May 2016

Carer who murdered toddler jailed for life and will serve ‘at least 18 years’

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A woman who murdered a toddler months after being made her legal guardian has been jailed for life and will serve ‘at least 18 years’

Kandyce Downer was convicted on Tuesday after a trial at Birmingham crown court of killing 18-month-old Keegan Downer, formerly Shi-Anne, at the family home on 5 September 2015.

A postmortem examination revealed that the toddler died from a combination of old head injuries, septicaemia and blunt chest trauma, and had suffered a catalogue of injuries in her short life.

Sentencing Downer to life with a minimum term of 18 years, Mrs Justice Frances Patterson said: “It is a horrible tale of callous conduct and at no stage have you showed any remorse. Why you changed from a loving mother to a brutal attacker of a defenceless child is a mystery.”

The judge said Downer had inflicted terrible injuries, including causing the child brain damage.

“As a result of the trauma, Keegan’s brain was incarcerated in scar tissue which caused persistent pressure on it, preventing the brain from growing, and Keegan would have become backwards in her development. She would have regressed from what she could do physically.

“You did not set out with the intention to kill Keegan, but the repeated assaults on her made death as an outcome of your conduct increasingly likely.”

Patterson said Downer, who has four other children, had “hitherto been an exemplary mother” but had caused Keegan untold suffering.

“The bruising and injuries to Keegan’s face, head and frenuli [mouth tissue] would have been evident to her carers,” Patterson said. “These injuries would have been caused by a hard slap, a punch or forcing a feeding bottle into her mouth.”

Concluding her remarks, the judge said: “Keegan suffered considerably in the last days and months of her life.”

Keegan’s body had more than 153 scars, abrasions and bruises, but Downer never sought medical help and never registered the child with her GP.

Downer had also previously and unsuccessfully tried to become the legal guardian of Keegan’s older sister, the court heard.

Birmingham council later approached her to ask if she wanted to take on Keegan herself.

The judge said: “They contacted you to see whether you would be interested in caring for another baby girl, and you indicated a willingness to do so.”

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A computer-generated image shows injuries to Keegan’s ribcage which were discovered after her death

Keegan had been removed from her own mother, a heroin addict, after her birth, and Downer – an extended family member – was given custody through a special guardianship order in January 2015.

During what police branded Downer’s evil treatment of Keegan, she inflicted severe injuries.

These included a spiral leg fracture, which jurors were told would have made the slightest movement agony, and a historic injury to her head or spine, discovered after her death.

For the previous 10 months Keegan had been raised by a foster carer and was described in court as a healthy and happy baby.

She then went to live with Downer at the family home in the Weoley Castle area of Birmingham. A number of witnesses said Downer had been a good mother.

The toddler attended nursery until June last year, which was what Patterson described as a turning point because it ended any public scrutiny of the child’s care.

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Images of the toddler’s left and right femur (thighbone) were also released by police to show the extent of her injuries

Keegan collapsed at home shortly before 10am on the day of her death, after Downer left her alone for more than two hours to take another child to a wedding rehearsal.

After Downer returned home, CCTV footage showed her driving to dump a blood-stained mattress, a babygrow and pyjamas near a skip before ringing 999.

During her trial, Downer denied any knowledge of Keegan’s injuries and tried to blame them on her eldest son, who was 17 at the time.

Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board will conduct the Serious Case Review to establish if lessons can be learnt from the tragedy.

It will publish its findings in summer.

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May 2016

Mum-of-four battered 18 month old toddler to death

A mum-of-four has been convicted of murdering the 18-month-old girl she was caring for at her Birmingham home.

Kandyce Downer caused Keegan Downer’s death by battering her and through severe neglect less than a year after she was appointed her legal guardian.

Medical evidence given in court stated Keegan had sustained 200 injuries on her body, including seven broken ribs, brain and spinal injuries and bruises on her face and body.

There were 153 scars & bruises found on her, including on her face and neck. 

The court was told the toddler had suffered from an untreated spiral leg fracture which had caused a deformity, leaving one leg shorter than the other, and a head injury which would have hindered her ability to fight infection. 

Downer never sought medical help for the injuries – despite Keegan, also known as Shi-Anne, being in “excruciating” pain.

The post mortem found that Keegan had died from a combination of septicaemia, infection, blunt chest trauma and old head injuries.

Examinations showed Keegan had suffered fractures to her legs and ribs and injuries to her head and spine before her death last September.

A jury at Birmingham Crown Court found the 35-year-old woman guilty of murder after deliberating for just over two and a half hours.

Mrs Justice Patterson adjourned sentence until Wednesday, May 4, and remanded Downer in custody.

The court was told that on finding the toddler “unwell” in her cot, she drove off to dump the child’s old mattress near a skip before alerting emergency services.

She weighed just 8.05kg when she died.

A trial heard Downer was paid a weekly fee by the local authority to care for the tot.

Forensic scientists discovered more than 80 blood spatters on the walls by her cot, more than 30 within the cot, and more on the doors of an under stairs cupboard.

She was not only horrifically hurt, but desperately unwell. Untreated breaks led to some of her bones becoming infected. She had a large amount of pus in her pleural cavity. She would have been short of breath, feverish, and suffer headaches

Downer, of Beckbury Road, Weoley Castle, had denied the charge and also causing or allowing the death of a child.

Nigel Power QC, prosecuting, said Keegan, who was born on March 9 2014, was put into foster care soon after because her mother was a drug addict and unable to look after her.

In January last year she went to live with the defendant who became legal guardian of the toddler, also known as Shi-Anne.

Initially the child had been healthy and happy and had gone straight into nursery where she was last seen on June 5.

However three months later, on September 5, Downer called 999 from her address saying Keegan was not breathing.

Mr Power said a large number of people tried to save Keegan but it was already too late.

An investigation was carried out which revealed a picture of repeated episodes of inflicted injury and neglect.

He said Keegan was found to have 49 older scars and other marks to the face and body, 29 signs of recent injury to the head and neck and 13 of recent injury to her body.

She also had bruises to both arms and her right leg.

Downer had told the court most of the “day-to-day” care of Keegan was down to her son and three younger children and claimed her eldest son may be to blame for the fatal injuries.

“There were numerous old and new fractures to her legs and ribs and there was historic traumatic injury, possibly cause on more than one occasion, to her head and spine.

All those repeated traumas ultimately caused Keegan to die from a combination of septicaemia , blunt chest trauma and old head injuries.”

Downer had told the court she had been pregnant and bed ridden at the time the injuries had been inflicted and that she had not been responsible for causing them.

Although they shared a surname, the pair were not related by blood.

Although they shared a surname, the pair were not related by blood.