THE evil mother found guilty of murdering daughter Ayeeshia Jane Smith smoked cannabis throughout her pregnancy, and left the tragic toddler to scavenge for food in bins while she concentrated on getting a fix, according to the girl’s godmother. Esta Barrett, 25, a former friend of twisted Kathryn Smith, told how 21-month-old Ayeeshia, known as AJ, would scream as though in a “horror film” when handed to stepdad Matthew Rigby.
Smith, 23, was found guilty of murder and child cruelty by a jury today at Birmingham Crown Court. Rigby, 22, was found guilty of causing the toddler’s death, but was cleared of murder. Barrett also revealed how a callous Smith announced AJ’s death in “cold” Facebook messages, before asking for help sourcing drugs only a short while after.
She told MailOnline she hopes the pair are never released from prison for their sickening abuse of the tot, which saw her beaten until she resembled a “car crash victim”. Ayeeshia suffered a fatal collapse at home just over three weeks after Derbyshire County Council social services had discussed taking the youngster into care over fears Smith was a victim of domestic abuse.
She died after suffering from a torn heart, severe bruising, and a partially severed tongue, after her drug-taking mum stamped on her chest. She had not been fed for a week before she died. AJ could be heard screaming “stop mummy, stop daddy” before she was murdered, a neighbour told the court.
Kat Smith, who Barrett called “just a bad mum”, was reportedly so desperate for a baby that she began piercing holes in condoms worn by Ayeeshia’s teenage father Ricky Booth. But the obsession quickly turned to disinterest, with Ayeeshia’s godmother telling how Smith would let her starve in order to buy drugs with her benefits payments.
And as horrific images of the child’s injuries were released today, it also emerged that social workers had known she was at risk from the moment she was born. But Barrett said that Derbyshire County Council’s social services were repeatedly duped by Kathryn, who would beg to get Ayeeshia back.
She said: “AJ should have been taken in by social services but instead they were taken in by Kat. I just hope that now justice has caught up with her.” Esta Barrett described meeting Kat Smith in spring 2012 when the expectant mother moved in to the same block of flats in Swadlincote, Derbyshire.
She had shaved her hair completely, and Barrett said she claimed to be stressed from her break-up with Booth. She took pity on the single mum, despite warnings from other residents in the flats that she was “a bad egg”. She said Kat, who was adopted as a child by a well-respected local couple had been moved to the flat from her parents’ garage by social services.
Miss Barrett described Kat’s constantly changing lovelife, which included relationships with women and men. One partner was said to be extremely violent, causing serious damage to the flat in which baby AJ lived. “Their door had a hole through it after one of their rows and there was a lot of smashed glass on another occasion,” said Barrett.
She said that AJ’s neglect began soon after the birth, with her mum focusing instead on getting high and managing her tempestuous relationships. “Kat wasn’t too bad when she was pregnant. She would smoke a lot of weed and her flat would stink of the stuff but compared to what she became after the birth she was alright.”
Police told the court that Smith had even used one of AJ’s drinking cups to store her drug stash. Drug liaison officer PC Mark Quick said: “On June 12, 2014, I was handed a police evidence bag containing a plastic Tommy Tippee cup containing cannabis vegetation.” 25-year-old Barrett told how Kat came to rely on her to care for little AJ for a period of around six months.
“To begin with Kat would leave AJ with me when she went to her hairdressing course at Burton College but then it became whenever she wanted to go out be it to have a guy round or buy some weed. “A lot of the time she was dropped off with no food or nappies, occasionally there was some milk but it didn’t last long.
She added that Kat took no notice of the mould problem’s in the flat Esta shared with Fiance Elliott Callard, or the fact that they didn’t have enough money to look after her properly. “I knew that little girl so well that I could recognise her cries and I distinctly remember going round there when she was about six months and AJ was giving her hungry cry and Kat was just cursing her for making so much noise,” she said.
Kathryn would regularly grow tired of AJ struggling to sleep, and would dump her on Esta instead. Fiance Callard said he had tried to convince Esta to take a stronger stance against Kathryn dumping AJ on her. Esta said she believed social services should have taken AJ away, and revealed that on two occasions it seemed that the tragic tot might have been saved.
“She wasn’t growing properly,” said Miss Barrett, “and something happened with social services in February 2013 and Kat had to plead to get her back. Ayeeshia was placed into care in June 2013 after concerns were raised over Smith’s boyfriend, Joshua Collier, who had a history of domestic violence. An inquiry is now under way to find out how Ayeeshia slipped through the net.
She was made the subject of a care order during her short life with social services, health workers, hospital staff and the police all involved in incidents suggesting the child was in danger. AJ spent 12 weeks in foster care, where she reportedly thrived and regained a healthy weight. But the tot was returned to Barratt, now living with jobless electrician Rigby, on October 8, 2013 – just months before she died
Barratt and Callard, who moved house in early 2013, returned to visit Ayeeshia around 3 months before her death. They said the 18-month-old tot was a shadow of her happy former self. ‘I can tell you she was a really bright little thing, said Barrett. “When she was just a few months old she could clap along with me but when we saw her aged one and a half she just seemed a lot duller and quieter than before.”
She described how the pair rolled spliffs in between attempts to feed AJ, and how she had seen the tot “picking food out of the rubbish bin”. Esta told how the tot screamed uncontrollably when passed to Rigby. “Instantly she started this really terrible screaming. It was like a horror film,” she said. The couple said their overall impression of Matthew Rigby was positive, but that they were unable to trust him after hearing Ayeeshia scream.
