Mum and partner guilty of killing nine-year-old Alfie Steele

The schoolboy died in a cold bath after months of abuse.

Mum and partner guilty of killing nine-year-old Alfie Steele Handout

A mother has been found guilty of the manslaughter of her nine-year-old son, who had 50 injuries all over his body and was found submerged in a bath, while her partner has been found guilty of his murder.

Prosecutors said that Alfie Steele was repeatedly assaulted, beaten and put in a cold bath as part of a cruel and “sinister” regime of correction by Carla Scott and Dirk Howell in Droitwich, Worcestershire.

Jurors at Coventry Crown Court took 10 hours and 13 minutes of deliberation to find 35-year-old Scott guilty of Alfie’s manslaughter, returning a majority verdict of 11 to one on Tuesday.

She was cleared of his murder.

Howell, 41, was found guilty of Alfie’s murder by unanimous verdict.

The judge, Mr Justice Wall, remanded both defendants into custody to be sentenced at 11am on Thursday.

During their trial, both defendants told jurors that Alfie was not “dunked” in a bath at his home in Droitwich, Worcestershire, as a punishment prior to his death on February 18 2021.

Opening the case last month, prosecutor Michelle Heeley KC said that the pair thought it was acceptable to hit Alfie with “belts, or a slider, like a heavy-duty flip flop, and use other more sinister forms of punishment”.

She added that Alfie had 50 injuries all over his body, with only a handful likely to be due to normal childhood bumps and scrapes.

Scott, of Vashon Drive, Droitwich, and Howell, of Princip Street, Birmingham, had denied the charges against them.

The six-week trial was told Scott and career criminal Howell tried to cover up the killing by delaying calling 999 after Alfie was either drowned, asphyxiated or went into cardiac arrest.

The court heard Alfie, who was found lifeless with a body temperature of 23C, may have been put back in a warm bath as the couple tried to pass off the murder as an accidental drowning.

During the trial, it emerged that Alfie was killed six months after a 999 call from a neighbour, warning police the couple were “doing something bad to their kid in the bath”.

The caller told police it sounded like Alfie was “being hit and held under the water or something” at his home in Vashon Drive.

At the time of Alfie’s death in February 2021, Scott was the subject of a social services plan designed to protect him, with one of the rules being that Howell was not allowed to stay overnight at her house.

The jury heard Scott “continuously” flouted the rule – allowing Howell to stay over and subject Alfie to beatings using a belt and a flip-flop, as well as throwing cold water at him.

A multi-agency review is understood to be under way into the safeguarding of Alfie, whose neighbours contacted police on several occasions after filming him crying “let me in” while in a garden, and seeing him being forced to “stand like a statue” outside his home.

In his account to the jury, Howell claimed he had tried to revive Alfie by performing CPR, but CCTV showed him leaving the house before paramedics arrived and later attempting to board a train before he was arrested at Droitwich railway station.

During his evidence, Howell estimated he had spent a total of around 22 years in prison after committing dozens of previous offences, including battery, theft, burglary and drug-related charges.

Alfie’s mother dialled 999 at 2.30pm on February 18, telling the operator her son was not breathing and she was trying to resuscitate him.

She also claimed that Alfie had bumped his head the previous day in a cycling accident, but medically trained police officers and paramedics noticed water in his airways.

Alfie was taken by ambulance to Worcestershire Royal Hospital but despite efforts to warm his body and revive him he was pronounced dead around an hour later.

Scott had Alfie during a previous relationship which ended in 2017, in which children’s services also had involvement.

Alfie’s mother, who was “no stranger” to social services and knew what was expected of her in terms of co-operating with them, met Howell in July 2019 and within six months they became engaged, the court heard.

After the verdict, the senior investigating officer who led the case, Detective Chief Inspector Leighton Harding, said: “Alfie suffered the most horrifying physical and emotional abuse at the hands of Scott and Howell.

“It is unimaginable to consider the fear and distress Alfie must have felt during the events that led to his collapse and death in his home.

The officer said of Scott and Howell: “Both continued to lie to social services and police to protect themselves from their abuse being discovered, and even confronted and threatened neighbours and members of the public who reported concerns over their treatment of Alfie.

“At no stage has either of them shown any remorse or acceptance of responsibility for their actions.”

“Today’s verdict will never undo the dreadful abuse Alfie suffered but it will mean those responsible for inflicting such terror and pain will face the consequences of their sickening actions.”

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