• Footage shows Shanay Walker in desperate search for something to drink
  • The seven-year-old runs into corner shop and speaks to man behind till
  • Hours later her bruised body was found at home of aunt and grandmother
  • Women were cleared of murder but found guilty of cruelty and jailed today
  • Judge says it was ‘about the worst case of cruelty it is possible to imagine’

Desperate and thirsty, a seven-year-old girl is captured on CCTV cameras asking a shopkeeper for something to drink just hours before she was found dead.

The footage shows Shanay Walker running barefoot into a corner shop the night before her frail bruised body was discovered at the home of her aunt and grandmother.

The child was subjected to months of violent punishment by her ‘strict’ churchgoing aunt and suffered a ‘sustained, vicious and brutal beating’ before she died, a jury heard.

Her aunt, Kay-Ann Morris, 24, and grandmother Juanila Smikle, 54, were today sentenced to eight years and four years in jail, respectively, after being found guilty of cruelty.

Desperate:
Wearing her matching pink pyjamas, Shanay asks a shopkeeper for something to drink. Hours later, her frail and bruised body was found at the home of her aunt and grandmother in Nottingham
Heartbreaking: CCTV footage captures the seven-year-old girl walking barefoot through the corner shop
Jailed: Shanay's aunt, Kay-Ann Morris Four year sentence: Grandmother Juanila Smikle, 54

Morris was cleared of murder after the trial at Nottingham Crown Court.

In the 46-second security clip, Shanay is seen wandering down the aisles in her pyjamas before stopping to speak to the shopkeeper behind the counter shortly before 9pm on 30 July last year.

The following day, her body, covered with more than 50 injuries, was found in her bed at the family home in Bestwood, Nottingham.

Shanay suffered regular punishments at the hands of her aunt and grandmother, who were given care of the child after her mother was forced to give her up following depression, the court heard.

The child’s death is now the subject of a serious case review by the Local Safeguarding Children Board, who will look at whether any opportunities were missed to protect Shanay.

The court was told how Morris, a Seventh-day Adventist, shoved food in Shanay’s mouth and would strike her on the hands with a hairbrush.

Between July 2012 and July 2014, Morris would punish her niece by dragging her by the hair and stuffing clothes in her mouth. On one occasion, she threw Shanay into a wall after she stole water.

She also forced Shanay to eat food she did not want as a punishment for stealing food, and told the child to run up and down the stairs repeatedly, it was heard.

The court was also told that her grandmother Smikle had cruelty ‘in her DNA’ and had inflicted similar evil punishments on her own eight children.

Seeking help:
Barely taller than the counter top, Shanay speaks to the shopkeeper hours before her death
Jailed: Kay-Ann Morris was sentenced to eight years in prison Tragic: Shanay, pictured, suffered punishments at the hands of her aunt and grandmother

Smikle, 54, was found guilty of four counts of cruelty, and jailed for four years. Morris was found guilty of one charge of cruelty against Shanay and sentenced to eight years in prison.

Morris was also charged with murder but was cleared by the jury.

Sentencing Morris, Mr Justice MacDuff said she had caused the ‘lovely’ schoolgirl ‘untold misery’ by ‘trying to break her like a wild horse’.

He described the events as ‘just about the worst case of child cruelty it is possible to imagine’.

He told Morris that although she was found not guilty of murdering Shanay, he was satisfied that she ‘beat her over and over shortly before she died’, adding: ‘I will be loyal to the jury’s verdict.’

You tried to break her like a wild horse – by punishing severely every time you perceived her to be misbehaving. But she refused to be broken; when you beat her, she stood up to you. And you could not bear that she refused to be cowed
Mr Justice MacDuff

He said: ‘It is perfectly clear to me that the jury could not be sure that it was you who directly caused the head injury from which Shanay died; that it may possibly have been caused in some other way.

‘She was a small, vulnerable seven-year-old girl who had been placed in your care under a special guardianship order.

‘Your ill treatment of that little girl was frequent and wicked and lasted over the two years when she was in your care.

‘You sent her to school on many occasions with cuts and bruises which you had inflicted. You hit her, you taunted her and you abused her in unimaginable ways.

‘You tried to break her like a wild horse – by punishing severely every time you perceived her to be misbehaving.

‘But she refused to be broken; when you beat her, she stood up to you. And you could not bear that she refused to be cowed.

‘These matters went on over those two years, causing this little girl untold misery.’

A post-mortem report showed Shanay had more than 50 injuries on her body and had died of a brain injury.

The court heard how she was placed under Morris’s care in a special guardianship order when she was just five years old when her biological mother, Morris’ sister-in-law, struggled to care for her.

However, Richard Pratt QC said she soon became the victim of regular punishments for behaviour such as failing to eat quickly enough or ‘fighting’ while brushing her teeth.

Final moment:
The child is seen running across a courtyard to the shop on the night of July 30 2014

Mr Pratt added witnesses questioned by the police following Shanay’s death described Morris as a ‘very strict’ parent who frequently made her niece by shouting at her.

Others told how Shanay was ‘hysterical’ at times, had ‘lost her sparkle’ after moving in with ‘stern looking’ Morris, and went from being a ‘bubbly’ child when her aunt wasn’t around to ‘introverted and anxious’ when she was nearby.

It also emerged Shanay had complained to her teachers about what was happening at home but investigations found that the little girl’s cuts and bruises were accidental.

The court heard teachers at Shanay’s primary school had noticed injuries to her which were recorded in Safeguarding Referral forms and then shown to a social worker.

Shanay Walker with her biological mother Leanne
Shanay Walker with her biological mother Leanne

Mr Pratt said she also claimed Shanay ‘hurt herself’.

