A 34-year-old foster mother who was convicted of battering an 18-month-old toddler to death has been jailed for life. Kandyce Downer will serve a minimum of 18 years behind bars after her "callous conduct" killed Keegan Downer, who collapsed at her Birmingham home in September 2015.
Over a period of months, Keegan endured a "horrific" catalog of more than 200 injuries to her body before her death. At least 153 scars were found on her body and a postmortem examination showed that Keegan had died from a combination of old head injuries, septicaemia and blunt chest trauma.
The violence suffered by Keegan included broken ribs, leg fractures and injuries to her face, spine and neck. Her legal guardian and mother-of-four, Kandyce Downer, attempted to blame her teenage son for the toddler's murder.
Originally named Shi-Anne, Keegan was removed from her biological mother – a heroin addict – just days after her birth in March 2014 and was described in court as a "happy baby". Keegan's abuse is believed to have begun just months after she was placed in Downer's care, as her relationship with her boyfriend deteriorated.
"We believe the abuse started when her relationship began to go wrong. This was an extremely disturbing and harrowing case to investigate," said Detective Inspector Harry Harrison. "What Downer subjected Keegan to was barbaric, inhuman and evil."
"I am also astounded by the lack of emotion shown by Downer throughout this investigation. She has not shown a shred of remorse or sorrow. When she finally gave an explanation in the witness box, she even tried to blame Keegan's injuries on her other children, which I find inconceivable and unbelievable," Harrison added.
Prior to contacting emergency services, Downer was captured on CCTV as she drove to a skip to dispose of Keegan's mattress, which contained spots of blood.
"It is a horrible tale of callous conduct and at no stage have you showed any remorse," said Mrs Justice Frances Patterson as she sentenced the guilty Downer. "Why you changed from a loving mother to a brutal attacker of a defenceless child is a mystery."
In a statement read out to court, Jane Murray, the foster carer who first looked after Keegan described the impact of the child's death. "Hearing of Shi-Anne's death was shocking, unbelievably painful and has left me devastated," the statement read.
"She was a beautiful, happy and pleasant little girl. She was a joy. It has left me questioning why I let her go, even though I know that is my job. I can't understand why anyone would want to hurt such a sweet, placid little girl."