Burnley mother sentenced to life for murdering her newborn baby daughter
Mr Justice King, sitting at Liverpool Crown Court, recommended that Rachel Tunstill (28) should serve a minimum 17 years before being considered for parole.
Tunstill was convicted yesterday following a retrial at Liverpool Crown Court which lasted seven weeks.
She was originally convicted of the child’s murder in June 2017 but in a subsequent appeal in London at the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Treacy ruled that the jury in the case should have been offered a verdict of infanticide to consider.
Tunstill gave birth to baby Mia Kelly on the evening of Saturday, January 14th 2017, in the bathroom of her home in Burnley.
She had told her partner that she was suffering a miscarriage and despite offering to get her medical help, she declined and said she would handle the situation herself. Each time he went to check on her, she repeated that she didn’t need any assistance.
She asked for a pair of scissors but did not say what these were for. These are believed to have been used to inflict a total of 15 stab wounds to baby Mia.
On the Monday (January 16th), two days after having Mia, Tunstill attended Burnley General Hospital for medical attention but told nurses there that she had just suffered a miscarriage at nine weeks pregnant. Upon being examined, it was apparent that she had given birth.
Police were notified and attended the hospital. Tunstill, who was deputy manager of Benjamin House care home in Burnley and had a masters degree in forensic psychology, told an officer that she had only found out she was pregnant on Wednesday, January 11th, the baby was stillborn and she did not know whether it was a boy or girl.
Officers attended her address on Wellington Court and found baby Mia’s body in the kitchen bin concealed inside a plastic bag.
Tunstill claimed she thought she had suffered a miscarriage and could find no signs of life with the baby. Her defence team also said she was suffering from psychiatric problems at the time of the incident.
Tunstill and a 30-year-old man, the baby’s father, were both arrested on suspicion of murder.
He was subsequently released without charge after detectives satisfied themselves that he had no involvement in Mia’s death and he did not know she was expecting his child. He and Mia’s wider family continue to be supported by specially trained officers.
Speaking after Tunstill's conviction Det Ch Insp Gareth Willis from Lancashire Constabulary’s Force Major Investigation Team (FMIT) said: “This was a truly horrifying and callous killing of a defenceless newborn baby by her mother; her source of life and who should have been her source of love.
“What is worse is that a totally innocent man, still coming to terms with the realisation he had a daughter and that she had died, was questioned by police because Tunstill lied about the fact she had killed the baby stating that it was stillborn. She has still never admitted why she killed Mia.
“My thoughts remain with Mia’s father and her family who have not only had to deal with their loss, they have also had to sit through two trials, listening in great detail to what she was subjected to.
"They have conducted themselves with great dignity and I hope this now gives them some comfort that the legal side of things have come to an end.
“Lastly, I would like to pass on my gratitude to the jury in this retrial and also the previous trial, for their careful consideration of the case.
"Also, I must say thanks to witnesses who have had to go through giving distressing evidence twice, as well as the police officers and staff who worked on this difficult and upsetting enquiry, seeking justice a second time for Mia.”