A mother and her former partner have been given life sentences for the murder of her 18-month-old son during “a lengthy night of violence”.
Alfie Phillips died on 28 November 2020 with more than 70 visible wounds and traces of cocaine in his body.
Sian Hedges, 27, and Jack Benham, 35, had denied murdering the toddler.
At Maidstone Crown Court, Hedges was sentenced to a minimum term of 19 years, while Benham was handed a minimum term of 23 years.
Justice Cavanagh said in his sentencing remarks that Alfie had been the victim of a “frenzied attack” in which he suffered about 50 injuries on the night of his death.
He said to Hedges: “You were Alfie’s mother and he deserved your protection.”
Sam Phillips, Alfie’s father, described him as “good as gold” and “lively”, adding he had been “robbed of the opportunity to see him grown up”.
“The funeral was one of the hardest days of my lives. The images of his tiny coffin will stay with me forever,” he said.
Hedges, of Yelverton, Devon, and Benham, killed Alfie overnight during lockdown in Benham’s caravan in Hernhill, near Faversham.
During the nine-week trial, which ended on 30 November 2023, the prosecution said both defendants were complicit in the assaults that took place.
Alfie died with injuries including fractures to his ribs, arms and leg, signs of smothering to his lips and mouth, and traces of cocaine in his body.
The court heard that on the night before Alfie died, Hedges went to buy drugs from their friend and repay her £400 debt, and also get mixers and drinks for their evening together in the caravan.
Benham told police he bit Alfie on his back and shook him the morning he found him unresponsive in an attempt to rouse him, the jury heard.
The pair met in September 2020 at a mutual friend’s house, where they would buy drugs.
During the trial, Hedges told her barrister that when she heard Alfie had died “I rang my mum and was screaming down the phone to her that Jack had murdered my son”.
She said she had not beaten Alfie deliberately, had not seen Mr Benham do so and would not have covered for her former partner.
Asked if she had seen Mr Benham murder Alfie, she replied: “No.”
Mark Demain, Alfie’s grandfather, said the toddler “completed our lives”.
“We have never experience pain like this. I would describe it as if the light in our souls have gone out,” he said.
“Our best friend, our grandson was so cruelly taken from us. Every day we are hurting.”
Jurors previously heard about older injuries Alfie sustained in the months prior to his death and their explanations for them, such as a cut under his eye from playing with keys and his fingers being caught in the dog gate in Benham’s parents’ home.
One incident was described in which Hedges described finding blood on the carpet, a cushion and a tissue, but was told Alfie had fallen and hit his mouth on the oil heater.
Benham had described how he held Alfie above him but he slipped out of his hands and hit his nose on Benham’s teeth, the court heard. Ms Hedges said she was not there and was unaware it had happened.
When the pair were found guilty, Det Ch Insp Kathleen Way, of Kent Police, said the verdict would “not bring Alfie back”, but would mean that “Hedges and Benham lose their right to freedom and life as they know it”.
“Alfie should have been protected and loved by his mum, instead Hedges and Benham inflicted unimaginable suffering on him during a sustained and lengthy night of violence,” she added.
Following the sentencing, Det Ch Insp Way said Hedges and Benham inflicted “unimaginable suffering”.
She said: “He should have been protected and loved by his mother, but instead lost his life in appalling circumstances.”