Father who murdered his one-month-old son by shaking him jailed

Father who murdered his one-month-old son by shaking him so violently that he suffered 50 rib fractures is jailed for life

  • James Lawton, 28, murdered his one-month-old son Colby in May 2020 
  • The court heard Colby’s injuries were so bad they resembled a car crash victim
  • Lawton will serve a minimum of 17 years behind bar for murder and GBH
  • Colby’s mother Chantelle Stroud, 25, was acquitted of causing cruelty to a child

A vicious father who who shook his baby son so violently that the child suffered 50 rib fractures has been jailed for life after being found guilty of murder.

James Lawton, 28, murdered his one-month-old son Colby in May 2020 and has been given a life sentence with a minimum of 17 years in prison at Reading Crown Court today.

Colby’s mother Chantelle Stroud, 25, from Newbury was acquitted by majority verdict of causing cruelty to a child under the age of 16 years and causing/allowing the death of a person under the age of 16. 

The jury heard how Colby let out a high-pitched scream after he was shaken violently to death by a drunken Lawton in a late-night rage at their home in Newbury, Berkshire.

Lawton had broken Colby’s skull in a separate incident days before his death.

The one-month-old had suffered 50 broken bones, a skull fracture and partial strangulation before he died.

The court heard that there were more than 70 different bruises on the boy and the final, fatal shaking was so severe it resulted in brain damage so bad it resembled injuries typical of a 90mph car crash.

James Lawton, 27, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 17 years for murdering his son Colby

Lawton was also convicted by the jury of murder and causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

He was cleared of causing cruelty to a person under the age of 16 by a majority verdict. 

Friends and family of Ms Stroud burst into tears of relief in the courtroom public gallery as the verdict was announced and she viewed Lawton’s fate after her acquittal. 

Prosecuting counsel, Elouise Marshall QC, told the judge, Mrs Justice Stacey, that it was plausible that Lawton’s attack on Colby may have been pre-meditated, thus aggravating his conviction sentencing.

Defending Lawton, Nicholas Syfrett QC, said: ‘Every aspect of this trial has shown the people involved go from 1-100 with their actions,’ arguing that the attack could not have been pre-meditated, as the prosecution argued.

Sentencing Lawton, judge Ms Justice Stacey, said: ‘Colby Lawton was an absolute poppet, who was in a hurry to see the world.

He took just three hours to be born, two weeks before his due date.

‘At three weeks old he already recognised you and Chantelle Stroud as parents.

‘In the last picture taken of him, four hours before his death, he was glancing up at his mum.

Officers were called by South Central Ambulance Service on May 9 2020 following reports that Colby was in cardiac arrest

‘He was vulnerable and helpless, dependent on you to take care of him.

‘However, you shook 29-day-old Colby so hard you caused immediate cardio-respiratory arrest.

‘He suffered brain injuries and was declared dead at 3.06am.

‘I do accept that you did not intend to kill Colby as you are a man who acts spontaneously, but you did intend to cause him serious bodily harm.

‘It was a spur-of-the-moment decision. You were shocked when Colby collapsed and awoke Ms Stroud.

‘After Colby was born, you tried hard to be a good father to him, taking turns to do the night feeds. You made an effort to cut down on drinking and stopped smoking cannabis, which was hard after 10 years of the habit.

‘But in the week beginning May 4, you started drinking again and your relationship entered a volatile phase arguing with each other and with neighbours.

Colby Lawton was shaken violently by his father and went into cardiac arrest on 9 May last year in Ashridge Court in Newbury, Berkshire (pictured)

‘When Ms Stroud was stood outside chatting to her friends, while you were inside with Colby, you caused him grievous bodily harm with the intention to do so.

‘You have not specified how it was caused, but the evidence shows you most likely hit his head against a hard surface.

‘Around that same time, you squeezed his chest and twisted his leg. Those serious injuries were not fatal and Colby, being the resilient little person he was, presented as normal after that as his body tried to heal from the assault. I accept it was a momentary loss of temper.

‘You did not acknowledge what you had done at the time. But you did go to Ms Stroud as you knew she would care for him. You are now 28 and have some previous convictions for violence, but nothing of this magnitude. I accept you have depression and anxiety issues.

‘Your mental health deteriorated in lockdown. I acknowledge you tried to control your aggression by directing your anger towards inanimate objects. You needed to be a source of strength and support for each other, but that did not continue.

‘Although you cannot accept what you did to Colby, I have no doubt you have unarticulated remorse and regret for his death. Colby’s killing came from the serious injuries you inflicted in the days earlier, which would have been very painful for him.’ 

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