The mother of the murdered toddler Star Hobson has told family members that she believes her lover killed her daughter in a jealous rage because she told her she was leaving her.
Frankie Smith was herself jailed for causing or allowing Star’s death and her lover, Savannah Brockhill, was found guilty of her murder.
The 16-month-old suffered catastrophic injuries in September 2020.
In an interview with Sky News before a review into social services failings, two of Star’s relatives have described the toxic relationship that led to her death.
David Fawcett, Star’s great-grandad, told Sky News: “This is the horrible thing I’ve recently learned.”
Star’s mother “told Savannah that was it. I’m done”, he said.
“And that was the day when Star passed away… And Frankie has even said ‘she did that because I was leaving her. And it was the only way she could get at me’.”
Alicia Szepler, Smith’s sister, added that it was a case of “if I can’t have you – you can’t have her”.
Mrs Szepler said: “She knew what she was doing. It wasn’t just a spur of the moment thing.”
‘We weren’t allowed to see her’
The family doesn’t forgive Smith for what happened.
It emerged in court that she was a cruel and neglectful mother, but also that Brockhill was controlling.
The jury decided Brockhill administered the fatal blows, but Smith at the very least contributed by being complicit in months of maltreatment.
Mr Fawcett sees Brockhill as a malign influence who isolated Smith and Star.
He said: “She couldn’t bear Frankie talking to people and she didn’t like the fact that Star was happy with us. She was saying – she’s our star – our child.”
Mrs Szepler said: “We weren’t allowed to see her on her birthday. Her only birthday we would have had with her, and we weren’t allowed to see her.”
The family celebrated Star’s birthday this year.
On 14 May, two bouncy castles were placed in Roberts Park near Bradford. Balloons were let off and songs were sung under a perfect blue sky.
The gathering looked like any family celebrating in the sunshine, but the photograph on the table, recognisable from news reports, told a different story.
They sang happy birthday to a child who couldn’t be there.
Mr Fawcett strummed his guitar just as he used to in the brief time he spent with Star, and she would rock her head with delight.
For a few precious weeks in early 2020, Mr Fawcett was the little girl’s guardian along with her great-grandmother Anita.
While they try to focus on the joy the toddler brought, they can’t escape the pain.
“I wake up in the morning the first thing I think of is Star,” Mr Fawcett said.
“I don’t think we’ll ever get over it. Anita cries every day. She says ‘I won’t talk until they bring Star back.'”
“There’s no words for how much it has ruined our whole family,” Mrs Szepler said.
“It’s not like we’ve just lost Star, we’ve lost Frankie as well and our family it’s just a mess.”
Mr Fawcett and Mr Szepler were among five people who had reported the couple to social services after seeing pictures of Star with bruising.
Mr Fawcett said: “When social workers went to the house, even though it was Frankie’s baby [Brockhill] immediately picked Star up, put her on her knee, and it were like straight away she was in charge [as if to say] ‘I’m in complete control, There’s nothing wrong with this child’ and she’s obviously fobbed off the social services.
“We couldn’t understand why they didn’t take Frankie and Star into the kitchen and have a word with them on their own.”
“Social services should have thought ‘how come they are being stopped seeing wider family,'” Mrs Szepler added.
“I know social workers do have a lot of cases, and its hard but the social workers I dealt with to do with Star, it seemed to me like they weren’t really bothered.”
Bradford council says it is waiting for the review before responding.
Mr Fawcett and Mrs Szepler are both haunted over what more they could have done – but that is also now a question for children’s social care.