Mother and ‘monster’ boyfriend guilty over death of two-year-old Lola James

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A mother and her “monster” boyfriend have been found guilty over the death of a two-year-old girl who was fatally attacked at her home in Wales.

Lola James died in hospital four days after suffering “catastrophic” brain injuries in the early hours of July 17 2020.

Lola’s stepfather, Kyle Bevan, denied murdering the youngster a few months after moving in with the family in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, claiming Lola had fallen down the stairs after being jumped on by the pet dog.

Sinead James, Lola’s mother, had denied causing or allowing her death but was found guilty.

It took the jury just under 10 hours to reach a verdict.

Judge Mr Justice Griffiths thanked the jury for their service, describing the case as “more difficult than most”.

He ordered pre-sentence reports to be carried out before sentencing on April 25.

During the four-week trial prosecutor Caroline Rees KC said Bevan, a self-confessed “spice head”, had launched a “murderous” attack on Lola and used the hours after to cover his tracks instead of calling for an ambulance.

The court heard Lola had previously sustained injuries including a damaged nose, black eyes and a cut lip while in Bevan’s care.

It was accepted that mother-of-three James was asleep at the time and did not take part in the vicious assault that led to her daughter’s death.

Lola James (Dyfed-Powys Police/PA)
Lola James (Dyfed-Powys Police/PA)

Ms Rees added: “She knew her children had sustained injuries whilst in Kyle Bevan’s care in the past and knew that he had a nasty and violent temper, particularly when under the influence of drugs.”

Giving evidence, James called Bevan “a monster” and told the jury: “I never thought he would kill my children, never in a million years.

“If I had gotten him out of the house my daughter would still be alive today.”

Photographs taken by Bevan of marks on Lola’s back and extensive swelling and bruising to her head, eyes and lips were shown to the jury.

Prior to that, on the night of July 16, Bevan had been taking photographs of the young girl using Snapchat filters.

A video of Lola that Bevan had taken in the morning and sent to his mother, Alison Bevan, was played in court.

The disturbing footage showed Bevan demonstrating how Lola was unconscious, by picking up her limp body and attempting to stand her on her feet before letting her fall to the floor, telling the camera: “She’s gone.”

Lola James death court case
The court heard Lola had previously sustained injuries including a damaged nose, black eyes and a cut lip while in Bevan’s care (CPS/PA)

The prosecution also noted that none of the searches included reference to a child falling down the stairs.

Bevan did not ask his mother to phone an ambulance for Lola until almost 7.30am, having only woken James up at about 7.20am.

Pictures taken inside the house showed the state of the property, which was described by Ms Rees as “generally dirty, messy and cluttered”.

In contrast, investigators discovered the bath was “spotless, as though it had recently been cleaned”, Ms Rees said.

A child’s wet, vomit and blood-stained grey Frozen onesie was found in the corner of the living room, and when paramedics arrived at the house they noted that Lola appeared wet.

Police believed Bevan had tried to clean up after putting Lola in the bath, either to revive her or to clean her of blood and vomit after his attack.

Ms Rees said: “Rather than face up to that which he did to the little girl, he immediately tried to save himself.

Lola James death court case
A photo of a staircase was shown in court (CPS/PA)

“He tried to take a coward’s escape by trying to place false blame upon the family dog and suggesting that Lola must have fallen down the stairs.”

James told the court how just after midnight she heard “a bang and a scream” coming from Lola’s bedroom.

She said she ran to the room and found Lola sitting on Bevan’s lap, with no visible injuries.

James told the court that Bevan reassured her, saying “I’ve got this”, before she went back to bed.

Hours later she said Bevan woke her to say Lola had fallen down the stairs, and presented a piece of her daughter’s tongue on his finger.

After seeing her daughter unresponsive on the sofa James dialled 999 in tears, and told operators Lola’s face appeared “swollen” and that she was “really scared”.

The court heard Bevan became threatening and aggressive with hospital doctors who questioned him over Lola’s injuries while she was in a life-threatening condition.

Lola James death court case
The property was was described in court as ‘generally dirty, messy and cluttered’ (CPS/PA)

James, who had been helped by domestic abuse support workers in the past, admitted Bevan “petrified” her and described an incident when he used a hammer to smash up her home after consuming Xanax and alcohol.

James was contacted by the mother of his previous partner, warning him about his background.

Bevan had refused to give her his date of birth so she could make a Clare’s Law application, which allows police to disclose to a person their partner’s previous abusive or violent offending.

Friends of James gave evidence that they disliked Bevan and did not think he was suitable to have around children.

Despite repeated warnings James did not end the relationship and said “he was too far into my head. I can’t explain it”.

She claimed to have become a “shadow of herself” during their relationship.

James’ barrister, David Elias KC, said she had “done right by” Lola throughout her short life and she could not have known the significant risk of harm he posed.

Lola James death court case
Pictures of the property were shown in court (CPS/PA)

It was heard that Bevan was a regular user of Xanax, Valium and cannabis, and that the couple both took amphetamines when the children were at James’ mother’s house.

More than 100 scratches and bruises were recorded on Lola’s body, and she also had extensive damage to both her eyes. Her brain injuries were compared with those found in car crash victims.

A number of medical experts said the injuries were inconsistent with an accidental fall down carpeted stairs and were more likely the result of “abusive head trauma and physical abuse”.

Lola biological father, Daniel Thomas, said in statement: “The pain and grief I feel every time I close my eyes and see your perfect little face is unbearable.

“I’m so sorry your short life was filled with so much pain. You are so loved Lola and so missed every single day.

“The outcome here will never stop the hurt you felt or the hurt that lives inside of me, it’s been a long time coming to see justice and I can only pray that these cruel, evil people that hurt you and allowed you to be hurt, suffer pain and torment until they take their last breath.”

Nicola James, Lola’s maternal grandmother, said: “She will forever be our diamond up in the sky, we will never ever forget her, and we will continue to keep her memory alive.

Senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Roberts welcomed the verdict and said: “Lola died on July 21, 2020, as a result of horrendous injuries which were inflicted by Kyle Bevan in what must have been a frenzied and extremely violent attack on a helpless two-year-old child.

“Lola had 101 external injuries to her body and her death was caused by a catastrophic brain injury, likely caused by blunt force trauma – punching or slapping, shaking, or a combination of both.

“Bevan delayed raising the alarm and seeking medical attention for at least an hour after he inflicted the fatal injuries and in the time since he has shown no remorse, emotion or any care for Lola.

“Consumed by his own self-preservation, Bevan lied and fabricated an accidental stair-fall to try and cover his tracks but, with the help of medical experts, we have been able to prove that his actions were deliberate, abhorrent and evil.”

NSPCC Cymru’s assistant director Tracey Holdsworth said a review into Lola’s death must establish whether more could have been done by agencies to prevent her death and called for the Welsh Government to make child protection a national priority.

Ms Holdsworth said: “This is another tragic case where a young child has died at the hands of those who she depended on.

“The Welsh Government has rightly committed to transforming children’s social care and it’s crucial this leads to systemic changes that ensure children like Lola are better protected.”

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