A mother and her partner have been found guilty of killing their nine-year-old son in the bath after months of brutal beatings and punishment.
In February 2021, Alfie Steele was found unresponsive and had 50 separate injuries throughout his body.
He died after being subjected to cruel abuse, which included being flogged with belts or flip-flops, and “other more sinister forms of punishment” such as “immersion” in an ice-cold bath.
Carla Scott, 35, was convicted of manslaughter and Dirk Howell, 41, was found guilty of murder after a trial at Coventry Crown Court.
Howell was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum sentence of 32 years by the same court, while Scott was sentenced to 27 years.
During the six-week trial, it was reported that Scott and career criminal Howell attempted to cover up the murder by delaying the call to 999 after Alfie either drowned, choked, or went into cardiac arrest.
The court heard Alfie, who was found lifeless with a body temperature of 23C, may have been placed back in a warm bath as the couple attempted to pass off the murder as an accidental drowning.
During the trial, it emerged that Alfie was killed six months after a neighbor called 911 who warned police the couple were “doing something bad to their child in the bath”.
The caller told police that it sounded like Alfie had been “beaten and held under water or something” at his home on Vashon Drive.
At the time of Alfie’s death in February 2021, Scott was the subject of a social plan designed to protect him. One of the rules was that Howell was not allowed to stay at her house.
The jury heard Scott “continuously” broke the rule – allowing Howell to stay over and hit Alfie with a belt and a flip-flop and douse him with cold water.
It is understood that an inter-agency review of Alfie’s protections is currently underway. His neighbors contacted the police several times after they filmed him crying “let me in” in a garden and saw him being forced “to stand like a statue”. outside his house.
In his report to the jury, Howell claimed he tried to revive Alfie using CPR, but CCTV showed him leaving the house before paramedics arrived and later attempting to board a train before being arrested at Droitwich station.
When testifying, Howell estimated that he had spent a total of around 22 years in prison, having committed dozens of previous offenses including assault, theft, burglary and drug-related offenses.
Alfie’s mother called 999 at 2:30pm on February 18 and told the switchboard that her son was not breathing and that she was trying to revive him.
She also claimed Alfie hit his head in a bicycle accident the day before, but medically trained police officers and paramedics noticed water in his airway.
Alfie was taken to Worcestershire Royal Hospital by ambulance but, despite efforts to warm and revive his body, he was pronounced dead about an hour later.
Scott had Alfie during a previous relationship that ended in 2017, which also involved childcare.
Alfie’s mother, who was “no stranger” to social services and knew what was expected of her in terms of working together, met Howell in July 2019 and within six months they became engaged, the court learned.
Following the verdict, the lead investigating officer handling the case, Detective Chief Inspector Leighton Harding, said: “Alfie suffered the most horrendous physical and emotional abuse at the hands of Scott and Howell.”
“It is unimaginable the fear and distress Alfie must have felt during the events leading up to his collapse and death at his home.”
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