He described how in the hours before her death, Shanay was seen running from Smikle’s home barefoot and in her pyjamas.

When asked by two schoolgirls playing nearby if she was alright, she said she wasn’t because ‘her nana and her auntie were being horrible to her’.

She then sought refuge in a local convenience store, where she was collected by the pair – with Smikle allegedly saying ‘I don’t care if it hurts’ when she grabbed her granddaughter by the arm.

Mr Pratt said that was the last time Shanay was seen alive by anyone outside her family.

He added police were alerted to Shanay’s death by Morris’ twin sister, Kerry-Ann Morris, a serving soldier in the Royal Artillery, who was stationed in Germany.

Morris had called her sibling in the early hours of July 31 last year to say her niece had been badly hurt after she fell down a flight of stairs.

However, the court heard that after the call was cut off, Kerry-Ann told military police in Germany, who then contacted officers in Nottingham.

Mr Pratt said that when police went to the family home, a council flat, they were met by a ‘distressed and erratic’ Morris who told them: ‘Baby not asleep. Baby is dead.’

Shanay’s mother, Leanne Walker, 21, told the jury she had received a phone call from her sister on the morning of her daughter’s death, with Morris saying: ‘I’m sorry. I wasn’t strong enough.’

In a statement today, Shanay’s mother, Leann Walker said: ‘My beautiful daughter Shanay was entrusted to the care of family members who I believed would love and look after her.

‘Instead she was the victim of ongoing abuse and tragedy and her life was cut short before she could become the lovely woman I know she would have grown up into.

‘Juanila Smikle and Kay Ann Morris have shown little remorse for their actions. It hurts and sickens me to know of the pain Shanay would have been in.

‘I have lost my daughter and my other daughters have been denied the chance to get to know their sister.

Injured: Shanay, pictured, was found dead with 50 bruisesCruel: Morris, a Seventh-day Adventist, shoved food in Shanay's mouth and would strike her on the hands with a hairbrush, the jury was told. Pictured, the child in the CCTV footage

‘We will miss Shanay’s cuddles, her singing and dancing to Mary Poppins and our mother and daughter day trips to the nail salon.

‘All we have are memories and photographs. I feel like I will never be able to adjust my life to the prospect of Shanay not being around anymore.’

Detective Superintendent Rob Griffin, of Nottingham Police, who led the investigation, said: ‘Shanay was abused by family members who had been put in a position of trust.

 We will miss Shanay’s cuddles, her singing and dancing to Mary Poppins and our mother and daughter day trips to the nail salon.’All we have are memories and photographs
Leann Walker, Shanay’s mother

‘In her short life Shanay had known several homes but ultimately granted guardianship under her father’s sister.

‘Despite showing every sign of this being a good match Morris was cruel and abusive. There was no respite when Shanay visited her grandmother’s house and the same cruel abuse was carried out – encouraging her to run away on the night of her death.

‘For the emergency service workers who were first on scene to find Shanay’s body this will remain one of the most harrowing cases they have dealt with.

‘I’d like to thank them for their professionalism as well as the work of my detectives, the witnesses who gave evidence and the Crown Prosecution Service.

‘This has been a very complex case and I think the jury have had a very difficult job to do. They have had to listen to an enormous volume of evidence, some of it complex, some of it upsetting and I respect entirely the verdict they have returned.

‘I am disappointed for the family because ordinarily the end of proceedings like this generally represents closure for them and this helps enormously with the grieving process. That has not been the case for them here.

‘As always our thoughts are with Shanay’s biological parents and those who knew and loved her.’

Why didn’t the authorities act? Review called into case after it emerges social workers closed case a week before youngster was found dead 

Shanay’s tragic death has become the subject of a serious case review after it emerged social workers closed a case a week before the seven-year-old died.

During the trial, it was heard that Shanay had complained to her teachers about what was happening at home but investigations found that the little girl’s cuts and bruises were accidental.

The court heard teachers at Shanay’s primary school had noticed injuries to her which were recorded in Safeguarding Referral forms and then shown to a social worker.

But Morris gave explanations for the marks, telling staff a burn mark on the child’s thigh was because she had stood too close to a radiator.

The prosecutor said she also claimed Shanay ‘hurt herself’.

 If you had not been so good at fooling them, who were unable to see the real you, Shanay would be alive today, regardless of how she came to die
Mr Justice MacDuff

The court was told that a social worker who observed Shanay with her aunt had found the two had a close and loving relationship.

It also emerged that a multi-agency meeting was held with Morris and Shanay’s school, Southglade Primary, but the case was closed a week before she died.

Mr Justice MacDuff praised teachers at Shanay’s school who noticed her injuries and passed their concerns on to social workers.

But he added the care workers appeared to have fallen under Morris’ ‘malign spell’ and were ‘manipulated’ into believing she was a good parent who ‘loved Shanay and did her best for her.’

The judge told Morris: ‘If you had not been so good at fooling them, who were unable to see the real you, Shanay would be alive today, regardless of how she came to die.

‘I consider you to be wicked and lacking in compassion.’

The Local Safeguarding Children’s Board will now examine how the agencies involved in the case worked together, and will look at whether any opportunities were missed to protect Shanay.

A spokesman for Nottinghamshire Police added: ‘A Serious Case Review (SCR) has been commenced by the Local Safeguarding Children Board to examine the interaction between the agencies involved in this case.

‘The SCR will look at whether any opportunities were missed to better protect Shanay and whether any lessons can be learned from this tragic outcome.’

The results are expected to be published within 12 months

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