The court heard how Kyrell Matthews had suffered a string of terrible injuries during his short life, before his death in October 2019.
On Friday, 4 March, at the Old Bailey, the boyfriend of Kyrell’s mother, Kemar Brown, 28 of Bensham Manor Road, Thornton Heath, was found guilty of Kyrell’s murder. He was also found guilty of causing/allowing serious physical harm to the child.
Kyrell’s mother, Phylesia Shirley, 24 of Bensham Manor Road, Thornton Heath was found guilty of manslaughter.
She had previously pleaded guilty on the first day of her trial on Monday, 17 January to allowing the death of a child, and allowing serious physical harm to a child.
On Friday, 25 March, Brown was sentenced to life imprisonment to serve a minimum of 25 years in jail. Shirley was sentenced to 13 years.
Detective Chief Inspector Kate Kieran, of the Met’s Specialist Crime, said: “This was a horrific case and the injuries inflicted on Kyrell were truly appalling. It is impossible to understand how someone can brutalise a child in this way. This was not some sudden loss of temper – these injuries show that the abuse of Kyrell went on and on. It was during one final brutal assault that Kyrell’s sad, short life was brought to an end.
“Today his mother and her boyfriend had been sentenced for their part in Kyrell’s death. Frankly I find it hard to understand how they could have committed such appalling acts on a defenceless child. A jury has quite rightly found both Shirley and Brown culpable for Kyrell’s ill-treatment – they will now face the consequences.
“Investigating the death of a child is never easy, but the scale of Kyrell’s injuries and the fact that many of the assaults had been recorded made this an especially distressing case. My team had to listen repeatedly to the sound of Kyrell being beaten and abused, I know how much this has affected them. I want to pay tribute to their resilience and their determination to ensure those responsible for Kyrell’s death were convicted.”
Samantha Yelland, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “This was a violent, determined and repeated pattern of assaults against a defenceless young child. Kyrell Matthews would have been in significant discomfort in the days before his death, and tragically he would have died in pain. As a mother, Phylesia Shirley should have protected him, but instead along with her partner, she subjected him to countless assaults in their own home.
“Jurors were presented with harrowing audio recordings of what took place in the home with both Brown and Shirley clearly involved in the physical abuse of the young toddler. I hope these convictions have brought some sense of justice to those who loved and cared for Kyrell.”
Kyrell’s family said: “Kyrell – you were robbed of the life God had intended for you. Our family have been robbed of the joys of watching your grow up and seeing what you would have become. You have left a void in our hearts that will never be filled. We carry you in our hearts forever.”
The court heard how at about 15:00hrs on Sunday, 20 October 2019 Kyrell’s mother, Phylesia Shirley, phoned the non-emergency NHS helpline and told them Kyrell was ill. She told them his eyes were rolling back and he was having trouble breathing.
She was advised to carry out CPR, but when an ambulance arrived just 12 minutes later, they could not detect a heartbeat. They also noted that his body temperature was low, indicating he had not been breathing for some time.
Also present was her boyfriend Kemar Brown – both he and Shirley stated that Kyrell had some sort of fit while he was sleeping.
Kyrell was rushed to hospital but, despite extensive efforts to revive him, he was pronounced dead at 16:15hrs.
Police had been called to the scene and initially it was not clear if Brown and Shirley were only witnesses to a tragic death; both denied any ill-treatment.
It was during the post-mortem examination, carried out on 23 October 2019, that the horrific scale of Kyrell’s injuries were discovered.
Kyrell had died as a result of trauma to his abdomen that had torn his liver, probably as a result of squeezing, crushing or blows and he also had five broken ribs.
But in addition, 41 rib fractures were found that had been caused on five separate occasions in the month leading up to his death; some of his ribs had been repeatedly broken.
All this, and other injuries, showed that Kyrell had been subjected to a protracted period of repeated assaults.
As a result of the post-mortem findings, a homicide investigation was launched by officers from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command.
On 31 October 2019, Brown and Shirley were arrested and interviewed. Both denied any responsibility for Kyrell’s injuries.
However, police had seized Shirley’s phone and while examining it they came across the horrific sounds of Kyrell being abused.
Shirley had been checking up on Brown, probably to see if he was having a relationship with other women, but it does not appear to have been to protect the welfare of Kyrell.
These recordings, which run from June to September 2019 were shockingly graphic. They captured the sound of Kyrell being beaten and abused.
In most of the beatings, Brown can be heard but Shirley is also heard striking Kyrell.
The recordings were harrowing to listen to and many of the investigating team were deeply affected by the graphic sounds of a child being hurt and crying out in anguish.
Shirley and Brown were both charged on 7 December 2020 with murder and causing or allowing the death of a child and convicted as above.