Court hears mother brutally mistreated toddler before murdering her

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A mother-of-four battered a "healthy and happy" toddler to death months after she was made the child's legal guardian, a court has heard.

Kandyce Downer denies murdering her 18-month-old daughter Keegan Downer, after the child suffered a fatal collapse at the family home in Birmingham in September last year.

More than 120 old or recent bruises, marks and broken bones were discovered on the youngster's body, Birmingham Crown Court was told.

Keegan also had a "terrible" spiral leg fracture which had gone untreated, leaving the youngster "deformed" with one leg shorter than the other, the court heard.

Nigel Power QC, opening the prosecution case, said medical evidence suggested that injury would have left Keegan in "excruciating pain".

He said that, according to doctors, it was "inconceivable" a child's guardian could have missed such a severe fracture.

The youngster also had seven recently broken ribs which would have made breathing "very painful", and an historic head injury at least several days old at the time she died.

Severe lacerations discovered inside her mouth could have been caused by "forcing feeding bottles or cutlery into the mouth", Mr Power added.

Forensic testing of the house where the baby died revealed traces of her blood on the cot and bedroom wall.

Born on March 9 2014, to a heroin-addict mother, the otherwise healthy baby girl was almost immediately placed with a foster carer by social services and made subject of an interim care order.

After 10 months, the baby - said in court to be "developing normally" - was placed with 35-year-old Downer as the legal guardian in January 2015.

Keegan was described in court as a "healthy and happy baby" and lived at Downer's family home in Beckbury Road in the Weoley Castle area of Birmingham.

The jury heard that the youngster attended nursery until June that year, but collapsed at home shortly before 10am on September 5 2015.

The Crown's QC said: "The likelihood is that Keegan was already dead when paramedics arrived."

When paramedics got to the house, Downer had Keegan lying down on a sofa and told them: "I don't know when she stopped breathing, because I was in the bath."

Downer later told one of the paramedics at Birmingham Children's Hospital she had popped out and left the child alone during that morning.

A post-mortem examination revealed what Mr Power called "repeated episodes of inflicted injury and apparent neglect".

Keegan was found to have died from a combination of septicaemia, infection, blunt chest trauma and old head injuries.

There were 49 scars or marks to the child's face and body, and 68 recent bruises or other abrasions across almost every part of her body.

Of Downer, Mr Power said: "We say there is no other realistic candidate for the many and terrible injuries that led to Keegan's death and we say her actions on the morning she reported Keegan's position to emergency services was entirely in keeping with that."

Mr Power described her personal life as being "in some disarray" at the time, with a divorce ongoing and a troubled relationship with her boyfriend.

The trial of Downer, who also denies causing or allowing the death of Keegan, continues.