Birmingham & Black Country

Kandyce Downer guilty of baby Keegan's murder

Keegan Downer Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption Keegan Downer, also known as Shi-Anne, had 153 scars and bruises across her face and body, Birmingham Crown Court heard

A woman has been convicted of murdering a toddler who had suffered more than 150 injuries.

Kandyce Downer, 34, killed 18-month-old Keegan Downer, less than a year after she was appointed her legal guardian.

Keegan was subjected to what police described as "barbaric and evil" treatment, suffering brain and spinal injuries and had 153 scars and bruises.

On the day she died, Downer delayed calling 999 to dump her blood-spotted mattress, Birmingham Crown Court heard.

The short, sad life of Keegan Downer

The jury took just under three hours to reach its verdict. Downer will be sentenced on Wednesday.

Forensic testing at the house revealed traces of the girl's blood in her cot and on the bedroom wall.

Downer had been appointed sole legal carer for Keegan, who died on 5 September last year, and has four other children, the jury was told.

The court was told that on finding the toddler "unwell" in her cot, she drove off to dump the child's old mattress near a skip before alerting emergency services.

Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption Kandyce Downer had denied murder

Born in March 2014 to a mother who was a heroin addict, Keegan was otherwise healthy but was put with a foster carer by social services.

Keegan, a member of Downer's extended family, was put under her guardianship around nine months before her death last September.

Also known as Shi-Anne, Keegan was described in court as a "happy baby" and had lived at Downer's family home in Beckbury Road, Weoley Castle.

'Systemic abuse'

Downer had told the court most of the "day-to-day" care of Keegan was down to her son and three younger children and claimed her eldest son may have been to blame for the fatal injuries.

The trial heard a leg fracture inflicted on the child would have left her in excruciating pain, making it inconceivable that someone looking after her would have been unaware of the injury.

Image caption Downer appeared to provide a loving home for Keegan, police said

West Midlands Police said Downer appeared to provide a loving and stable home for Keegan but she was "cunning and devious in her systemic abuse of the child".

Det Insp Harry Harrison said: "We believe the abuse started when her relationship began to go wrong. This was an extremely disturbing and harrowing case to investigate.

"What Downer subjected Keegan to was barbaric, inhuman and evil."

He added he was "astounded by the lack of emotion" shown by Downer throughout this investigation.

"She has not shown a shred of remorse or sorrow," he said.

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Media captionKeegan was found to have a leg fracture which had gone untreated

Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board said it set up a Serious Case Review following the toddler's death "to establish what lessons could be learned by the agencies involved in this sad case".

Penny Thompson, chair of the board, said the review, which will reflect on information disclosed during the trial, could now be completed and its findings would be published in the summer.

An NSPCC spokesman said: "It defies belief that this abuse could happen at the hands of a woman who was entrusted with bringing up Keegan.

"Having already been placed in foster care as a baby, Keegan's legal guardian should have given her a stable and loving family life to grow up in.

"But instead she killed this defenceless little girl by subjecting her to the most brutal violence."

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