Mum and partner jailed for nearly 60 years for torturing and killing Alfie Steele, 9, who suffered 'brutal' death

15 June 2023, 14:26 | Updated: 15 June 2023, 15:46

Alfie Steele faced months of abuse.
Alfie Steele faced months of abuse. Picture: Family handout/Facebook

By Kit Heren

The mother and partner of nine-year-old Alfie Steele, who died in a cold bath following months of abuse, have been sentenced to nearly 60 years between them for killing him.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Carla Scott was jailed for 27 years for the manslaughter of Alfie at Coventry Crown Court on Thursday, while her partner Dirk Howell was given 32 years for murdering the boy.

Alfie, who was subjected to a regime of torture and abuse, had 50 injuries at the time of his death in February 2021. Those included bruises all over his body, and signs he had been deprived of oxygen.

Passing sentence on the pair, Mr Justice Wall told them: "You have both refused to tell the truth about the day of Alfie's death, preferring to lie to pretend that it was no more than a tragic accident and to cover up for one another.

"What is clear is that Alfie did not have the quiet death you tried to portray: a death in which he had an epileptic fit and gently fell asleep in the bath. His death was violent and brutal."

Listen and subscribe to Unprecedented: Inside Downing Street on Global Player

Alfie Steele
Alfie Steele. Picture: Handout

Prosecutors said Alfie had been beaten and put in a cold bath as part of a cruel and "sinister" regime of correction by Scott and Howell in Droitwich, Worcestershire.

Jurors at Coventry Crown Court took 10 hours and 13 minutes of deliberation to find 35-year-old Scott guilty of Alfie's manslaughter, returning a majority verdict of 11 to one on Tuesday. She was cleared of his murder.

Howell, 41, was found guilty of Alfie's murder by unanimous verdict.

Carla Scott
Carla Scott. Picture: Facebook

On February 18 2021, Scott called 999 to report that her son wasn't breathing, the trial previously heard.

She told the call handler that Alfie had fallen asleep in the bath at their home.

When two police officers arrived at the house at 2.30pm, Scott told them she had found Alfie "submerged", adding he had previously "hit his head".

She said she had last seen Howell a couple of days earlier but CCTV showed him running away from the house around the time the 999 call was made.

He was arrested shortly after as he attempted to leave on a train at Droitwich station.

Read more: 'Blood-curdling screams' as woman and man stabbed to death in Nottingham rampage before attacker hit three with van

Read more: 'No one has the right to judge you': Mum-of-three jailed for taking abortion pills after legal limit hits back

Dirk Howell
Dirk Howell. Picture: Facebook

Michelle Heeley KC said he had been "made to endure a life that no child should lead".

She added: "Alfie had not simply fallen asleep in a comfortable bath. 

"He had been deliberately and repeatedly assaulted, beaten, and put into and held under a cold bath as a punishment.

"That unlawful course of conduct, that unnecessary punishment, was carried out jointly by Carla Scott and Dirk Howell.

"It was their actions that led to his death."

Both Scott and Howell thought it acceptable to hit Alfie with "belts, or a slider, like a heavy-duty flip flop, and use other more sinister forms of punishment", the trial heard.

The abuse included "dunking" him "in cold baths whilst naked" or forcing Alfie to "stand outside, in the middle of the night and have cold water" thrown over him.

In a recording made by a neighbour and played in court, Alfie could be heard screaming "open the door" repeatedly after being locked out of the house.

Other footage showed Scott lying to police after calling 999.

Alfie had been under a social services protection plan and discussions were under way about removing him from Scott's care after concerns were raised for him months before his death.

Howell told the court he had not killed Alfie and only ran away because his "head was a mess".

Meanwhile, Scott denied covering up her son's death in her evidence, telling jurors she did not smack him, starve him or give him cold baths as a form of punishment.