Star Hobson trial: Yorkshire toddler allegedly died from 'utterly catastrophic' injuries after repeated assaults by her mother and partner

A 16-month-old girl died from “utterly catastrophic” injures after she was “repeatedly physically assaulted over the weeks and months before her death”, a jury has been told.

Star Hobson died in September 2020 from injuries she received at her home in Keighley, Bradford Crown Court was told.

Star’s mother Frankie Smith went on trial on Wednesday accused of murdering Star, along with her partner, Savannah Brockhill.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The jury was shown video footage of Star being shouted at in her home which prosecutor Alistair MacDonald QC said showed “there was also a degree of cruelty and psychological harm” inflicted on the youngster in the weeks and months before she died as well as physical assaults.

Bradford Crown Court

Opening the prosecution case, Mr MacDonald said paramedics were called to a flat in Wesley Place and discovered “the body of an apparently lifeless, pale, baby wearing only a disposable nappy”.

He said the little girl was taken to Airedale General Hospital but “the reality is that the injuries suffered by Star were so catastrophic that there never was any real chance of saving her life”.

The prosecutor noted that internet searches at the flat for “shock in babies” and “how to bring a baby out of shock” showed that there was a gap of 15 minutes between the incident in which Star received her injuries and the 999 call.

Mr MacDonald said that Smith and Brockhill were the only adults in the flat at the time, although two other young children were present.

He said: “It is inconceivable that any carer would wait 15 minutes to call for professional help when their 16 month-old child was showing symptoms of a medical catastrophe. Any innocent carer would have been on the phone within seconds, not 15 minutes.”

The prosecutor said Star’s injuries were of an “utterly catastrophic nature” and “unsurviveable”.

Mr MacDonald told the jury: “It will be the prosecution case that is nothing short of absurd to suggest that these injuries were caused by another young child.

“As you will hear, the pathologist will say, the degree of force applied was so great to cause the injuries that it is quite impossible for the doctors to envisage that it could have been inflicted by a child.”

He outlined how investigations of Star’s body showed evidence of injuries which meant that “in the course of her short life, Star had suffered a number of significant injuries at different times”.

The prosecutor said the injuries that caused her death involved extensive damage to her abdominal cavity “caused by a severe and forceful blow or blows, either in the form of punching, stamping or kicking to the abdomen”.

Mr MacDonald said there had also been two fractures to Star’s right leg “caused by forceful twisting” which had been refractured as they healed.

He also described a fracture to the back of the skull and bruising to Star, “much of which is considered to be non-accidental in origin”.

The prosecutor said: “It is also the case that social services, who were aware of Star’s case, were kept away from Star, as were many of her family in the last period of her life.”

Mr MacDonald told jurors that they will hear from a number of relatives and friends of Smith who will describe concerns they had over bruises they saw on Star which, in some instances, they filmed.

And he showed video footage of Star in the flat which showed she been shouted at to stand and face a wall as she sobbed.

The prosecutor said: “You may wonder what that little girl did to deserve that sort of treatment.”

Following another video clip shown to the jury, the prosecutor said: “No hint of love of that child.”

He told the jury: “You would not be human if you did not, in those circumstances, feel strong and powerful emotions.”

The court heard now Smith was 19 when Star was born in May 2019 and her relationship with the father broke up when Star was about six-months old.

Smith began a relationship with Brockhill shortly after this, he said. Brockhill was working on door security at pubs frequented by Smith.

Mr MacDonald said one witness recalled an incident when the toddler accidently bit her as she helped her eat her food when she was in a car with the defendants.

The prosecutor said Brockhill asked Smith what she was going to do about it “whereupon Frankie Smith bit Star’s finger which caused Star to cry”.

The jury was played a series of clips from a CCTV camera which prosecutors said showed Brockhill deliver a total of 21 blows to Star in a car over a period of nearly three hours, some as the toddler sat in a car seat.

Mr MacDonald said the footage came from a camera at a recycling plant in Doncaster where Brockhill was working as a security guard, and was filmed about eight days before Star’s death.

The footage appeared to show Brockhill punching and slapping Star with what the prosecutor described as “considerable force” and, at one point, the youngster fell out of the vehicle. She also grabbed Star by the throat.

Another video which was shown to the jury, described by the prosecutor as “disturbing and bizarre”, showed Star falling off a plastic chair and hitting the floor.

The mobile phone footage had been slowed down with music added, plus a caption which said “in this moment she realises she has messed up”.

Another clip, filmed on both defendants’ phones, showed Star being so exhausted that she fell forward and slept in a bowl of food.

Mr MacDonald told the jury the youngster was “clearly exhausted but treated completely without love”.

Brockhill, 28, of Hawthorn Close, Keighley, and Smith, 20, of Wesley Place, Halifax Road, Keighley, both deny murder and also causing or allowing Star’s death.

The trial continues.