly after.

She wound up in hospital and said over the next few years she “didn’t want to be around anymore”.

By the time of her pregnancy with Leiland-James, she was not in a relationship and was in a “positive frame of mind”.

Over the first few months of Leiland-James’s life, Laura was able to see him at a council-run contact centre four times a week.

She hoped he would eventually come home and was willing to cooperate in a bid to get him back, she said.

In March 2020, Covid led to her contact with her son being cut off and three months later, the family court granted an adoption order for Leiland-James.

While Cumbria County Council said they told Laura of their belief that Leiland-James should be adopted in April, Laura disputed this.

“How can [social workers] come up with that when they had seen what I was like in contact with the baby?” she asked.

She also believed a lack of face-to-face contact with her son due to Covid, was used against her.

Laura said she was meant to meet Castle, with whom her son had been placed, before a formal adoption.

But Laura was given “excuse after excuse” by social workers and this never happened.

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Laura Castle during a police interview ( Image: PA)

When the little boy was taken to hospital by ambulance in January 2021, Castle told emergency services he had injured his head when falling from a sofa and was unresponsive.

Laura was phoned by a social worker and told her boy was in hospital, but she wasn’t told where he was.

“I was up and down all night. I just wanted to try to figure out if I could go to every hospital I could to find him. It was evil not to tell me,” Laura said.

She was told the following day when Leiland-James had been moved to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool and the day after, she was called when it was clear he wasn’t expected to live.

By the time Laura arrived at the hospital and got to her son’s room, he had died and she was not allowed to touch him, as his body was then considered evidence of a crime scene.

“I said whoever had him had killed him. The surgeon told me ‘we had suspicions of this and it went into investigation as soon as Leiland-James went into the hospital’,” she said.

Later in court, pathologists said the little boy’s injuries were a classic indicator of “abusive head trauma”, also known as “shaken baby syndrome”.

During Castle’s trial for the murder this year, it emerged she had repeatedly on a near-constant basis beaten and abused the baby.

The court was told that due to the text messages her husband was aware of his partner’s abuse of the one-year-old and in text messages took her side when she said she “leathered” the baby.

The court previously heard how on September 23, 2020, she texted her partner saying: “I honestly really don’t like him lately, he’s an absolute moaning whinge-bag [sic] and I totally regret doing this.”

While social workers were not initially aware of the texts, or the violence, they became concerned when Laura Castle branded the baby “lazy” and “big” and said she didn’t love him.

Social workers in December 2020 agreed not to support an application for Laura Castle to formally adopt Leiland-James.

But when she was told this, she said to a social worker that the boy “wasn’t going anywhere”.

Laura Castle was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 18 years in jail in May of this year.

While her husband, Scott, was cleared of causing or allowing Leiland-James’s death at the couple’s home.

Reflecting on the horrific series of events, Laura describes the woman who killed her son as an “evil sadistic monster”.

She has said she is also angry with Cumbria County Council, which she said should bear some responsibility for Leiland-James’ death, saying it needs to offer more support to abuse victims.

Laura Corkill’s story comes as Cumbria Safeguarding Children Partnership is expected to publish a review into Leiland-James’s death today.

His mother was not asked to be a part of the review, which examines why he was placed with the Castles and what social workers did when concerns were raised.

What do you think?

Written by Henry Okafor


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