Kathryn Smith jailed for life for murder of her daughter

    Kathryn Smith jailed for life for murder of her daughter

    Photo from the BBC


    On 1st May 2014, Ayeeshia Jane Smith (aged nearly 2) was taken to hospital where she died. The immediate cause of death was a tear to the heart, but sixteen separate injuries were noted on her.

    Ayeeshia was born on 15th July 2012. We don’t know much about the background, but there was a ‘pre-birth child protection plan‘. This related to the fact that Kathryn Smith (Ayeeshia’s mother) “had a history of self harm, substance abuse and mental health issues – lived in her father’s garage in Swadlincote, Derbyshire, while she was pregnant“.

    After just over a year, there were sufficient concerns for Social Services to place Ayeeshia with foster carers where she ‘thrived’, putting on weight.

    Four months later she returned home however. In three months she lost nearly a kilogramme. It seems that she went to hospital in February 2014 with a bleed on the brain and was diagnosed with a seizure.

    It turns out that this was almost certainly a non-accidental injury, but the Hospital was not aware of Social Service interest. As a result of concerns about Ms Smith’s relationship with Matthew Rigby and other issues, a meeting was arranged on 10th April 2014 with a view to discussing Ayeeshia, and taking her back into care.

    This didn’t happen however, and three weeks later the girl was dead from injuries that are normally typical of a car accident.

    Ms Smith and her then partner Mr Rigby stood trial for murder, with Ms Smith being found guilty on 8th April 2016. Mr Rigby was acquitted of murder, but found guilty of ‘causing or allowing’ her death.



    On 11th April they were sentenced; Ms Smith getting the mandatory life sentence with a ‘tariff’ of 24 years. Mr Rigby was jailed for 3½ years.

    We presume that the Judge started with the 15 year tariff, but increased it significantly to take account of the aggravating features. Most obviously these would be the extreme vulnerability of Ayeeshia, the abuse of trust, and the ‘additional’ violence inflicted on her both before and during the death itself.

    These factors are enough to explain the increase, but we will look at it again if and when the sentencing remarks are published. Ms Smith has very little to lose, so it is likely that she will try to appeal and so we would be able to get more details of the Judge’s thinking at that point.

    As for Mr Rigby? This offence covers a multitude of different behaviours, it is very much ‘fact specific’. This is a severe sentence on him, but it was an extremely unpleasant case so we would not expect a (successful) appeal.







    Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.


    1. Dan … To think you need to check the headline … I assume you mean jail for the murder of HER daughter. Also I assume the “her” you refer to in the second paragraph is actually “her mother” rather than the unborn child? (Hope not being too pedantic?)

    2. No matter how long you are around the law there are some cases which get to you. At the time of her death this child was just a month older than my great-niece, the joy of my life, and the description of how she died left me in tears. it is just beyond the power of human comprehension that anyone can do such things to such a tiny child; and this was her mother.

      These two members of our species blamed each other. A jury will almost certainly have started with an unconscious presumption that a male partner was more likely to have murdered her than her mother – but they found what they found, and we have to believe that the evidence was convincing.

      I would not care to be the governor charged with her safety. Some of her fellow residents may wish to reduce her sentence and discharge her from prison feet first. He may not get on too well either.

      • Agreed. This case and the horrific murder of Angela Wrightson have made for gut-wrenching reading these past weeks.
        What I can’t understand is why she was returned her to her mother when she was doing so much better in foster care. And why did Ms Smith even want her back if she was just going to treat her like this? I realise SS are overworked but if the concerns were grave enough to remove her in the first place why return her with so little apparent caution?
        Any murder is tragic of course but it’s somehow so much worse when the victim is so vulnerable and powerless to protect themselves.