Singing ‘Happy Birthday’ mum Phylesia Shirley (pictured) looks like any other proud mum as she craddles her toddler in her arms as he blows out the candles on his cake.
Five weeks later the two-year-old was found in cardiac arrest at his home in Bensham Manor Road with 41 fractured ribs “crushed or broken by blows” and a 1.6 inch cut to his liver caused by blunt force trauma.
Today the ex Croydon council employee who worked in Children’s Services was found not guilty of murder but guilty of the manslaughter of her son Kyrell Matthews.
Her violent ex partner Kemar Brown, 28, who had a string of convictions was found guilty of the toddler’s murder.
Harrowing detail of the pairs cruelty were heard by the jury on audio recordings.
Shirley, 24, who was heavily pregnant when remanded in custody in December 2020,is believed to have recorded the clips to check if Brown was seeing other women but instead captured the sound of her son being abused.
Brown, who had previous convictions for robbery, battery, having a knife, drugs and resisting an officer, would hurt the child “almost for fun”, calling him over while he was watching TV, “insisting he came closer, only to then be heard beating him”, said Detective Chief Inspector Kate Kieran of the Met’s Specialist Crime.
Another recording captured Shirley hitting her son causing him to cry and Edward Brown QC, prosecuting, told the jury at the Old Bailey that she put her relationship with Brown above her own child.
On the confirmation of the guilty verdicts by a jury at the Old Bailey, His Honour Judge Lucraft told Brown and Shirley that they must feel ‘utterly ashamed’ of what they had done.
Kyrell’s family said: “Kyrell – you were robbed of the life God had intended for you. Our family have been robbed of the joys of watching your grow up and seeing what you would have become. You have left a void in our hearts that will never be filled. We carry you in our hearts forever.”
They will both be sentenced at the same court on Friday, 25 March.
Police released a a series of images of the happy toddler smiling along with heartbreaking video footage of Kyrell’s second birthday party. Other videos show the tot smiling and laughing and in a third he says ‘cheese’ repeatedly and you can hear a woman’s voice in the background joking: “is that the only word you know how to say cheese.”
Police also released the 111 call that Shirley made saying, ‘He’s acting funny and lashing out. His eyes are rolling back’ as her son lay dying.
Jurors were told the ‘happy and smiley’ toddler was likely subjected to a ‘significant period of abuse’ – with non-fatal injuries occurring after at least five separate attacks over a 28-day period.
Other injuries, showed that Kyrell had been subjected to a protracted period of repeated assaults.
Brown had tried claiming that the jury could not be sure if Kyrell had been accidentally killed when Shirley gave him chest compressions, having been wrongly advised in a 111 call to use two hands rather than one.
But experts for the prosecution rubbished that claim and said there were no recorded cases of a child suffering a macerated liver after being given CPR.
Paramedics had rushed Kyrell to Croydon University Hospital while police followed and talked to Brown about what had happened before the emergency services arrived.
As he made his way to the hospital, Brown claimed he had gone to the shops and found Kyrell sleeping when he returned, the court heard.
Brown said the toddler began to twitch and became limp as the couple tried to wake him, at which point the couple decided to call emergency services.
While Shirley was ‘distressed’ when emergency services arrived and became ‘hysterical’ when Kyrell was declared dead, it was said that Brown was calm and disengaged throughout.
As a result of the post-mortem findings, a homicide investigation was launched and on Thursday, 31 October 2019 Brown and Shirley were arrested and interviewed. Both denied any responsibility for Kyrell’s injuries.
However, police had seized Shirley’s phone and while examining it they came across the horrific sounds of Kyrell being abused. The covert recordings, which run from June to September 2019 were shockingly graphic and the police investigating team were deeply affected by the sounds of a child being hurt and crying out in anguish.
Detective Chief Inspector Kate Kieran, of the Met’s Specialist Crime, said: “Investigating the death of a child is never easy, but the scale of Kyrell’s injuries and the fact that many of the assaults had been recorded made this an especially distressing case.
“My team had to listen repeatedly to the sound of Kyrell being beaten and abused, I know how badly this has affected them. I want to pay tribute to their resilience and their determination to ensure those responsible for Kyrell’s death were convicted.”
Samantha Yelland, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “I hope these convictions have brought some sense of justice to those who loved and cared for Kyrell.”