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Guilty verdicts for Sian Hedges and Jack Benham in Alfie Phillips murder trial

A mum and her ex-boyfriend have been found guilty of murdering her toddler son in a “wicked and torturous attack”

Sian Hedges, 26, and Jack Benham, 35, now face life sentences after a jury ruled they beat 18-month-old Alfie Phillips to death in a caravan on the outskirts of Faversham.

Alfie Phillips was murdered by his mum, Sian Hedges, and her then-boyfriend Jack Benham
Alfie Phillips was murdered by his mum, Sian Hedges, and her then-boyfriend Jack Benham

The verdicts were returned today following a trial lasting more than seven weeks.

Jurors had been told how the pair had subjected the little boy to an “aggressive, violent” show of discipline.

Hedges and Benham pointed the finger at each other, with both denying any involvement in hurting the youngster.

But a jury saw through their lies and returned two guilty verdicts following deliberations that began on Tuesday afternoon.

Throughout the harrowing trial, they heard how Alfie had 70 visible injuries and multiple broken bones at the time of his death.

Traces of cocaine were also found in his body, indicating he had been recently exposed to the Class A drug, which his mum and Benham admitted taking in the hours before he died.

Speaking after the verdicts were announced, Alfie’s family told of the anguish of having to endure a three-year wait for justice, with many questions still unanswered.

“We have had to listen to the horrific details of what Sian and Jack did to Alfie, how they assaulted him again and again,” they said.

“He suffered so much pain. In these years, we have not had the closure, and even after the trial we feel that we still deserve answers.

“The only people with these answers are Sian and Jack but they have refused to say what happened to him.

“Still to this day, they have refused to take responsibility.

“They have never shown any remorse for what they did, and we will never know the truth about what happened to Alfie.

“Alfie was so cruelly taken from us that day. Every day we are hurting.

“Our shining light, that shone so bright, will always be in our hearts.

“We have such special memories of our short time with Alfie and these memories keep us going on the darkest of days.”

Little Alfie Phillips had 70 visible injuries at the time of his death
Little Alfie Phillips had 70 visible injuries at the time of his death

The youngster was taken back to the caravan at 7pm and was not seen again by anyone other than Benham and Hedges until about 11.30am the following morning.

It was during these hours Alfie was brutally murdered by the pair.

The court was told that shortly before 11.30am on the Saturday Benham came to the main house with Alfie in his arms. The toddler was described as “blue and floppy” and was not breathing.

Benham’s mother, Joan Benham, started performing CPR in the living room and his father, Mark Benham, called 999.

Paramedics arrived within 10 minutes but it was immediately apparent to them Alfie had been “dead for some time”, said the prosecutor.

Mrs Benham noticed a number of bruises to Alfie’s face she said had not been there the night before.

Benham came into the living room and told paramedics Alfie had been grumpy the night before so they took him into bed with them and when they woke Alfie was trapped under Benham’s legs and they could not wake him.

Examinations showed Alfie Phillips suffered multiple broken bones in the hours before his death
Examinations showed Alfie Phillips suffered multiple broken bones in the hours before his death

In reality, the little boy had been subjected to a sustained attack that caused his death.

He was taken to the QEQM Hospital in Margate, and pronounced dead at 12.35pm.

The trial was told how Benham was heard at the hospital to have said “what have I done?” when told Alfie had died.

A skeletal survey and post-mortem examinations revealed the toddler had multiple fractures to both of his arms, his ribs and one leg, as well as widespread bruising, marks and scrapes across his body.

Tests indicated many of the breaks to his bones would have occurred in the hours before Alfie’s death.

Prosecutor Jennifer Knight told the jury: “It is clear that Alfie Philips was deliberately injured on more than one occasion, culminating in an assault perpetrated during the night of November 27 to 28 that led to his death.

“Had either defendant not been joining in with the assaults, he or she would have stopped the attack and removed Alfie Phillips from the caravan.

“The fact that this did not happen can only be because both defendants agreed that the assaults should take place and each played their part.

“They were both agreed in meting out aggressive, violent ‘discipline’ to Alfie Phillips, which resulted in his death that night.”

The night in the caravan

The jury was told Hedges and Benham were arrested on the evening of Saturday, November 28, and interviewed over the course of two days.

Alfie Phillips was murdered in a caravan owned by Jack Benham in Highstreet Road, Hernhill, near Faversham
Alfie Phillips was murdered in a caravan owned by Jack Benham in Highstreet Road, Hernhill, near Faversham

Tests showed both had used cocaine and Hedges admitted to police she had taken a £40 bag over the course of three hours after Alfie went to sleep, the prosecution said.

The pair also drank whisky and Coke, with Hedges telling police they had their last drink at about 1am and then went to sleep in the same bed as Alfie.

