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Alfie Phillips died with more than 70 visible wounds including multiple bruises and fractures
By Josie Hannett & Claudia Sermbezis & PA Media
BBC News, Kent

A mother and her former partner who used “aggressive, violent discipline” on her 18-month-old son have been convicted of murder.

Alfie Phillips died on 28 November 2020 with more than 70 visible wounds and traces of cocaine in his body, Maidstone Crown Court had heard.

Sian Hedges, 27, and Jack Benham, 35, had denied murdering the toddler in a caravan in Kent.

The judge indicated they both face life sentences.

They are both due to be sentenced on 19 December.

Sian Hedges and Jack Benham have been found guilty of murdering 18-month-old Alfie Phillips

Hedges, of Yelverton, Devon, and Benham, killed Alfie overnight during lockdown in Benham’s caravan in Hernhill, near Faversham.

On the night before Alfie died, the court heard from Benham how 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.

Jurors previously heard that Benham told police he bit Alfie on his back and shook him the morning he found him unresponsive in an attempt to rouse him.

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.

Jack Benham (left) and Sian Hedges face life sentences for the murder of 18-month-old Alfie Phillips

Sam Phillips, Alfie’s father, described him as “good as gold” and “lively”, adding there was “never a dull moment” with the toddler, who he said was always playing and laughing.

Det Ch Insp Kath Way of Kent Police, said: “Today’s verdict will not bring Alfie back, but it does 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 Alfie would now be aged four and would have recently started school.

“Instead, his life was cruelly taken away by those he should have been able to trust the most,” she said.

Alfie would now be aged four

Following the nine-week trial, jurors took about 10 hours to reach a unanimous verdict.

They 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.

The pair denied murdering Alfie Phillips in a caravan in Hernhill, near Faversham, Kent

Kellie Ann Fitzgerald, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) assistant director for local services, said the death of any child was “devastating”.

“The cruelty that Alfie experienced makes this even more disturbing,” she said.

“It’s heartbreaking that Alfie experienced harm at the hands of those people who he depended on to care for and protect him.”

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