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Mother and partner jailed for life for Liam Fee murder

The Guardian The Guardian 6/07/2016 Libby Brooks
Rachel Trelfa and Nyomi Fee at the high court in Livingston in April. © Rex/Shutterstock Rachel Trelfa and Nyomi Fee at the high court in Livingston in April.

A mother and her civil partner have been jailed for life for murdering her two-year-old son after subjecting the toddler and two other young boys in their care to a horrific catalogue of abuse.

Liam Fee’s mother, Rachel Trelfa (or Fee), 31, and her civil partner, Nyomi Fee, 29, had both denied killing the toddler and falsely accused another child of causing the death.

The pair, originally of Ryton, Tyne and Wear, were convicted at the end of May of murdering Liam at their home near Glenrothes in Fife in 2014. They were also found guilty of assaulting the two-year-old over a period of more than two years prior to his death. The jury also convicted them of four charges detailing a string of abuses against two other boys, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

Sitting at the high court in Edinburgh, Judge Lord Burns ordered Trelfa to serve a minimum of 23-and-a-half years behind bars, while Fee must spend at least 24 years in prison before she can even be considered for release.

Lord Burns told the two women they grossly abused their parental responsibilities, causing appalling mental and physical harm to Liam, and showing no remorse.

Liam was found dead at his home near Glenrothes in Fife on 22 March 2014, having suffered a ruptured heart as a result of severe blunt-force trauma.

During the seven-week trial at the high court in Livingston the jury heard how the couple immediately tried to shift the blame for Liam’s death on to one of the other children in the house, telling a 999 operator that he had strangled the toddler.

Paediatric pathologist Dr Paul French told the court that Liam almost certainly spent his last few days in agony after finding fractures to the boy’s upper arm and thigh, likely sustained in separate events in the hours and days before he died. He listed more than 30 external injuries found on the toddler’s body, most of them “in keeping with blunt-force trauma”.

The jury learned of the relentless level of painful and degrading abuse endured by the children as they listened to more than 20 hours of recorded interviews conducted separately with the surviving boys. The jury heard one boy explain that he was not allowed to get up to go to the toilet during the night. This meant that he would sometimes wet the bed, which would result in him being made to stand under a cold shower as punishment.

He later described how he had been tied to a locked homemade cage during the night, with his hands and feet bound with cable ties. He said his hands would swell up and that he was called “pudding hands” by Fee.

The court also heard that the pair were well aware that Liam was suffering from multiple fractures but, instead of seeking help, searched the Internet for queries including “how do you die of a broken hip?” and “can wives be in prison together?”.

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