CCTV footage, pictures on a mobile phone, video clips and multiple warnings that a little girl was in danger: the damning evidence that Star Hobson was brutally tortured and killed by her mother’s partner.
Star was rushed to hospital on September 22, 2020, but by the time she got there it was too late, as medical experts determined her injuries “utterly catastrophic” and “unsurvivable”.
The 16-month-old child was killed by her 20-year-old mother Frankie Smith’s partner, Savannah Brockhill, 28, Bradford Crown court found on Tuesday, December 14, after an eight-week trial.
She died of a cardiac arrest at a West Yorkshire hospital, after bouncer and amateur boxer Brockhill inflicted hideous injuries on her over the weeks and months before. Her injuries were described as similar to those of car crash victims.
A post-mortem found over 30 separate injuries ranging from bruises to cuts and rib fractures and two breaks in her right tibia caused by forced twisting. The mending bone had also been re-fractured.
She had a 12cm fracture on the back of her skull from days before her death, but, the fatal blow is believed to have been to her stomach.
Mother Frankie has been cleared of manslaughter and murder, however, she has been found guilty of allowing the abuse to happen. The pair are due to be sentenced on Wednesday, December 15.
The jury was brought to the conclusion of Brockhill’s guilt through a string of evidence, which we discuss below.
The CCTV footage
Savannah Brockhill had been caught punching, slapping and abusing Star on CCTV.
Footage from a recycling centre near Doncaster, nine days before the infant’s death, appears to show Brockhill repeatedly lunging for her.
Before-and-after footage shows bruising thought to have been acquired during the time Star spent with Brockhill.
Footage from the stairwell of Smith’s block of flats also shows Brockhill “blocking Smith from helping Star down the stairs”, said DC Ian Johnson as he gave evidence at the trial.
Star could reportedly then be seen falling down the last couple of stairs headfirst.
Footage from the recycling centre also shows Brockhill punching and slapping Star multiple times, with the child seen falling out of a car.
There was also CCTV was also found of Smith dragging Star through Bradford in tears by her reigns as she tried to walk with an injured leg.
The mobile phone pictures
An image from around the time of the recycling centre trip shows Star with bruising on her cheeks, nose, eyes and forearms.
A photograph dated September 12, 2020, seems to show Star with a swollen upper lip.
During the trial, forensic pathologist Dr Christopher Johnson gave evidence that Star’s injuries appeared to be “non-accidental” and “likely” caused by “blows to the face with slaps or punches, something like that”.
The video clips
The couple are believed to have filmed their punishment of the girl to send to their friends for their amusement, with Brockhill often editing the footage by adding in dramatic music and captions.
The women could often be heard laughing in the background.
They have also filmed Star falling off her chair and down flights of stairs, which Brockhill admitted she found funny and reminiscent of TV show You’ve Been Framed.
One clip shows Star falling asleep in a chair, which she then tumbles from onto the floor bringing the chair down on top of her.
Brockhill is thought to have opted to put the footage into slo-mo and send it to a friend with the caption “f***ed it”, rather than comfort the child.
Mother Frankie is understood to have filmed the girl facing the wall crying as punishment and had taken a liking to scaring the little girl, who was only born in 2019.
The texts on the day of the murder
A text message exchange between Smith and Brockhill on the day Star died following Smith stating she had “had enough” said:
Brockhill: “You doing? x”
Smith replied: “Sorting this child out, gave her food and she ate it all and now she’s sat on the floor saying no and nipping and biting her arm.”
Brockhill: “Daft child.”
Smith: “Ragged my hair out, smacked me, sick to death of it.”
Brockhill: “Do what you did last night and put her in a corner.”
Smith: “Done it. Stood crying at the wall.”
Brockhill: “Good x”
Later that afternoon Smith’s phone history was found to include searches of: “how to bring a baby out of shock” and “shock in babies”.
Yvonne Spendley / SWNS)
Social services are believed to have received five warnings the little girl’s life was in danger, with one as early as January 23, 2020.
The first referral came from Frankie Smith’s friend, Hollie Jones, and although social services are said to have visited, the matter was not taken further.
Star’s father, Jordan Hobson, is also thought to have lodged a referral after he saw a Facebook video of Star with bruises to her face.
Her extended family are believed to have raised the alarm on the child’s behalf – her granny had even said: “I’m worried our Star is going to end up dead”.
Her great-grandfather David Fawcett, 61, from Shipley in West Yorkshire, has blasted social service’s actions as “shambolic” after Star had been returned to her mother after 10 weeks living with them and despite referrals from concerned relatives.
He said he and partner Anita Smith had warned Bradford council social services Star was being picked up by one leg by Savannah, who had also been “slam choking” the infant.
Adding: “Anita phoned social services but didn’t even get a visit or get told the case had been closed.
“Savannah must have Star on her knee and made everything look great when the social workers went round.
“We could see from the bruises that Savannah was hitting Frankie and we were fearful she would hit Star. Our referral was classed as malicious, but there was no malice on our part. Anita has friends who are in the same-sex relationships and she also has gypsy friends.
“We can’t understand why social workers didn’t come to see us. They had five chances to help Star and failed every time. It was shambolic.
“If social services had taken more notice Star would be alive today.
“Anita told social services that we were concerned about Star and we didn’t want another Baby P. Social services just asked ‘how do you mean’.”
He said the death had “torn the family apart”, which would “never, ever, get over losing Star”.
David said: “You just can’t believe we’re never going to see her again.
“It’s the facts of what happened to her as well, that’s killing us. To lose a child, it’s a horrible feeling. But it’s the way we lost Star that’s just horrendous.”
Brockhill is thought to have been controlling of the “abnormally compliant” Smith, posting a video with the caption: “I am a psycho when it comes to my girlfriend and wouldn’t mind putting anyone in a chair for the rest of their life if they as much as look at her wrongly. Keep safe don’t message my girlfriend.”