A man has been found guilty of killing his disabled daughter by allowing her to become fatally obese during the first Covid lockdown.
Alun Titford, 45, was convicted by a jury of manslaughter by gross negligence after the death of his “fiercely independent” and “funny” 16-year-old daughter, Kaylea.
Her mother, Sarah Lloyd-Jones, pleaded guilty to the same charge in December. She and Titford had six children and lived together in Newtown, Powys in mid-Wales. The couple will be sentenced at a later date.
It is believed to be the first prosecution of its kind in the UK in which parents have been charged with killing their child by not controlling their diet.
By the time of her death on October 9th or 10th 2020, Kaylea was “living in conditions unfit for any animal, let alone a vulnerable 16-year-old girl who depended entirely on others for her care”, Mold crown court heard.
Kaylea was born with hydrocephalus, also known as water on the brain, and spina bifida, which meant she was unable to use her legs. She attended a mainstream school and used a wheelchair to get around and play sport. She was so good at basketball that she attended a scouting day for potential Paralympians.
Before the first Covid lockdown in March 2020, Kaylea was a pupil at Newtown high school, the court heard. Those who worked with her described her as “fiercely independent” and a “lovely” and “funny and chatty” girl with a great sense of humour.
Her health deteriorated over the next seven months as she was away from the scrutiny of the outside world, and she never returned to school.
After his arrest, Titford told police he did not think Kaylea had got out of bed since the lockdown had begun. But giving evidence, he changed his story, saying that Kaylea remained mobile until shortly before her death, able to get out of bed and around the ground floor of their home in her wheelchair.
He said he last went into her bedroom a fortnight before she died, to give her a kiss for her 16th birthday. He insisted he had not noticed anything untoward, such as a bad smell.
The jury heard that emergency service workers called after her death had retched at the smell in her bedroom. They discovered maggots under her sore-covered body when she was found in “truly horrific circumstances” weighing 146kg (22st 13lbs). Fly-paper hung from the ceiling and the cobweb-covered hoist which could have been used to help Kaylea out of bed was covered in fly faeces, the court was told.
Kaylea was 1.45 metres (4ft 8in) tall and had a body mass index of 70 when she died. Her toenails, which she could not reach, had not been cut for at least six months and her armpits were black. She was 20kg too heavy for her wheelchair.
There were faeces on the floor of her ensuite bathroom, which her father admitted she had not been able to use for up to a year. He told the jury he blamed the filth on the aggressive family dog, who would be locked in there if they had visitors.
Her cause of death was recorded as “inflammation and infection in extensive areas of ulceration arising from obesity and its complications, and immobility in a girl with spina bifida and hydrocephalus”.
Giving evidence during his three-week trial, Titford admitted he had failed Kaylea and bore joint responsibility for her care, but said he was not guilty of killing her.
He said he had grown apart from Kaylea once she entered puberty, leaving all of her care to Lloyd-Jones, who since 2018 had been a care worker. He told police he withdrew because “she was female and I wasn’t comfortable with that”.
Under oath, he repeatedly blamed his own laziness for not helping to care for Kaylea or to encourage her to eat a healthy diet. His barrister sought to suggest that because he worked long hours as a removals man – sometimes seven days a week – he was simply unaware of the deterioration in his daughter’s health.
This is believed to be the first time in the UK that parents have been prosecuted for manslaughter by not managing their child’s weight, but there have been a few similar prosecutions in the US.
Marlene Corrigan was found guilty of misdemeanour child abuse in 1997 after her 300kg (47-stone) daughter Christina, 13, died on the living-room floor of the family home, filthy, covered with bedsores and surrounded by empty food packages.
In the UK, weight issues have occasionally been dealt with in the family courts, rather than in criminal prosecutions.
Two children from West Sussex were put into foster care in 2020 after a court found their parents had been unable to manage their weight. Before they were taken into care, the local council had paid for gym membership and Fitbits for the children and had referred the family to an obesity clinic, but the children, aged 16 and 13, kept gaining weight.
In his ruling, the judge wrote to the children to explain his decision. He said: “We know too that managing one’s weight is a complicated matter and that it’s not right to blame someone for not trying when there are so many other factors to take into account. No one is criticising you or your parents for your weight issues but we do want to give you some extra help to encourage you to manage your weight.” - The Guardian