Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Liam Fee trial: The horrific evidence heard by the jury

Liam Fee Image copyright Police handout

Seven weeks ago, the numbers of 15 jury members were pulled out of a glass bowl on the clerk's desk at the High Court in Livingston.

As they went to settle into the jury room and familiarise themselves with their duties, they would have been unaware of what they had been signed up for.

Yet the six men and eight women (one jury member fell ill and was excused) were to endure some of the most distressing, upsetting and depraved evidence ever presented in a Scottish court.

From the moment the emergency operator tries to talk to a seemingly hysterical Nyomi Fee as she performs CPR on Liam - who had already been dead for some time by this point - it played out like a storyline from a television drama.

Except it was far from fiction.

For two weeks, the jury watched nothing but video evidence from the two boys Rachel and Nyomi Fee abused and tortured.

One is the child the couple tried to blame for Liam's death. They forced him to tell police he had strangled the toddler.

Image copyright Crown Office
Image caption The makeshift cage was made partly from a fireguard

Questioned separately over the course of a number of weeks by a social worker and police officer, the boys gradually became less withdrawn and frightened.

Slowly, and in snatches, their story begins to unfold. Even the questioners, trained in child protection, did not see what was coming.

One child tells of being forced to spend the night naked in a makeshift cage made out of a fireguard. His hands were bound behind his back with cable ties.

On another occasion, he is tied to a bed in a room where Rachel and Nyomi kept rats and snakes. Nyomi tells him the boa constrictor "eats little boys".

So frightened, the boy even hatches an escape plan - to tie bandages together and climb out of the window of the house.

It's a notion straight from a children's book - but the child says he got caught and instead was forced to climb into the drawer of a cabinet with mesh on top - weighed down with a wheelchair and a vacuum cleaner.

He says he felt like an Egyptian mummy.

He also tells of Nyomi pressing her foot on his neck so tightly that he blacks out, seeing bright lights. Both boys tell of being forced to take cold showers, left to shiver and drip dry naked.

Image copyright Crown Office
Image caption The toddler's body was found in his bedroom

One boy recalls being made to eat his own vomit. And this is only the reportable version of events. The jury have heard much worse.

As these horrific stories begin to emerge there are equally touching moments of interaction between questioners and the children. Reminders that these boys are victims of some inexcusable acts of cruelty.

Early on in the process, there is a moment where the social worker offers to reach into the tummy of one of the children to pull out all of the sadness inside so the child can start to get his smile back. The boy has to help by telling them what is making him so upset.

In a later interview, the other boy arrives in a suit jacket, a pen neatly placed in his top pocket, while he clutches a meerkat soft toy. So smart and grown up, yet childlike and fragile.

He always asks "how many more questions?" At a hint of something difficult, he buttons up his meerkat into his own suit jacket protecting the soft toy, protecting himself.

That was hard enough to witness, but the most horrific of all was still to come.

Image caption Rachel and Nyomi Fee denied murdering Liam

On day 16, the court was shown a police crime scene video of the Fee's house the night Liam was murdered - Saturday 22 March 2014.

The footage has no sound as it tracks through each room of the house. There are family pictures of Liam, Rachel and Nyomi covering the walls in the hallway and living room.

It moves on from the kitchen and bathroom to Liam's bedroom. Firstly the camera shows Liam's travel cot and his buggy. There are posters on the wall and toys scattered around the room.

And then the camera zooms in on the young boy lying on the floor. At first he looks as if he is sleeping - paramedics have placed a duvet over him.

But as the camera zooms in and out, the duvet is removed and Liam is there. His lifeless, grey body lying on the floor, dressed in his ZingZillas pyjamas. His left leg is bent upwards at an awkward angle where it has been broken.

It was a sudden and harsh reminder to the jury of the horrible reality of this trial. A young life taken by the very people who were supposed to care for and nurture him. Some of the jury members were in tears.

Immediately after the 12-minute film was over, the trial judge, Lord Burns, was asked for a break.

Remained impassive

When the seven-week trial came to its conclusion, it took the jury 10 hours to find Rachel and Nyomi Fee guilty of the charges against them.

Liam Fee's dad, Joseph Johnson, was in tears and had to be consoled by friends.

However, the Fees remained impassive as the verdicts were delivered.

Nyomi looked straight ahead, while Rachel looked more nervous, chewing her lips as the jury reached their decision.

The 14 men and women have been excused from jury duty for 10 years.

They will now pack up their things and go their separate ways. As individuals, they must reflect on the horror of these weeks that they have shared.

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