A young couple who put their baby daughter in front of a gas fire to warm her up when they found her dead causing horrific burns to her body, have both been jailed for neglect “over a third of her life.”

Leeds Crown Court heard it was not possible to determine the cause of death of Daniel Sheard and Lucy Damen’s 18-week-old daughter Kayleigh but she was found to have fractured bones, bruises and bite marks.

A post mortem revealed old fractures to her right shoulder, 17 separate fractures to her ribs, some of which had already healed, and marks that she had been bitten by another child.

She was found in September 2013 at their then home in Foldings Avenue, Cleckheaton , by paramedics strapped into her bouncy chair in front of the fire which was burning at maximum heat following a call from Sheard who claimed he had done that to try and wake her up.

Sheard, 24, recently of Indus Close, Heckmondwike was found guilty by a jury of cruelty by neglect through failing to get her medical aid while Damen, 22, admitted the charge.

They were previously charged with her manslaughter but that was dropped when it could not be proved she died from an unlawful act.

Jailing Sheard for six years and Damen for four and half years Judge Tom Bayliss QC said their behaviour amounted to “protracted if not long term neglect over one third of this child’s short life” but they were not being sentenced for causing her death.

He said the baby, who had thrived in her early months, would have been in pain from her arm and shoulder injury but they had clearly taken steps she was not seen by professionals during the weeks concerned.

The evidence also showed she had suffered two sets of rib fractures which were “non accidental injuries.”

Judge Bayliss said: “Each of you knew the injuries would suggest to any health care worker that the injuries were non accidental so you sought to conceal them.”

One rib fracture had been caused while the baby was still alive but he was prepared to accept that was done when Sheard made clumsy attempts to perform CPR on her.

Leeds Crown Court
Leeds Crown Court

They had tried to cover up the truth of what had happened to her “even in death” when they had changed her clothes, smothered her in Sudacrem and placed her in front of the fire to hide the delay in seeking help for her.

He accepted they were young and trying to cope with looking after a baby which brought its own pressures but “there is no excuse for what you did.”

He said Sheard had shown no remorse and lied in court during his trial.

“You both have proved unfit to ever look after children,” the judge told them.

William Harbidge QC for Sheard said he was to be sentenced only for neglect and not for assault or ill-treatment of his daughter “let alone for any form of homicide.”

He said having been brought up in care himself Sheard was anxious to avoid social services involvement.

“This was not a case where he was deliberately trying to make her suffer,” said Mr Harbridge.

In a statement Kayleigh’s family said: ‘As a family we will never understand how or why Kayleigh was so badly mistreated by the two people who should have loved and cherished her most. Our grief has been prolonged for over three years while we patiently waited for the conclusion of the case. We would like to pass on our thanks to all those who have been involved in Kayleigh Mai’s case and who have now brought matters to a close. We will never be able to come to terms with the loss of Kayleigh, albeit her life was very short she gave us all joy. Our hope is now that justice has been done, Kayleigh Mai can rest in peace and we can all try and move on as a family.”

Det Supt Simon Atkinson, of the Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, said: “This has been a deeply tragic case where a four-month-old baby girl has lost her life before its even had chance to really begin.

“Kayleigh was subjected to horrendous treatment by the two people who were solely responsible for her care and wellbeing. Instead, they subjected her to abhorrent abuse and neglect which resulted in her appalling injuries. She must have been in absolute agony in the days until she died due to the injuries inflicted at the hands of Lucy Damen and Daniel Sheard.

“Both Damen and Sheard will now be given an appropriate custodial sentences for the offences they have committed and I believe justice has been served for Kayleigh in bringing this case before the courts.”