Between 2.15am and 2.30am Mark Benham heard a car pull up on the gravel driveway outside and saw Hedges get out of the vehicle and return to the caravan.

The prosecutor said Hedges initially told police she had driven to Seasalter to get food, but later claimed she had gone to buy drugs after being repeatedly asked to by Benham, but she did not get any.

At about 6.30am Mark Benham let the family’s three dogs out into the main garden, but when one - a pug - did not return he went looking for it with a torch.

As he was searching he saw the door to his son's caravan open and the pug run out.

Hedges told police that at about this time she recalled a dog being let into the caravan. She said Alfie stirred but went back to sleep with his dummy. She said he was “fine and normal”. She then recalled Benham woke her up saying “What the f***’s wrong with him? Oh my God. He’s under my leg”.

Hedges said Alfie was floppy and his lips looked blue. She said she had a gut feeling he was dead.

She told police Benham never watched Alfie alone for more than 10 minutes or so.

She denied having caused him any injury and said she had no idea how Alfie could have fractured his arms or sustained any serious injury.

In interviews, Benham told police he did not consider himself a step-father figure and rarely did anything for Alfie.

He described Alfie as a “mummy’s boy” and admitted he did not like him, the jury was told.

But during the trial he claimed he treated the toddler like “one of my own”.

Benham told police Alfie was “whingy and upset” when he was put to bed between 7pm and 8pm on the night of Friday, November 27.

He said they left him to fall asleep without being cuddled, while together they drank whisky and Coke, “getting drunk, but not too drunk”.

Benham said he smoked some cannabis, which he did regularly.

He recalled letting the dog into the caravan and it jumping up onto the bed, but told police he did not know if Alfie was alive at that point or not.

He said when he woke later that morning Alfie was by his knee with his arm under Benham’s leg, and he was floppy.

Sian Hedges murdered her 18-month-old son Alfie Phillips
Sian Hedges murdered her 18-month-old son Alfie Phillips

He described shaking Alfie but getting no response. He said he bit him in a further attempt to get a response, the jury was told.

He described “patting” the back of Alfie’s head to try to rouse him, but he believed Alfie had died because he had been lying on him.

Benham was shown photographs of Alfie’s injuries and denied causing them or having any idea how they were caused.

He maintained this during the trial, saying that if he had not caused the injuries then Hedges must have done.

He said he always picked Alfie up by the hands and wrists, rather than by lifting him by holding him underneath his arms.

Throughout his interviews, Benham repeatedly said he would “deserve the noose” if he had caused Alfie’s injuries or death.

He also said Hedges would never hurt Alfie.

Neither of them could account for Alfie’s injuries, but both recalled occasions when he had fallen and hurt himself.

During the trial, Benham admitted to biting Alfie after finding him lifeless in a bid to rouse him, with the jury shown video footage of his police interview.

Expert examinations

Following Alfie’s death, a number of experts were asked to examine his body to determine the extent of his injuries and the potential cause of them.

A skeletal survey conducted days after he had died revealed he had suffered fractures to his left and right forearms, his ribs, sternum, left leg, and the big toe on his right foot.

Sian Hedges has been found guilty of murdering her 18-month-old son Alfie Phillips. Picture: Kent Police
Sian Hedges has been found guilty of murdering her 18-month-old son Alfie Phillips. Picture: Kent Police

A specialist later said there were signs many of the fractures had occurred in the hours before Alfie’s death, with the cause of some “crushing in nature”.

Forensic pathologist Dr Virginia Fitzpatrick-Swallow, who led the medical investigation, also identified 70 visible injuries.

In total there were 31 to his head and neck, including bruising across his face and forehead and multiple scrapes - known as abrasions - to his nose and across the top of his head.

There were 11 injuries to his arms, including dark blue bruises, 17 to his legs, and 11 to his torso, with bruising across his chest and back.

An internal examination also revealed bruising to the inside of Alfie’s lips, which the pathologist said suggested smothering or an attempt at smothering, with scrapes to his nose and mouth potentially explained by Alfie trying to remove a compressive force from his face.

Another specialist said multiple haemorrhages to Alfie’s eye muscles and soft tissue damage were “highly-consistent with direct blunt force trauma”.

Samples of Alfie’s blood and urine also showed traces of cocaine, but forensic scientist Diana Garside said these levels would not have been caused by Alfie ingesting a large quantity of the drug before his death.

She said they “could have arisen from some form of external contact with cocaine powder or residue from ‘crack’ cocaine smoke, or from a contaminated surface”.

She added she could not say whether Alfie would have been experiencing significant effects from cocaine at the time of his death, but she considered this a possibility.

Having considered the reports of her fellow experts, Dr Fitzpatrick-Swallow expressed no doubt that Alfie “came upon his death by unnatural means as a result of the action of another/others”.

“Significantly, there are a large number of injuries which cannot be explained by accidental means and have been caused by another person,” she reported.

