An “uncaring” mother has been convicted alongside her then boyfriend of killing her three-year-old daughter, days after threatening to do so in a text message.
Kaylee-Jayde Priest was found dead at the flat where she lived with her mother, Nicola Priest, on August 9 last year.
The child’s mother rang 999 but a jury convicted Priest after hearing the youngster had been “dead before the call was made”.
The youngster, described in court as a “happy child”, died from serious chest and abdominal injuries.
Medical examinations later showed she had also suffered historical injuries including broken ribs, lower leg fractures and a broken sternum, Birmingham Crown Court heard.
Priest, 23, and her 22-year-old lover Callum Redfern pointed the finger of blame at each other during their trial, but were at the time in a “close sexual relationship”.
Both were unanimously cleared of murder but convicted of the child’s manslaughter on Thursday.
Jurors had heard how Priest would hit Kaylee around the head and refer to her as a “f****** brat”, while the youngster was also heard crying “in a fearful tone”.
On one occasion, neighbours in a flat below at Kingshurst House, Solihull, recalled hearing a bang above and then Kaylee crying, before allegedly hearing Priest say: “I’ll just say she fell off the bed.”
The same residents claimed they noticed that “when Kaylee cried, the response appeared to be to drown out her crying with music”.
In a text message exchange on July 24 2020, days before Kaylee’s death, Priest told Redfern: “I’m gonna kill her… because she keeps leaving the living room or going in the kitchen, so I’ve paled (hit) her one and smacked her for shitting in her nappy.”
Redfern said: “Good – give her one from me.”
Priest replied: “I will, babe.”
Three days later, Redfern messaged Priest saying: “I’m going to keep the little brat away from me… sick of your spunking daughter.”
Prosecutors said the messages painted a vivid picture of the “uncaring attitude from Priest and Redfern towards Kaylee”.
Opening the case at the start of the trial, prosecution barrister Andrew Smith QC said: “The prosecution case is that her death was caused by her having received serious injuries to her chest and abdomen in a sustained assault on August 8 of last year.
“That intentional assault occurred when both of the defendants were alone with Kaylee-Jayde.”
From the time Priest moved in to the flat in mid-2019, neighbours heard her “shouting with real regularity” at Kaylee, including comments like “Shut up”, “Go away” or “Leave me alone” – and “never anything positive or kind”.
In CCTV played to court, Kaylee-Jayde and her mother were seen together, just hours before the youngster’s fatal collapse, using a lift at the block of flats where they lived.
The footage showed Priest’s total disinterest in her daughter; repeatedly checking her reflection in the mirror and scrolling through her phone, while the youngster periodically gazed up at her mother’s face.
At no point in the footage was there any physical contact between the pair, with Priest neglecting even to reach out to hold her daughter’s hand.
Priest was also found guilty of cruelty to a child, relating to the youngster’s historical injuries, but Redfern was cleared of that charge.
In a statement released through police after the verdicts, Kaylee’s grandmother Debbie Windmill said the impact of her death would live with her for the rest of her life.
She said: “I could never stop staring at the smile on her beautiful face.
“I loved every moment watching her develop to nearly school age; preparing to buy my first grandchild her pre-school uniform was something that filled me with such happiness.
“I couldn’t wait to see her in it, but this opportunity was stolen from me in the most brutal of ways.
“Everybody deserves the gift of life. Kaylee-Jayde deserved to show the world who she could have been and what greatness she could have brought to this world. Nanny will forever hold you in her heart.”
Speaking afterwards, Detective Inspector Adam Jobson, said: “This is a really horrific set of circumstances and I cannot imagine for one second what Kaylee-Jayde’s family must be going through, they’ve lost their three-year-old family member at the hands of her own mother and Nicky Priest’s boyfriend, Callum.
“It is a grim picture.
“I don’t think, sadly, we will ever fully know what has happened, we’ll never get that full picture, both have not admitted their own responsibility.
“One thing is clear, Nicky Priest has failed her daughter, she’s failed to protect her and she should be – being a mother to that little girl – the one person who should have been able to protect her.”
Priest, of Poplar Avenue, Edgbaston, Birmingham, and Redfern, of Temple Street, Dudley, West Midlands, will be sentenced on Friday.