Man who bludgeoned mum to death confesses as trial begins

A man who bludgeoned his mum to death suddenly decided to admit her murder while the jury for his trial was being sworn in.

Robert Child, 37, brutally attacked 64-year-old Janice Child at her home in Kings Drive, Woolton on Thursday, March 5 this year.

Emergency services were called to Ms Child's address in the early hours of the following day, where they found her body at around 1am.

A post-mortem examination concluded she suffered "severe blunt force head injuries" and her son, of Kings Drive in Thingwall, Wirral, was arrested.

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He admitted manslaughter, yet was due to contest the charge of murder on the grounds of "loss of control" or "diminished responsibility", in a trial.

But today – while the last of 12 jurors was still being sworn in at Liverpool Crown Court – the killer gestured to speak to his solicitor.

Robert Child, 37, of Kings Drive, Thingwall, Wirral

Child, who showed no emotion, then disclosed something to the lawyer, through the gap between the glass slats of the secure dock.

This was passed on to his defence counsel, John Jones, QC, who asked for a moment to address the judge – before he had even begun the formalities of welcoming the jury.

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Judge Denis Watson, QC, asked jurors to go out and Mr Jones revealed he had just received some "seismic" information, which "could perhaps mean no trial is required".

The judge allowed an adjournment so Mr Jones and his junior counsel, Ian Harris, could have a conference with Child in the cells.

Mr Jones then told the court they had been discussing "matters of extreme gravity and sensitivity" and his client would now plead guilty.

However, he said: "The defendant does not accept that he killed his mother for financial gain."

The court heard this would have to be determined in a Newton Hearing – a form of mini-trial where a judge establishes disputed facts of a case.

Mr Jones said analysis of Child's encrypted laptop would be required by prosecution and defence experts, which among other matters would look at the claims of one witness that Child traded in "cryptocurrencies".

Judge Watson asked for the jury to be brought back in and Mr Jones then requested his client be rearraigned on the charge of murder.

When the charge was put to him, the killer replied: "I plead guilty."

Judge Watson then directed the jury to return a formal guilty verdict, after explaining: "You have heard him confess his guilt."

The scene of a murder investigation in Kings Drive, Woolton

After that took place, he explained: "There is still a dispute as to the reason behind the killing, for the prosecution suggest this was a killing with a financial motive, a so-called 'murder for gain'.

"Whether that is the case, it's likely to be the subject of some dispute because that is not accepted on behalf of Mr Child.

"Mr Jones has told me it's not accepted as a motive or a principal motive behind the killing."

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Judge Watson formally vacated Child's guilty plea to murder and said the case would be adjourned until tomorrow, when Child will submit his basis of plea in writing, to be considered by the Crown, ahead of a trial of issue beginning on Friday.

The judge told Mr Jones he did not require an answer now, but said: "The question that enters probably everybody's mind – if it wasn't a murder for gain, what was the motive?"

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John Benson, QC, prosecuting, said it remained the prosecution case that it was financially motivated, adding: "I wait obviously to see the defence document identifying the issues, but there was certainly a financial gain for the murder, if I can put it like that.

"That would appear to be the distinction – possibly quite a narrow one – because the defendant we say, the primary cause, he went there to kill her, to murder her, to obtain the money."

Neighbours expressed shock following Ms Child's death.

At the time, one resident said she knew Ms Child well and had only gone to the local Sainsbury's with her a few days beforehand.

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She said: "I was woken at 3am and saw all the forensics outside and the place lit up.

"I was really shocked because she was quite well and I'd only walked with her to the supermarket the other day.

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"I'm really taken aback. She was a really nice lady and there was nothing wrong with her."

Another woman, who said she knew Ms Child, said: "It's heartbreaking. What a way to go."