“There is evidence of a significant and sustained assault resulting in numerous fractured bones.”

While certain someone was responsible for Alfie’s death, the pathologist could not determine the final cause due to the numerous injuries that could have led to it.

She said Alfie may have been smothered or suffocated, or suffered respiratory failure caused by fat emboli building up in his lungs following trauma to his body.

The jury was told that “the final cause of death was not clear and as such was best recorded as ‘unascertained – unnatural causes’”.

Text messages and previous injuries

The jury was told that on October 15, Hedges and Benham exchanged messages about biting Alfie.

Hedges wrote: “Little sh*t bit my arm this morning f**king hurt.”

Jack Benham has also been convicted of the murder of Alfie Phillips. Picture: Kent Police
Jack Benham has also been convicted of the murder of Alfie Phillips. Picture: Kent Police

Benham responded by suggesting she should bite him back, but not as hard.

Hedges said she tried it and Alfie found it funny.

“Bite hard. Your have to once I bet,” (sic) Benham replied.

Hedges said she did not want to have to do that.

A week later Benham referred to Alfie in texts to Hedges as “your little sod” and said he would “poke him in the ear” after he turned the caravan heater off.

Two weeks before Alfie’s death, Mr Phillips and his mother, Marie Demain, spotted a bruise on the top of Alfie’s ear.

Hedges told them he had fallen down the stairs.

Mrs Demain recalled it looking “really black”, and suggested to Hedges it looked like someone had twisted it. She did not respond to this, the jury was told.

At about the same time, Benham’s mother noticed a bruise that ran along Alfie’s eye.

Benham told her their dog had knocked Alfie into a door frame and he had caught his eye.

Hedges’ friend, Zoe Tritton, also noticed bruising to Alfie.

About a month before he died, she described his ear as “purple”.

Hedges told her that Alfie had bumped it against something while bending over to do the TV buttons at her father’s house.

Miss Tritton also remembered an occasion when Alfie bumped into a door frame at her house, with Hedges remarking that he was “clumsy”.

On November 10, 2020, Hedges took all of her belongings out of Sam Phillips’ caravan, but often returned to visit with Alfie, including three days before his death.

Giving evidence, Mr Phillips said on November 25 his son looked “tired, a bit pasty”, but added: “He was just doing his normal thing - running about, playing with his toys, being happy.”

On Thursday, November 26, Benham’s parents recall him saying that Alfie had caught his fingers in their dog gate, causing bruising to his fingernails.

Justice for the family

Alfie’s family say his loss in such brutal circumstances has left them “hurting” every day.

Alfie Phillips with dad Sam, who told the jury his son had been his "normal, happy self" days before he was murdered by Sian Hedges and her boyfriend Jack Benham
Alfie Phillips with dad Sam, who told the jury his son had been his "normal, happy self" days before he was murdered by Sian Hedges and her boyfriend Jack Benham

“On Sunday, May 26, 2019 Alfie came into our lives and blew us all away,” they said.

“It is hard to describe the love we had for him, but it was instant and unconditional.

“He completed our lives. Alfie was a reason for us all to exist, a reason to live, and we felt like our best friend had arrived on the day he was born.

“We yearned to see him every day. Then that day came- the day he was killed, and he was gone.”

The family added that they would like to thank those who helped bring the case to court and Alfie’s killers to justice.

“From the serious crime team all the way up to the jury and judge, “they said.

“A very massive thank you has to go to all the officers in the case for their professionalism, integrity and utmost respect for us as a family in dealing with this traumatic situation and their thoughtfulness towards us throughout the trial.”

Speaking on the steps outside Maidstone Crown Court, investigating officer DCI Kath Way said “justice has been served” for Alfie and his family.

“Sian Hedges, Alfie's own mother, who should have been there to keep him safe and to protect him, along with her boyfriend Jack Benham, has caused such unimaginable pain and suffering to Alfie,” she said.

“They subjected him to so much violence it was torturous and it was wicked.

“At no point during this investigation or this trial have they taken responsibility for what they've done and that's meant that the family have had to endure a lengthy trial listening to the horrendous details of what Alfie has been put through and the web of lies that have been told.

“This has been a really difficult and emotional trial for everyone involved, not least the jury members for their decision today, and their verdicts have meant that Sian Hedges and Jack Benham will be held accountable for their crimes.”

Hedges and Benham will be sentenced at the same court on December 19.

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “The cruelty inflicted upon Alfie culminating in his death is devastating. And it is heart-breaking to know that this was done at the hands of those who were supposed to be caring for him.

“We know that very young children are particularly vulnerable to abuse because they are completely reliant on the adults around them for care and protection.

“It is so important that anyone who is worried about a child’s safety speaks out about their concerns. People can contact the local authority, the police or the NSPCC Helpline.”

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