December 1997

Couple jailed for fatal child cruelty

A couple who escaped facing murder charges, due to a legal loophole, over the death of the woman’s 18-month-old daughter were jailed yesterday.

John Sherrington, 33, was jailed for seven years and Lavinia Adams, 32, was given five years when they appeared at the Old Bailey in London for sentence on cruelty charges. The maximum sentence for cruelty is 10 years. The court had heard that one of them must have been responsible for the death of Sarah Adams but it was not possible to prove which one.

The pair halted their trial last month on the second day and pleaded guilty to cruelty charges. This followed a tape-recording of the child’s screams and sobs being played to the jury. The attack was taped by Sherrington as he held her in a judo leglock.

Judge Richard Hawkins QC said: “It is quite uncertain whose act or acts caused Sarah’s death.” But he added: “It is clear from the evidence that whilst in your joint care Sarah was repeatedly injured.”

Sherrington, described as a “Jekyll and Hyde character” called her a “scraggy doll”. 

He also tried to force her to drink a mix of soap, bleach and paint, telling her on the tape: “It’s a nice drink”. 

As the torture went on, the mother was making out a shopping list. She later told police: “I was frightened.” 

He said the pair then went shopping while the child lay dying of brain injuries. Sarah was covered in bite marks and bruising, but the fatal injury was a skull fracture.

Sherrington, a bank messenger from Sutton, Surrey, had denied six charges of cruelty. Adams, of the same address, denied four similar charges. Sherrington later admitted three cruelty charges. Adams,said to be suffering from mild mental retardation, also admitted three charges of cruelty.