However, a jury at Birmingham crown court was told Rigby allegedly punched the paramedic who arrived at their home in Burton-upon-Trent, Staffs, to save the toddler’s life. Rigby was today found guilty of causing the “happy and smiley” toddler’s death, but not guilty of murder. When the not guilty verdict to murder was read out, Rigby nodded to the jury at Birmingham Crown Court and mouthed the words “thank you”.
But when they delivered a guilty verdict on causing or allowing her death he rocked his head back, sighed and wept as he stood next to Smith in the dock. But Barrett added that Kat’s violent emotional troubles were plain to see. She said: “Kat though had a proper nasty temper on her. She was always screaming at people. I heard the midwife get it from her one day and I overheard reference to her having attacked another girl with a baseball bat.”
After the toddler’s death Barratt said Smith sent her a “cold” Facebook message saying simply: “AJ has passed away”. And speaking to cops she claimed her daughter was covered in bruises because “she was that stupid”. A short while later she contacted Smith again, this time enquiring about drug dealers and making no further mention of her dead daughter.
Smith and Rigby remained in a relationship right up until their trial, and were seen embracing in a private room in the court building. Smith gave a silver-coloured locket containing the dead girl’s ashes to Rigby while at court. Speaking after the case, children’s charity NSPCC also called for Smith and Rigby to be “severely punished.”
A spokesman said: “This is a truly horrific case. Tiny Ayeeshia was subjected to cowardly assaults which left her with appalling injuries no child should ever have to suffer.” In January 2014 there were reports of domestic incidents between Smith and Rigby. Ayeeshia was taken to hospital twice after her mum began dating Rigby.
A consultant paediatrician later described to the jury “an apparent life-threatening incident” at the flat on February 3, 2014. Detective Inspector Andy Maxwell, of Staffordshire Police, said: “What happened to Ayeeshia was horrible and heartbreaking. We’re talking about a child of 21 months who was described as delightful. She was just a lovely kid.
“I’ve never heard any remorse expressed by either defendant.”
Timeline of events leading to tragic Ayeeshia’s death
July 15, 2012 – Ayeeshia Jane Smith is born at 38 weeks to Kathryn Smith weighing 5lbs 13oz, with a consultant paediatrician observing: “In all respects in was a routine birth”. Social services hold a child protection conference a month prior to the birth.
September 10 – A review child protection conference is held where concerns are discussed about the number of health and social services appointments Smith is missing.
Autumn 2012 – Concerns are raised by social services about Smith’s relationship with a man called Joshua Collier over domestic violence allegations and the impact that could have on Ayeeshia. Health visitors record that otherwise, the baby appears to be doing well and has “a good relationship” with the mother.
May 16, 2013 – Social services make an application to the court and an Interim Supervision Order is made regarding Ayeeshia, where it is agreed Smith will go and live with her mother in Buckinghamshire to move away from the domestic troubles in Swadlincote, Derbyshire.
June 1 – Another report of domestic violence, after Smith returns to Swadlincote.
June 5 – Social services are granted another Interim Supervision Order and Ayeeshia is placed into foster care.
June 20 – In a home visit to the foster carer by Ayeeshia’s health visitor, the fostering family report the little girl was “wary of men” and also only seemed to be used to feeding by taking milk from a bottle. The foster carer managed over time to get Ayeeshia on a better diet, eating solids, and drinking water and juice.
September 4 – A meeting with social services takes place where it is agreed Smith has made significant progress during the time Ayeeshia has been in care.
October 2 – Social services agree Ayeeshia should be returned to the care of her mother, despite concerns raised by the foster family that Smith was not sticking to a feeding routine regarding the toddler.
November 2013 – There are indications of an on-going but what the prosecution calls an “ambivalent” relationship with Matthew Rigby during this period.
January 2 – January 4, 2014 – Separate domestic incidents involving arguments between Smith and Rigby and damage to property at the family home are reported.
January 7 – Supervision order review meeting takes place where injuries to Ayeeshia were seen, noted to be a cut to her bottom left lip and the underside of her chin, together with a bald patch on the back of her head. This led to a child protection medical examination being carried out by doctors.
February 3 – Ayeeshia is admitted to Queen’s Hospital in Burton-upon-Trent after suffering a seizure at home, diagnosed by doctors at the time as a “febrile fit”.
A consultant paediatrician later told the jury this had all the hallmarks of an “apparent life-threatening event”, which – if spotted – would have triggered a rigorous examination of the child’s under-lying health. Her weight is recorded as 22lbs (10.01kg)
February – Smith and Ayeeshia move from the flats in Alexandra Road, Swadlincote, Derbyshire, to a flat in Britannia Drive in Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire.
April 1 – Smith tells social worker Stephen Crean she is no longer in a relationship with Rigby.
April 4 – Smith dials 999 to report Smith to police, later telling them he has threatened to burn down the flat.
April 16 – Ayeeshia is taken to see a dermatologist at Derby Children’s Hospital over the bald patch on her head, and a possible diagnosis the child was suffering from alopecia. An expert paediatricain later tells the jury it is a possiblity the bald patch on the back of the child’s head could have happened if someone pulled the hair out.
April 23 – Smith takes her daughter to the child’s health clinic for her two-year weight check, where the toddler measures 20lbs (9.14kg), however the weight loss since the February hospital admission is over-looked because the health visitor does not have access to those records.
May 1 – A 999 call is made by Smith and Rigby following Ayeeshia’s collapse at home. She is admitted to A&E at Burton hospital but later dies.