Dartford Mum Killed Toddler

Collette Harris will spend at least 16 years in prison after being found guilty of murdering her 21 month old son.

Bobby Louch, who was 21 months old, had more than 80 bruises and injuries on his tiny body, the Old Bailey heard. He had fatal damage to his brain and abdomen.

Most of the injuries were from the 48 hours leading up to his death on December 29, 2008. But Bobby had been treated for a broken leg three weeks earlier and was kept in for a scan when bruises were seen on his forehead. The toddler's mother, Collette Harris, of Dartford, complained she was being ``victimised'' and said the bruises were the result of Bobby banging his head on his cot.

Harris, 30, had denied killing Bobby or causing his injuries. She screamed ``Oh my God'' and collapsed in tears as the jury found her guilty of murder. She had tried to blame her new boyfriend, James Phillips, who denied killing Bobby or causing the injuries. Phillips, 25, of Erith, was found not guilty of murder and alternate charges of manslaughter and causing or allowing the death.

Bobby had been left alone with each adult over the weekend at the family home in Halcot Avenue, Bexleyheath. He was kicked in the stomach on Saturday with such force that it damaged vital organs and he had a burn mark on his right hand which could have been made by it being placed on an oven door. But Harris refused to take him to hospital. She told a friend she would be suspected of abusing him, the court heard.

Richard Whittam, QC, prosecuting, said: ``At the time of his death, Bobby Louch was covered in bruises. There is compelling evidence that the multiple injuries were the result of deliberate and repeated violence.''

Bobby had 40 injuries to his head and body. These included two broken ribs, bleeding in the spine, massive damage to the brain and severe injuries to the abdomen, including damaged liver and pancreas. Mr Whittam said: ``The likely cause of the injuries to the abdomen is a punch or kick to the stomach area.''

Bobby's face had been covered in bruises of differing colours and which were less than 48 hours old. There were 39 mostly finger-tip sized marks on the face and body which could have been made by ``forceful prodding'', the court heard. A bruise to the right ear could have come from pinching or an attempt to pick him up by the ear, said Mr Whittam.

The jury was told Harris ended her relationship with Dan Louch, Bobby's father, in October 2008 and took up with Phillips. Harris remained ``extremely enamoured with him'' but friends noticed a change in her behaviour. Bobby spent the period before and after Christmas with his father who did not notice any significant bruising. But two days after returning home, a friend of Phillips noticed he seemed ``woozy'' and that he was vomiting. Harris showed him a bruise on Bobby, said Mr Whittam.

Later, he asked why Harris did not take him to hospital and she allegedly replied: ``How can I take him to the hospital with bruises like that on his body. They will think I am beating him up or something.'' The toddler died the next day.