Published: 16:26, 14 November 2019
| Updated: 18:03, 14 November 2019
An "arrogant" man who tried to wash his hands of any responsibility after killing his girlfriend's toddler has been jailed.
Three-year-old Alfie Lamb died after Stephen Waterson slammed his car seat into him in February 2018.
The 26-year-old, who repeatedly lied to police in an attempt to avoid prosecution, was earlier been found guilty of intimidating a witness, having previously admitted conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
He denied manslaughter by criminal act in a first trial when a jury was unable to reach a verdict, but pleaded guilty to manslaughter by gross negligence on the first day of his retrial.
Today at the Old Bailey judge Mr Justice Timothy Kerr told Waterson he was "manipulative, dishonest, deceitful, controlling, threatening, and sometimes violent", as he jailed him for seven-and-a-half years.
Alfie's mum Adrian Hoare, a former Northfleet School for Girls pupil, who has lived in Gravesend and Chatham, was earlier jailed for two years and nine months for child cruelty.
The tot died in hospital three days after suffering catastrophic brain damage when Waterson crushed him in the footwell of his Audi last year.
Hoare was convicted of child cruelty, but cleared of manslaughter.
Her mother Janis Templeton-Hoare earlier said her daughter should spend life in prison for the crime.
Emilie Williams, 20, also admitted conspiring to pervert the course of justice after lying to police but was handed a five months suspended sentence and unpaid work at the same sentencing hearing today.
Waterson - described by police as "arrogant, selfish and deeply unpleasant" - was jailed for seven-and-a-half years at the Old Bailey for manslaughter, perverting the course of justice by lying to police, and intimidating witnesses.
The court heard Waterson and Hoare had been shopping with her son Alfie in Sutton, south London in February last year.
Alfie, nicknamed "Little Tarzan" by the couple, was sitting in the rear footwell at his mother's feet on the way home.
Nightclub worker Waterson, wanting more space for himself, moved back the electronically controlled seat - crushing Alfie in the rear footwell.
The child began crying and choking before Waterson put the seat forward again.
Duncan Atkinson, prosecuting, told the court: "This was deliberate action by Mr Waterson who said he needed more leg room for himself.
"In other words, in blatant disregard by Mr Waterson for his life he made room to stretch out in front of the car at the expense of the breathing room for Alfie in the back."
The court heard how in doing so he told the other passengers; Hoare, Williams, and driver Marcus Lamb: "I won't be told what to do by a three year old.”
As a result the tot was crushed, resulting in asphyxia and brain injury.
By the time the trio arrived at Waterson's home in Croydon, south London, Alfie had collapsed and stopped breathing.
The court heard how Waterson made the 999 call.
Some of the last movements of toddler Alfie Lamb
While paramedics desperately tried to save his life Waterson bolted while Hoare lied to police that she had been in a taxi in an attempt to protect her boyfriend.
Alfie tragically die in hospital three days later.
After fleeing, Waterson would later threaten Hoare and other witnesses to get them to maintain their false accounts of what happened.
On February 18, he attacked Marcus in Crystal Palace Park, south London, filming the assault on his phone.
Mr Atkinson said: "Mr Waterson held Mr Lamb to the ground by his head.
"He reportedly demanded to know what he had told the police and called him a grass.
"His humiliation was compounded by the fact that the incident was recorded on Mr Waterson's telephone."
"I am satisfied on the evidence I heard at the trial that, albeit not in anger but for or own comfort, you moved the car seat back twice and not only once" - Mr Justice Timothy Kerr
Waterson also tried to throw police off his scent by giving them a false name and getting rid of the car, selling it for just £800.
Hoare eventually told her half-sister what had actually happened in a taped phone call that was given to investigators.
However, the court also heard that Waterson had lied to stop himself and other passengers from getting in trouble for not using a car seat.
Tana Adkin, in mitigation for Waterson, said: "His instinct was to call for help and he rang 999.
"He called for help, but his old habits to distance himself from taking responsibility when things go wrong, those instincts resurfaced and he lied and he lied not because he knew that moving the seat had mean that Alfie couldn't breath and wasn't going to ever wake up, but he lied to protect everyone in the car from the fact that Alfie wasn't wearing a car seat.
"Mr Waterson didn't at that time know that Alfie wasn't ever going to wake up again.
"The lies he told afterwards to protect himself and others in the car were to protect himself and others because they knew Alfie shouldn't have been in the footwell."
She said letters from Hoare after Alfie's death, but before the trial, highlighted the loving relationship between Alfie and Waterson.
Miss Adkin added: "Whilst thoughtless, I have no doubt, and selfish, he was not deliberately malevolent or nasty towards Alfie.
"And he did not say anything towards that indicated he was going to hurt him."
Jailing Waterson, Mr Justice Kerr told him: "You now accept you owed a duty of care that you caused him to travel in the footwell of the car instead of a car seat and you moved your case seat back onto Alfie.
"I do not find that you were annoyed with Alfie and you moved your seat back because of annoyance.
"I am satisfied so that I am sure on the evidence I heard at the trial that, albeit not in anger but for or own comfort you moved the car seat back twice and not only once.”
"Stephen Waterson has consistently attempted to avoid responsibility for causing Alfie's death... rather than admitting what he had done, he chose to put Alfie's family through the trauma of a trial forcing them to relive the distressing details of how the toddler died" - Simon Harding
The court also heard a statement from Alfie's aunt, Ashley, who said: "Adrian Hoare is my sister and we’ve been very close since we were teenagers.
"When she had her son she had the most amazing bond with him, you could see how much they loved each other.
"Wherever she went Alfie was with her.
"When I met Alfie for the first time it felt different, to see their special relationship felt really amazing.
"When I heard [Alfie died] I was desperate to find out the truth of what had happened to him. Children don’t just die in a car seat."
Speaking after sentencing, Met Police detective chief inspector, Simon Harding, said: "Stephen Waterson has consistently attempted to avoid responsibility for causing Alfie's death.
"Rather than admitting what he had done, he chose to put Alfie's family through the trauma of a trial at the Old Bailey when they were forced to relive the distressing details of how the toddler died.
"Waterson eventually pleaded guilty on day one of his retrial. I hope the lengthy prison sentence handed to Waterson today gives Alfie's family some justice at last.
"I would also like to praise my team of detectives who systematically unravelled Waterson's initial account of what had happened and ensured he had no option but to admit what he had done."
In a statement, Alfie's family said: "As a family, we are utterly devastated about the death of Alfie.
"He was a very happy three-year-old boy with his whole life ahead of him.
"The tragic circumstances surrounding his death are something we will never come to terms with.
"For the last 19 months, we have experienced a very traumatic police investigation and court trial with members of the family giving evidence to help secure the prosecution and fight for justice.
"No sentence will ever be enough but today we finally gave Alfie a voice and justice has prevailed.
"We welcome the court result and sentence and take comfort that the person who killed Alfie has been held responsible.
"We hope we can move forward in private with our treasured memories of Alfie."
An NSPCC spokesman said: "Young children rely entirely on the adults around them to keep them safe from harm – but Waterson’s actions caused the tragic death of a defenceless little boy.
"Child protection is everyone’s responsibility, so it is absolutely vital that anyone concerned about a child’s welfare speaks out."
More by this authorSean McPolin