West Yorkshire Couple Jailed for Trying to Cover Up Baby Death
31 October 2016, 15:25 | Updated: 31 October 2016, 15:42
A young couple who neglected their 18-week-old baby and tried to cover up her death by placing her body in front of a gas fire have been jailed.
Daniel Sheard, 24, and Lucy Damen, 22, from Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire, failed to get medical help for Kayleigh Sheard, despite her suffering bruises, bites and numerous fractures to her ribs, shoulder and arm over one third of her life.
Sheard received a six-year sentence after being convicted of child cruelty by a jury at Leeds Crown Court, while Damen was jailed for four-and-a-half years after earlier pleading guilty to the same charge.
During Sheard's trial, the jury heard that the couple, who were 18 and 20 when their baby was born in 2013, stopped attending medical appointments after their daughter's first round of vaccinations.
The previous month they had taken Kayleigh to hospital after becoming concerned about changes in her stools and social services were called when a doctor noticed a bruise, which was later found to be accidental.
The court heard that Sheard, who was brought up in care, was afraid of social services' involvement, with the result that he stopped seeking medical attention for her injuries.
The couple found their daughter collapsed in September 2013 and, after a "clumsy'' attempt at resuscitation, placed the dead child in front of a gas fire, causing her "terrible burns'', which they smothered in cream before calling an ambulance.
Sentencing the couple, Judge Tom Bayliss QC described them as "children having children'' but said they were both capable of looking after Kayleigh.
He said: "There are pressures of looking after children but such pressures are an inherent part of looking after children who rely on you as their parent.
"There's no excuse for what you did. You have both proved yourselves unfit to ever look after a child in my opinion.''
He said Kayleigh went from being a "healthy, happy baby'' to one who was failing to thrive.
Judge Bayliss said he was sure her injuries were non-accidental and said some of her fractures would have caused her "considerable pain'' for at least a week. The cause of her death could not be determined.
He added: "This is wilful neglect and serious neglect for at least a third of this child's short life.''
The couple were initially charged with manslaughter but the charge was later changed to child cruelty by neglect.
Judge Bayliss said it was "unclear'' who caused Kayleigh's injuries but said they were both to blame for failing to seek medical attention and trying to cover up that failure.
He said: "You did it, I am quite sure, because you were fearful of social services' involvement and because you were having problems, financially and socially, causing you to care more about yourselves than your little daughter's welfare.
"It led to a situation where you were deliberately concealing the child from authorities.''
After the sentencing, Kayleigh's family released a statement, which said: "As a family we will never understand how or why Kayleigh was so badly mistreated by the two people who should have loved and cherished her most.
"We will never be able to come to terms with the loss of Kayleigh; albeit her life was very short, she gave us all joy. Our hope is now that justice has been done, Kayleigh Mai can rest in peace and we can all try and move on as a family.''