A man has pleaded guilty to manslaughter by gross negligence after crushing his girlfriend's young son to death.
Stephen Waterson, 26, (01.05.93) of Adams Way, Croydon, had previously denied manslaughter relating to his partner’s three-year-old son Alfie Lamb at a court case earlier this year, but was convicted today after submitting a guilty plea.
Waterson is currently serving a prison term after being found guilty of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and intimidating a witness at an earlier trial, at which Alfie's mother Adrian Hoare was jailed for two years and nine months for child cruelty.
Waterson is due to be sentenced on Monday, 9 September at the same court.
Three-year-old Alfie suffered fatal injuries after he was deliberately crushed by a car seat.
Paramedics were called to Adams Way, Croydon, on 1 February, 2018 to assist an unresponsive child, Alfie Lamb.
The toddler had been travelling in an Audi convertible vehicle with four adults, including Waterson, his mother, Emilie Williams and another man.
Alfie had been placed in the footwell of the car, between his mother’s legs and behind Waterson’s seat on the passenger side.
Waterson deliberately moved the seat back, as far as it would go, on one occasion because he was annoyed at the noise Alfie was making.
The deliberate movement of the seat, via electrical operation, would have cause up to 81kg of pressure on Alfie.
The paramedics who treated Alfie identified burst blood vessels around his eyes, which were an indication of suffocation. The pathologist that examined Alfie found he had died as a result of crush asphyxia. CCTV footage obtained by police showed the toddler had been fit and healthy when he got into the vehicle in Sutton High Street.
When paramedics first arrived at Adams Way to treat Alfie, Hoare and Williams told them they had been in a taxi when he had become unresponsive. They repeated this false account to police officers who attended the scene.
Analysis of Hoare and Waterson's mobile phones showed they remained in contact throughout the time Hoare was taken by police to the Croydon hospital where Alfie was being treated.
Williams, who was in the police car with Hoare, said Hoare had kept the phone line open to Waterson so he knew what the officers were saying.
Hoare sent a text to Waterson shortly after she arrived at hospital which read: "They (police) know we are lying."
Hoare then gave police a different account, saying she had been in a VW Golf with Alfie driven by a man who wanted to buy some cannabis.
Waterson then arrived at the hospital and, after giving police a false name, gave them the same account as Hoare.
Williams also made a statement to the same effect.
Two days later, Waterson made attempts to sell the Audi and, on 8 February 2018, sold it for £800.
On 15 February 2018, Hoare gave police a new account of what had happened in the car. She said that Alfie had been in the footwell between her legs when Waterson moved the seat back.
She said it was only when she got out of the vehicle that she realised there was a problem with Alfie.
The next day, police managed to recover the Audi and subjected it to a detailed forensic analysis.
Police investigating Alfie's death also established that Waterson had assaulted the man driving the Audi on 18 February 2018 in an attempt to stop him talking about what had happened on 1 February 2018.
Hoare and Waterson were arrested on 28 February 2018 at their home address in Adams Way.
Waterson gave a prepared statement when interviewed, in which he said that he loved children, and would not deliberately harm a child.
Williams was charged on 27 May 2018 with perverting the course of justice.
Waterson was charged by postal requisition on 30 May 2018 with perverting the course of justice. He was further charged with manslaughter on 5 June 2018 and witness intimidation at a later court appearance.
Waterson, Hoare and Williams all pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice.
Detective Chief Inspector Simon Harding said:
“As the mother and step-father of Alfie, Adrian Hoare and Stephen Waterson should have put the safety and well-being of Alfie as their uppermost priority when he was placed in the car on February 1 last year.
“Instead, they put the toddler, who was just three-and-a-half years old, in the footwell of the vehicle with little or no room to move.
“Waterson, who was annoyed that Alfie was making some noise, spitefully and selfishly moved his seat back as far as it could go to quieten the toddler. He did this full in the knowledge that his action would cause harm to Alfie.
“Hoare, who was sitting behind Alfie, failed in any meaningful way to address the consequences of Waterson’s actions. Although the movement of the seat carried with it an obvious risk of death, given the lack of space even for a child of Alfie’s size, she utterly failed in her duty to protect her child.
“Finding that Alfie was unresponsive once they returned to Adams Way, Hoare and Waterson continuously lied to police in a bid to escape responsibility for their actions. Even with her son fighting for his life in intensive care, Hoare showed little or no concern for Alfie and focussed her energies on maintaining contact with her partner so they could corroborate their false stories.
“However, my team of homicide detectives quickly uncovered the pair’s lies and arrested them for manslaughter.
"The investigation into Alfie’s death has been one of the most distressful I have been involved in during my career.
"The jury have listened to some extremely difficult evidence in this case and I think them for the time they dedicated to this case.
“Alfie was killed as the result of a selfish and spiteful act by his stepfather, which was aided and abetted by the indifference of his mother. Nothing can be done to make up for the tragic death of a young boy who was at the very beginning of his life.
"However, I hope that today’s verdict ensures that justice has been served in this case and Alfie’s voice, which was so cruelly silenced in that car, has been heard and remembered.”