Evil foster mum who murdered baby hid her drink and anger issues, review finds

An evil foster mother who murdered the baby boy she was set to adopt had issues with her anger and drank six bottles of wine a week, a review into the case discovered.

Laura Castle, 38, was jailed in May for at least 18 years for the murder of 13-month-old Leiland-James Corkill after a court heard she had ‘leathered’ the child who suffered fatal head injuries.

The toddler had been placed in the care of Castle and her husband, Scott Castle, 35, in August 2020.

But five months later, on January 6, 2021, paramedics found the tot unresponsive when they attended the couple’s home in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.

A child safeguarding practice review into the case has today revealed Castle was receiving “talking therapy” with an NHS-commissioned service when she applied in January 2019 to be an adoptive parent.

The “critical information” disclosed in the sessions, which included revelations about her anger and drinking, was not shared with her GP.

Consequently there were not available to the adoption panel which went on to approve her.

The review added: “This included her self-report she was often irritable and short-tempered, including shouting too much at her young child.

“She spoke about feeling judged by other parents and that she avoided company. She also reported drinking six bottles of wine a week which impacted on her motivation and mood, although she denied it had an impact on her parenting.”

Castle failed to mention those details in the adoption application process and no safeguarding concerns were raised by First Step, which was not aware the couple had applied to adopt, the review said.

The review discovered concerns were raised in September 2020 by a gastroenterologist following a consultation with Castle as she reported drinking 27 units of alcohol per week.

This information was shared with her GP but neither the health issue nor the alcohol use was shared with any other agency.

The Castles did not share the information either and also did not give a full picture about their financial situation which included significant loans and credit card debt.

Report author Nicki Pettitt concluded “indicators emerged” following Leiland-James’s placement that it “might not progress to be the right placement”, but there were no known signs he was at risk of physical harm.

She added: “What was not known at the time was that the prospective adopters had not been honest about their debt, their mental and physical health, their alcohol consumption and use of physical chastisement during the assessment, at the time of Leiland-James being matched with them or during his time living with the family.

“Learning has been identified that information in these areas should be robustly sought, shared, and considered.

“This is significant, as had the information held by First Step and the gastroenterologist been known, along with the understanding that the prospective adopters were hiding these issues, the assessment could have better reflected the vulnerabilities and potential risks.”

A number of national recommendations have been made, including the need for all health information for adopters and children in the family to be updated and reconsidered at key points in the case.

Following publication of the report, John Readman, Cumbria County Council’s executive director for people, said: “The Castles went through a full eight-month assessment and approval process involving criminal record checks, multiple references and extensive training. No concerns were raised by anyone, in any agency, about their suitability to become adopters.

“What we know now, from the trial and this review, is that Laura Castle deliberately and repeatedly misled and lied to social workers about vitally important aspects of her life, including her mental and physical health, her alcohol use and debts.

“We also know that relevant information about Laura Castle was not shared between agencies and that more could have been done to clarify some of the information we were provided with.”

Professor Sarah O’Brien, chief nursing officer for NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board, said: “Information sharing was not good enough throughout the critical stages of the adoptive process.

“Steps have already been taken locally to address this and a recommendation to change national guidance has also been made.”

Today, Laura Corkill – Leiland’ James’ birth mother – spoke of how he was taken away by social services after his birth against her will.

She had a room decorated for the baby and had been looking forward to taking her baby home when, 48 hours after he was born, he was taken away by a social worker who turned up at the hospital.

Over the course of 2020 Laura Corkill tried to get her son back, but days after his first birthday, died at his foster mother’s hands.

At the murder trial, Prosecutor Michael Brady QC said it was the Crown’s case that Castle killed the boy as she lost her temper and suggested she smashed the back of his head against a piece of furniture.

Castle maintained the death was a tragic accident until the day the jury was sworn in for her trial at Preston Crown Court.

She entered a plea of guilty to manslaughter and went on to say that she had shaken Leiland-James because he would not stop crying, and his head hit the armrest of the sofa before he fell off her knee on to the floor.

Medical experts told the court the degree of force required to cause his injuries would have been “severe” and likely to be a combination of shaking and an impact with a solid surface.

Prosecutors said Castle killed the boy as she lost her temper and suggested she smashed the back of his head against a piece of furniture and jurors unanimously found her guilty of murder and a separate offence of child cruelty.

Her husband Scott Castle was acquitted of allowing Leiland-James’s death and child cruelty.