Life inprisonment for mother who beat son to death

Rebecca Shuttleworth, who was convicted of beating to death her two-year-old son. Picture: PA
Rebecca Shuttleworth, who was convicted of beating to death her two-year-old son. Picture: PA
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A MOTHER convicted of beating her two-year-old son to death after subjecting him to months of cruelty has been jailed for life.

Rebecca Shuttleworth, 25, was ordered to serve at least 18 years after being convicted, following a six-month trial, of murdering Keanu Williams.

Shuttleworth, who was sentenced by Mr Justice Spencer at Birmingham Crown Court yesterday, was also found guilty of four counts of child cruelty.

She inflicted what detectives described as “horrifying” injuries on Keanu after apparently convincing her support worker that she had turned her life around.

It emerged yesterday that Shuttleworth was filmed celebrating a £10,000 lottery win while on bail for the murder of Keanu, whose body showed 37 external marks of injury.

A video posted on YouTube by the People’s Postcode Lottery shows her shouting in delight as her friend is presented with a “Street Prize” cheque outside a property in Rusholme, Manchester.

Keanu was pronounced dead on 9 January, 2011, after paramedics were called to his mother’s partner’s flat in Ward End, Birmingham.

The judge, who also passed concurrent sentences for child cruelty totalling four years, told Shuttleworth: “The jury have convicted you of the brutal murder of your two-year-old son.

“He was a defenceless child and it was your duty to protect him. Instead you beat him so severely he died a lingering death from his injuries a day or so later.

“You have also been convicted of cruelty by failing to summon the medical aid he so badly needed.”

Paying tribute to Keanu, the judge added: “He was a delightful little boy described as a little entertainer, who remained cheerful despite everything.

“Joyful was the word that more than one witness used to describe him – he was a favourite at nursery as well as within the family. His death has left a void in many lives which will never be filled.”

Although the judge accepted Shuttleworth had experienced her share of tragedy in losing her mother and grandmother after a “troubling” upbringing, he said she had shown a cruel and vicious streak towards Keanu.

As Shuttleworth wept in the dock, the judge added: “By the jury’s verdict, you alone were responsible for the violence which led to Keanu’s death.

“One can scarcely imagine the pain and distress Keanu must have suffered. He must have been terrified. It must have been clear to you as soon as the violence had taken place that Keanu was badly in need of medical attention.”

Shuttleworth had decided not to seek medical help because she knew his injuries, including internal bleeding, could not be explained away, the judge said.

Shuttleworth’s partner, Luke Southerton, was cleared of murder, manslaughter and causing or allowing the death of a child, but convicted of one incident of cruelty towards Keanu during which the boy was bitten, apparently in an attempt to stop him biting other people.

Southerton, 32, was given a nine-month jail term suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 200 hours of community work.

A serious case review into Keanu’s death, which is expected to examine social services’ contact with his mother, will be published in the near future.

In a statement issued after Shuttleworth was convicted, the chairwoman of Birmingham’s Safeguarding Children Board, Jane Held, said: “While we can’t go into detail prior to the review being made public, it is clear that professionals in the agencies involved missed a significant number of opportunities to intervene and take action.”