A mother and her partner have been found guilty of murdering her 18-month-old son who died after suffering scores of injuries in Hernhill near Faversham.
Sian Hedges and Jack Benham were both convicted of the murder of Alfie Phillips, following a nine-week trial at Maidstone Crown Court.
On Saturday 28 November 2020, they inflicted a catalogue of injuries at Benham’s home.
Hedges, 27, of Fillace Park, Yelverton, Devon and Benham, 35, of Highstreet Road, Hernhill, both denied harming Alfie.
Instead, they claimed they shared a bed with him overnight and awoke at 11.30am to find him unresponsive. The emergency services were called and Alfie was confirmed deceased at 12.35pm.
Doctors noted multiple bruises and injuries on the child’s body and officers were called to attend the hospital, where the pair were arrested on the same day.
Detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate launched an investigation.
Following extensive enquiries, including forensic examinations, the Crown Prosecution Service authorised a charge of murder for both suspects on Monday 6 March 2023.
Evidence to suggest that Alfie had been smothered
During the trial, the jury heard how Alfie had 70 separate injuries including internal bleeding, bruising and fractures to his chest, ribs, feet, arms and left leg. He also had facial injuries and bite marks. There was further evidence to suggest that Alfie had been smothered.
Alfie had been seen by members of Hedges’ family on the evening of Friday 27 November, and he appeared well and without any visible injuries.
These accounts reinforced the opinions of doctors who found he had suffered a recent and sustained assault which led to his death.
Alfie had traces of cocaine in his system
Alfie also had traces of cocaine in his system, believed to be from passive inhalation of the drug. Benham and Hedges later admitted they had taken cocaine and drunk alcohol on the night of his murder. As well as cocaine, doctors also found traces of cannabis and alcohol in Alfie’s body.
During the trial the court heard Benham’s caravan was untidy and there was no cot or essential items needed to care for a young child. Blood was also found on Alfie’s sleepsuit and bedding, that was later confirmed through DNA analysis to be his own.
Investigating officers examined mobile phones belonging to Benham and Hedges. They found text messages where she had complained to Benham that Alfie had bitten her. He responded that she should bite him back.
On Thursday 30 November 2023, Hedges and Benham were found guilty of murder. They will both be sentenced on Tuesday 19 December.
Senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Kath Way, said:
‘Today’s verdict will not bring Alfie back, but it does mean that Hedges and Benham lose their right to freedom and life as they know it.
‘Alfie should have been protected and loved by his mum, instead Hedges and Benham inflicted unimaginable suffering on him during a sustained and lengthy night of violence.
‘They refused to admit what they had done and put the rest of Alfie’s family, who loved him dearly, through the ordeal of a trial, where details of their horrendous abuse was detailed for all to hear.
‘Alfie would have been four now and would have recently started school. Instead, his life was cruelly taken away by those he should have been able to trust the most.
‘This was a harrowing case for all involved including experienced officers, who ensured their diligent and thorough enquiries led to Hedges and Benham being charged for their crimes.
‘The members of the jury who have sat through this trial can rest assured that their verdicts have ensured that this pair have been held rightly accountable for their crimes.
‘I hope today’s verdict can offer some justice for Alfie and allows his father and other family members some closure.’