'Cruel and pitiless' mother and partner get life for murdering toddler

Rachel Fee or Trelfa, left, and her partner Nyomi Fee, who were sentenced for the murder of two-year-old Liam Fee.
Rachel Fee or Trelfa, left, and her partner Nyomi Fee, who were sentenced for the murder of two-year-old Liam Fee.

A mother and her civil partner were today jailed for life for murdering her toddler son after subjecting him to more than two years of abuse and neglect.

Two-year-old Liam Fee died at his home near Glenrothes, Fife, on March 22, 2014, after suffering heart injuries similar to those found on road crash victims.

His mother Rachel Trelfa or Fee, 31, and her partner NyomiFee, 29, formerly of Ryton, Tyne and Wear, tried to pin the blame for the death on a young boy.

But they were convicted of Liam's murder in May following a seven-week trial at the High Court in Livingston.

The pair were also found guilty of a catalogue of horrific cruelty against two boys in their care, including the one they blamed for Liam's death.

Sitting at the High Court in Edinburgh, judge Lord Burns handed both women mandatory life sentences.

He 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.

The pair displayed little emotion as their sentences were delivered, one after the other.

There was silence in the packed courtroom as the pair were led away to the cells.

Liam's father Joseph Johnson looked straight ahead as the women were told the punishment parts of their life sentences.

Lord Burns told the couple they had subjected the children to "a cruel and pitiless regime of ill treatment and neglect".

"In the case of Liam, that treatment included the assault which caused his death," the judge said.

He added that the post-mortem examination showed the two-year-old had been "subjected to a prolonged course of violent behaviour".

The case of "unyielding, heartless cruelty" was one of the most distressing ever heard in a Scottish courtroom, with some evidence reducing jury members to tears.

Liam had suffered a severe blunt force trauma from a blow or blows to his chest and abdomen and had more than 30 external injuries on his lifeless body.

Jurors heard there had been an escalation of violence towards the blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy leading up to his death, which included the couple failing to get help for the toddler when they knew he had a broken leg and fractured arm.

Their "callous indifference" to his injuries would have left the child in agony, but the killers refused to get him medical aid, choosing instead to search the internet on their phones under terms such as "how do you die of a broken hip", "how long can you live with a broken bone?", and "can wives be in prison together?".

Under oath, the women admitted serious failings over the lack of medical help sought for Liam and put it down to fears the child would be taken into care.

But they denied murder and, as part of their web of lies, tried to shift the blame for the killing on to a boy of only primary school age, who they claimed had been acting in a sexualised way towards Liam.