Archie Spriggs murder: Normal little boy caught up in bitter dispute

Archie Spriggs, who was described as a normal little boy by his teachers and family GP, was caught up in a bitter custody battle between his parents.

He was found dead at his Shropshire home on September 21 last year. The same day that his mother Lesley Speed and father Matthew Spriggs were due to attend a preliminary family court hearing over which of them he should live with.

Today Lesley Speed was found guilty of Archie's murder.

The youngster died of asphyxia and his mother who failed to turn up for that hearing was charged with murdering him after an investigation concluded that he had been strangled and smothered at the property, in Rushbury Road, Rushbury, close to Wall under Heywood, near Church Stretton.

Guilty: Lesley Speed

The tragedy was discovered by Speed’s partner Darren Jones when he returned home from work at about 6pm.

He found Speed covered in blood from self-inflicted injuries to her neck and arms in the bathroom upstairs. When he asked the 44-year-old what had happened and where Archie was, she replied that he was dead and that she had killed him.

A stunned Mr Jones found Archie in his bedroom and when he phoned the emergency services for help he told them that the youngster appeared to have been dead for some time.

Coverage of the case:

Speed, who had a history of depression, was airlifted to hospital but recovered and was arrested a few days later and charged with his murder, which she always denied.

When the mother-of-three was interviewed she appeared to have changed her story and told detectives that she found her son hanged in his room and that she tried to resuscitate him before deciding to take her own life.

She claimed that Archie was being emotionally abused by his father and that she wanted to protect him. She said she could not recall telling Mr Jones that she had killed him.

Archie’s father Matthew Spriggs met Speed in Shrewsbury in 2009. Shortly afterwards they moved in together and Archie was born, but they split when the youngster was about six months old.

Speed later attended a support group for victims of domestic violence.

After they split Mr Spriggs had regular contact with his son on three full days a week plus holiday times, but between 2011 and 2014 there were difficulties relating to contact, particularly when Archie started school.

Problems

When he married his wife Ivana in Slovakia in 2015 Archie went to the wedding.

That year Mr Spriggs applied to the family court for a variation in the contact arrangements and a new order was agreed. But there were problems and both parents accused the other of breaching it.

Matters took a turn for the worst in May 2017 when Mr Spriggs failed to return Archie to his mother after a half term stay.

Speed had bought a camper van and planned to take Archie away for the weekend. She reported Mr Spriggs to the police who carried out a safe and well check at his address and told Speed that Archie was with his father and there was nothing more they could do.

Mr Spriggs dropped him at school the following Monday where an upset Speed was waiting to make sure he was returned.

After that she refused to allow Mr Spriggs to see Archie unless he was supervised by social services. In response he applied for a residency order for Archie to live with him instead, which worried Speed who said Archie was her world and she didn’t want to live without him.

She was upset over Mr Spriggs’ claims that the child was not being cared for properly, which she disputed.

Social services

His teachers had no concerns about his safety, but senior staff warned both parents of the impact of their behaviour on Archie.

Speed’s GP reported allegations that she made about Mr Spriggs to Shropshire Council’s social services just two days before tragedy struck. He also advised Speed to seek help for herself.

Speed failed to arrive at the family court hearing in Telford on September 21.

The close-knit community was left in shock and disbelief when the child’s death was discovered.

Paying tribute to Archie at the time Rushbury CE Primary School headteacher Diane Pye said: “Archie was a wonderful, bubbly boy and a much-loved member of our school.

“He was well-respected and will be remembered very fondly as a good friend and pupil. He will be much-missed by everyone who knew him. Our thoughts and prayers are with Archie and his family."

Also paying tribute at the time, the Spriggs family said: “Archie’s father, step-mum, brother and family are facing challenging times and would like to ask for our privacy to be respected while we come to terms with this devastating loss.”

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