One-year-old who died with 70 injuries was ‘good as gold’, father tells court

The father of an 18-month-old-boy who died after suffering 70 injuries allegedly from attacks by his mother and her former partner described his son as “good as gold”.

Alfie Phillips’ dad Sam Phillips saw the one-year-old just days before his death on November 28, 2020 and told jurors at Maidstone Crown Court that he was “his normal self”.

His mother Sian Hedges, 27, of Yelverton, Devon, and her partner at the time Jack Benham, 35, are on trial for his murder, which allegedly happened overnight at Benham’s caravan in Hernhill, near Faversham, Kent.

Opening the case on Wednesday, prosecutor Jennifer Knight KC accused the pair of “meting out some sort of aggressive, violent ‘discipline’ to Alfie that night which resulted in his death”.

The little boy died with a “myriad of bruises” and marks including fractures to his ribs, arms and leg, signs of smothering to his lips and mouth, and traces of cocaine in his body.

Ms Knight said that during police interviews, Hedges and Benham admitted taking cocaine that night and both said they had been drinking whisky and coke while Alfie was asleep in the caravan.

Giving evidence in court on October 5, Mr Phillips said he saw Hedges and Alfie on Wednesday, November 25 2020 at his caravan, and said other than looking “a bit tired, a little bit pasty”, Alfie was his usual self.

He also noticed a little bruise on one of his ears like a “pinch mark”.

Mr Phillips, who also has two other sons, agreed when Benham’s defence counsel Ian Henderson KC said that when Alfie bumped into things he would shake it off and “try and go again”.

The court heard about the “volatile” nature of Mr Phillips’ and Hedges’ relationship, and that while they had previously lived together for about a year in Mr Phillips’ caravan, in the months leading up to Alfie’s death they were in an “on-off” phase but would still have contact for Mr Phillips to see Alfie.

Defending Hedges, Jo Martin KC asked Mr Phillips if he ever used violence against Hedges, to which he replied “no”, and he agreed she was a good mother who looked after Alfie.

Mr Phillips also admitted taking cocaine “now and again” but said he never took drugs when he was looking after Alfie, adding: “It’s just not right.”

The court heard how, in the on-off phase of their relationship, Mr Phillips thought Hedges was staying at her father and grandmothers’ house on the nights she and Alfie did not stay with him.

But Mr Phillips “had suspicions” she was seeing someone else, Benham, who she had met at a pub in Whitstable.

The court heard how Mr Phillips found out about his son’s death from a Facebook messenger call from Hedges’ mother on November 28.

“She was distraught to tell me that Alfie was dead,” he said.

The trial continues.

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