world News : Childminder who killed baby boy with 'forceful shaking' jailed

world News : Childminder who killed baby boy with 'forceful shaking' jailed
world News : Childminder who killed baby boy with 'forceful shaking' jailed

Thursday 13 June 2024 10:46 PM

newsonline - A childminder has been jailed for 12 years and seven months for killing a nine-month-old boy by shaking him to death in frustration.

Karen Foster, who was due to go on trial for the murder of nine-month-old Harlow Collinge, pleaded guilty to the charge of manslaughter last Friday after discussions with the child's family.

The basis of the 62-year-old's plea was that "forceful shaking" of Harlow caused his death after he had toppled over out of his high chair, started crying and she shook him in frustration, Preston Crown Court heard.

Mr Justice Barry Cotter said in court that Harlow was a "happy, healthy, much-loved" boy, but said Foster chose to continue childminding despite ill health and pain in her hip.

He noted she worked more than she should have under Ofsted rules and said this contributed to her "loss of temper", before adding: "You should have been a safe pair of hands to which Gemma Collinge could ensure her precious child.

"I have no doubt you snapped on the 1 March 2022, in part due to the fact that you were not coping with the demands of caring for four children. You lost your temper and he was on the receiving end.

"You shook an [almost] ten-month-old child so violently to cause devastating injuries. His death was caused in the course of an assault."

Harlow's relatives shouted "scumbag bitch" and "I hate you" to Foster as she was led away from the dock.

Image: Karen Foster. Pic: Lancashire Police via PA

'He was a happy smiling baby'

In a statement she read in court, Gemma Collinge said: "How do I explain losing my son in such horrific circumstances? Harlow was enjoying his little life. He was a happy smiling baby."

She shared her "guilt" about having made arrangements to move him to a nursery six weeks after first using Foster as a childminder over her concerns about the number of children being looked after by the 62-year-old.

Ms Collinge then spoke about "all the red flags I missed," before telling the court that Foster tried to comfort her at the hospital and claimed Harlow had choked on pasta.

"She even put her arms around me. I can't think of anything more evil. It is despicable," she said.

"I blame myself every day for my son's death. This monster, Karen Foster, deserves nothing. I hope her actions haunt her."

Harlow died in hospital after emergency services were called to reports of a child in cardiac arrest at a property in Hapton, Burnley, in Lancashire on 1 March 2022.

Harlow Collinge. Pic: gofundme
Image: Gemma Collinge told the court Karen Foster initially claimed Harlow had choked on pasta. Pic: GoFundMe

Baby's skin 'purple'

Harlow had been dropped off at Foster's address - a registered childminder with nine years' experience - in March 2022.

Later that day she called 999 and told the operator Harlow was not breathing, and went on to tell a paramedic he had suddenly collapsed, the court heard.

"I think he's choking, he's had like a fit and he's not breathing," she had said.

By 1.23pm, Harlow's skin was purple and mottled, he had no pulse, was not breathing and his pupils were fixed, the court heard.

The baby was then rushed to the Royal Blackburn Hospital, but died four days later.

A CT scan of the infant's head showed significant injuries to the brain, with bleeding on both sides and swelling.

A post-mortem listed the cause of death as inflicted traumatic brain injury.

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Foster made benefit claims for injury

Anne Whyte KC, prosecuting, said when she first registered in 2014, Foster did not say she was married and lived with her husband, or that she sometimes sought help with childminding from other unregistered individuals, or that her health was poor.

She told the court Foster had made two benefit claims for Personal Independence Payments in 2018 and 2022, where she claimed she felt constantly drowsy and tired, and that sometimes she could barely move or safely carry out daily living activities.

The childminder submitted the same claims in her 2022 application, which she made just days before Harlow's death.

She also suggested she needed help cooking and going to the toilet.

Foster minded 10 children

Ms Whyte also said that a mother whose children were being looked after by Foster complained to Ofsted in December 2021, saying she was looking after too many children, on some occasions up to 10 youngsters.

But Foster told the regulator she did not exceed the permitted number of children and lied to other parents that she had been a nurse and her husband was also a registered childminder.

Her registration permitted her to care for a maximum of six children under the age of eight years.

Only three of the six could be "young" children - defined as young until September 1 following their fifth birthday - and only one child could be under the age of one.

On certain days, Foster was exceeding the ratio permitted by Ofsted, the court heard.

Foster also faced a further allegation of assaulting a two-year-old girl in her care in 2019.

The prosecution told the judge it will ask for that count to lie on file.

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