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Speed jailed for 18 years for Archie murder

By Dominic Robertson | South Shropshire | Crime | Published:

A judge has spoken of the "chilling" letter left by Lesley Speed as she attempted to pin the blame for her son's death on his father.

Speed was yesterday jailed for life, with a minimum term of 18 years, at Birmingham Crown Court.

On Monday the 44-year-old was found guilty of murdering her seven-year-old son Archie at their home in Rushbury near Church Stretton, on September 21 last year.

During the course of the trial jurors heard how Speed and Archie's father, Matthew Spriggs, were involved in a "bitter and acrimonious" custody dispute over where the youngster should live.

Sentencing her Justice Nichol said Speed had carried out the greatest abuse of trust.

He said: "I have to sentence you for the murder of your son Archie.

"He was described as a playful and bubbly child who was interested in how things worked.

"His teachers said that he was chatty and popular, kind and caring with a good sense of humour. He was interested in books and a mature child for his age.

"He talked easily with his teachers.

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"It was his life that you cut short."

The judge said it was not the "function of this court to to decide the rights and wrongs" of Mr Spriggs' complaints about Speed's behaviour or his claims that she was emotionally abusing Archie. He said that was a matter for the Family Court.

He told Speed, who listened to the sentence via a video link from HMP Foston Hall, that her actions could not be excused.

He said: "It goes without saying that Archie was in your care. There can be no greater abuse of trust than to kill a child whom you should have been protecting.

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"You may have believed that it would be harmful for him to live with his father. That's as may be, but even if your belief on that score was genuine, it cannot begin to excuse your action."

Justice Nichol told Speed that a series of suicide notes left at the scene had included a chilling message to Archie's father.

He said: "You intended to be dead when Archie's body was found. You left what were in effect suicide notes for your partner Darren, your son Zack, your daughter Jordan and for Matthew Spriggs.

"Your letter to Mr Spriggs was chilling. You said that you sought to pin responsibility on him, but it was your act which killed Archie not his."

The judge told Speed that the fact that she had a history of depression and her lack of previous convictions were in her favour.

He jailed her for life with a minimum term of 18 years minus 181 days already spent on remand.

The trial had heard how Archie was found in his bed at the family's home, in Rushbury Road, Rushbury near Wall under Heywood on September 21 last year on the day his parents were due to attend family court over a residency order.

He died of asphyxia.

The prosecution said he was strangled and smothered by Speed hours before her partner Darren Jones arrived home and discovered the schoolboy dead and her with self-inflicted wounds to her neck, arm and wrist.

The jury found her guilty of murder in a unanimous verdict.

Speed had denied killing him and claimed that she found Archie hanged.

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