A BARROW woman has admitted the unlawful killing of a one-year-old boy she was trying to adopt on the first day of a trial in which she is accused of his murder.

Laura Castle, 38, and Scott Castle, 34, had been selected by an adoption panel to care for eight-month-old Leiland Corkill, who was from Whitehaven, in August 2020.

Just over four months later, on January 7, 2021, Leiland was pronounced dead at Liverpool's Alder Hey Hospital due to catastrophic head injuries sustained at the Castles' home at Eskdale Avenue, Barrow.

In his opening statement, prosecutor Michael Brady QC said at 8.15am on January 6, 2021, Laura Castle, who Mr Brady described as "the dominant partner in the relationship", dialled 999, and reported that Leiland had fallen from a sofa and had become unresponsive.

Leiland was then taken to Furness General Hospital, had a bleed on his brain, and transferred to Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool, where he was found to have sustained irreversible brain stem injuries, brain swelling, and a bleed on the brain, but with no obvious fracture or signs of trauma to the skull, and was pronounced dead at approximately 3pm the following day.

Mr Brady said: "Medical staff raised concerns that the injuries were not consistent with the accounts provided", and Laura and Scott Castle were arrested by Merseyside Police on suspicion of causing or allowing the death of a child, and further arrested on suspicion of murder, and their mobile phones were seized, and the contents downloaded.

Mr Brady said that text messages on the phones revealed that in the months leading up to Leiland's death the Castles had referred to him in "increasingly aggressive and unpleasant terms."

Mr Brady said that Scott Castle was not only aware of how his wife behaved towards Leiland but "actively encouraged it."

Messages sent between the pair described Leiland in a derogatory way.

Mr Brady told the court it was clear Laura Castle was struggling within days of the placement as family members assisted with his care.

On September 23, 2020 she texted BAE nightshift worker Mr Castle: "I honestly really don't like him lately, he's an absolute moaning winge bag and I totally regret doing this.

"I'm going to lose my mind. Can never just have a nice day or night ever.

"Although I need to stop smacking him cos if I start I'll not stop at one point and it's not getting us anywhere and then I feel bad."

The next day she messaged: "I've just absolutely leathered him, I can't take this anymore, he's gonna have to go."

Scott Castle replied: "Right OK baby. He's really ruined it. At least we have tried."

On September 25 she wrote: "I've just leathered him again, I don't wanna do this. 

"I'm seriously at my wits end, no-one tells you about all this.
"I'm just an abusive parent so it seems."

Her husband responded: "Your not an abusive parent, baby. Not at all. Don't say that. 

"Let's just call it quits. I don't want you to have a mental break down. You're more important to me than him."

The Castles had earlier been selected by an adoption panel following an application process overseen by Cumbria Children's Services Department, the court heard.

In November 2020 a social worker reported from a statutory visit of her concerns that Laura Castle had said she did not love Leiland and that he "didn't like standing", was "lazy" and "big".

The following month a review took place of the placement and the Castles were told the local authority would not support an application for a permanent adoption unless further therapeutic work was undertaken.

However the couple remained determined to go ahead with the process, the court was told, and a care planning meeting with social workers was recommended for the new year.

He said: "It is the Crown's case that set against a background of frustration, borne out of highly stressful domestic circumstances - including financial difficulties and an inability to bond with Leiland-James - Laura Castle's frustration with Leiland-James turned to hostility as evidenced by her physical abuse of him culminating in his murder."

The prosecutor said pathologist Dr Alison Armour, who conducted the post-mortem examination, believed the degree of force needed to produce the serious head injuries was "considerable".

He said she thought that most of the injuries were consistent with assault and that bruising to the head and face were consistent with slapping, gripping, pinching, prodding and poking.

Leiland's foster-carer Charlotte Day, who had cared for Leiland from when he was two days old up to when he was placed in the Castles' care, said that Leiland enjoyed his 'jumperoo', his playmat, and has lots of toys, with a structure around him at her home.

"He liked to be read to, to be cuddled, and carried around," she said.

"He was a really happy, content baby boy."

She also asserted that she has kept in regular contact with the Castles up to Leiland's death, and would often receive photographs of him, and never saw anything that concerned her.

Laura Castle answered "no comment" to all questions when interviewed by police in November 2021.

Laura Castle denies murder and child cruelty. Scott Castle denies causing or allowing the death of Leiland and also child cruelty.

The trial was adjourned until next Tuesday.