The killing of Star Hobson has “torn our whole family apart” with the reality of the toddler’s death having only sunk in after the “traumatic” trial, her auntie has said.
Alicia Szepler also told Sky News how she found it “awful” giving evidence during the trial into the murder of the 16-month-old girl who lived in Keighley, West Yorkshire.
Savannah Brockhill, a former bouncer, was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison for the girl’s murder.
Star’s mother Frankie Smith, Ms Szepler’s sister, was handed an eight-year jail term after she was convicted of causing or allowing her daughter’s death.
Smith was said to have entered into a “toxic” relationship with Brockhill before Star died of “utterly catastrophic” injuries in September last year.
Star’s death caused a national outcry, with the case coming shortly after that of murdered Solihull six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. A judge said during sentencing that Star’s “short life was marked by neglect, cruelty, and injury”.
Speaking after Brockhill and Smith were sentenced, Ms Szepler said: “Star’s death has affected me massively, at first it felt like my heart had been ripped out, but I also feel so numb at the same time. I couldn’t face work most days it was a struggle to get out of bed.
“A year later I’m making progress. It may be small but small steps are better than none. It has torn our whole family apart, we all struggle so much.
“Since the end of the trial it’s hit us hard again, like it’s sunk in, it’s all real and she really is gone.”
Ms Szepler also said the trial, which concluded more than a year after Star’s death, was “traumatic” and having to “hear every detail” of the neglect and abuse was difficult for the family.
She continued: “It is a relief in some way that it’s over as having to go through it and give evidence was awful.
“But to me it doesn’t change anything how I feel, no matter what the outcome was it doesn’t bring Star back to me.”
Ms Szepler said her niece was “one in a million” and she feels “overwhelmed with luck” to have known her and to have so many “special memories”.
She said: “If I had to describe her in one word it would just be perfect. She was all of our worlds, we idolised her. The thing that I remember most and makes me feel so close to her is music, she loved music and dancing.”
After the lengthy trial concluded, Prime Minister Boris Johnson described Star’s death as “shocking and heartbreaking”, adding: “We must protect children from these barbaric crimes and ensure lessons are learned.”
Questions are now mounting over the response of social services after concerns were raised over the little girl’s safety.
Jurors heard that social services and police did not act despite five different family members and friends raising concerns with authorities.