London - Cradling her newborn boy in hospital, Jody Simpson looks like any other doting mother.
But within days of this picture being taken the child was suffering sickening abuse – with his limbs being yanked and twisted by his parents.
At just 41 days old, he was found to have 11 fractures, which had caused blood poisoning. His legs were so badly damaged they had to be amputated.
But in an emotional trial, jurors, court staff and even the judge were reduced to tears when they were shown photos of Tony Smith, now three, thriving in the care of a new family. The court then broke into spontaneous applause after seeing the pictures of him smiling and giving a thumbs up.
Simpson, 24, and the boy’s 46-year-old father, also called Tony Smith, were on Monday jailed for ten years.
The vile abuse came to light in November 2014 when the baby was taken to a GP near his parents’ squalid one-bedroom flat in Maidstone, Kent.
The parents claimed they had delayed taking their son to the doctor for nine hours as they were waiting for a plumber.
In fact, the injuries were days old. And when they finally sought help, their baby was grey, frothing at the mouth and suffering from a ‘shockingly swollen body’ and multiple organ failure.
He was found to have 11 fractures, with eight in his legs, including to both thighbones, lower legs and his right ankle.
Experts concluded the injuries were caused by yanking, pulling and twisting with considerable force, up to ten days before he was taken to the doctor.
Tony was taken to an intensive care unit at Evelina London Children’s Hospital. His legs had been badly damaged by the blood poisoning and had to be amputated, while the infection was so serious in his hips that he may never be able to wear prosthetic limbs.
Prosecutor Heather Stangoe told Maidstone Crown Court there was no way of proving who caused or allowed the ‘multiple incidents of serious cruelty’.
It was also unclear whether all the injuries were caused during one assault or on separate occasions. Tony’s parents, who moved to Whitstable after their arrest, denied causing or allowing serious physical harm to a child and cruelty. But the jury took less than an hour to unanimously convict the pair on Friday after deciding one of them deliberately harmed the infant.
During the case, Simpson claimed Smith ‘was rough with Tony’. However, health visitors failed to spot any problems and described him and Simpson as being affectionate and caring with their son.
Smith had a ‘long-standing difficulty with heroin’ and was known to social services, the court heard. He also had 11 previous convictions for 21 offences, mainly for dishonesty, and in 2001 was jailed for two months for assault causing actual bodily harm. Simpson had five convictions for shoplifting and one for attempted burglary.
Judge Philip Statman said: "I cannot envisage a worse case than the one I have had to deal with over the course of the last two weeks." But speaking about the boy’s new life, Miss Stangoe added: "The other part of this case is that I can tell you he does have a wonderful family."
"It is quite true to say he has just had the most wonderful impact on their life. He is a happy and delightful character in their family."