Mum and lesbian lover accused of abusing and murdering young son
A mother and her partner have gone on trial in the UK accused of murdering her two-year-old son.
Rachel Trelfa or Fee, 31, and Nyomi Fee, 28, deny murdering toddler Liam in Fife in March 2014.
The women also plead not guilty to a catalogue of allegations of wilfully ill-treating and neglecting two other young boys, who cannot be named for legal reasons, over a period of more than two years.
They further deny attempting to defeat the ends of justice following the toddler's death.
The pair are accused of falsely telling others, including police, that one of the other young boys was responsible for Liam's death.
Trelfa and Fee went on trial at the High Court in Livingston on Monday after a jury of eight women and seven men was selected.
Judge Lord Burns told them: "You will hear during the course of the evidence, evidence which will be distressing and which is bound to give rise to strong emotions."
He told jurors that they must nevertheless remain "impartial and dispassionate" throughout.
The couple face eight separate charges.
The murder charge alleges that they assaulted Liam at a house in Fife, on various occasions between March 15 and March 22, 2014.
Trelfa and Fee repeatedly inflicted "blunt force trauma to his head and body" causing injuries so severe that he died on March 22 that year, it is claimed.
Between that date and April 30 2014, the two are said to have taken steps to avoid detection, arrest and prosecution, thereby attempting to defeat the ends of justice.
That charge includes an allegation that they falsely told emergency services workers, police and friends and family that one of the young boys they are accused of neglecting was responsible for Liam's death.
Another charge denied by the women alleges that they assaulted Liam on various occasions between January 2012 and March 2014.
Prosecutors also claim that between similar dates, the pair wilfully ill-treated or neglected Liam. It is alleged they left him in his pushchair and bed for prolonged periods of time, put a blanket over his face, taped socks to his hands and left him in a darkened room, failing to provide him with adequate exercise or physical and mental stimulation.
It is further claimed they failed to provide him with adequate food and, in March 2014, failed to get him adequate medical attention.
Trelfa and Fee deny the charges of harming two young boys between January 2012 and March 2014.
In relation to the first child, there are 23 separate allegations, including one that the pair made him stand naked under a cold shower for lengthy periods as a punishment for wetting the bed.
Prosecutors claim they forced him to stay for long periods of time, naked or in his underwear, in a cage made from a metal fire guard and pieces of wood. They bound his limbs to the cage with cable ties, string and a dressing gown cord, placed items on him and hit him if they fell off, and poured water on him and pretended he had urinated, the Crown alleges.
It is further alleged they bound his arms and legs to a cot and on one occasion put a cage filled with rats on his head.
The Crown claims they forced the child to eat his own excrement and dog excrement, put soap in his mouth and forced his hand into Liam's mouth on March 22 2014 after he had died.
An assault charge alleges that they forced him to lie in a cold bath, forced his head under water and cut his penis with scissors.
The neglect charge surrounding the second young child includes allegations - which total 20 - that they threatened to cut his penis off with a saw and rubbed his face in soiled underwear.
It is claimed they deprived him of food as a punishment and tied him naked to a chair in a room where they kept rats, snakes and a boa constrictor and told him that the boa constrictor ate naughty boys.
Trelfa and Fee deny all the charges against them.
The jury later heard evidence from Liam's father Joseph Johnson, 33.
He said he had been "devastated" when Trelfa unexpectedly left him and their home in the north of England in December 2011, taking their son to Scotland with Fee.
He said he had regular contact with Liam until about Easter 2012, when an attempted reconciliation with Trelfa failed.
Mr Johnson told the court his former partner had wanted to come back to him because Fee was "a controlling person".
He said: "She was getting treated badly by Nyomi, she wanted to come back to me.
"She was having bank cards taken away from her, not being let out of the house."
But the court heard that after two days, Trelfa returned to Fee and took Liam with her. After that, Mr Johnson said the pair had stopped him from seeing his son.
He described receiving a call from Fee on March 22, 2014, the day Liam died, who he said told him a boy "had killed Liam and Liam was dead".
Mr Johnson said he travelled to Scotland the next day.
Advocate Depute Alex Prentice QC asked: "Did you have any discussion at all with Nyomi about the death of Liam?"
"Apart from that phone call, no," he replied. "It's a bit blurry."
Under cross-examination by Brian McConnachie QC, representing Trelfa, Mr Johnson told the court that in their time together he had considered her to be a good mother, adding that she had suffered from post-natal depression after Liam's birth.
The trial continues on Tuesday.