A couple have been locked up over the death of a 15-month-old boy who was murdered following a campaign of “cruel and sadistic” abuse.
Jacob Lennon suffered a catalogue of injuries to his face, body and genitals over three weeks at the hands of his mother’s cocaine addict boyfriend Jake Drummond.
Then on August 27 2019, Drummond, 33, fatally shook and hit the little boy, leaving his face so bruised and swollen he was described as looking like a “panda”.
Jacob’s mother Louise Lennon, 32, not only failed to stop it, she joked with Drummond, blamed another child for injuries, and lied to social services to avoid anyone finding out after her case was downgraded.
Following a trial at the Old Bailey in March, Drummond was found guilty of murder and wounding Jacob by extreme pinching or biting his penis and piercing his scrotum with a skewer.
Lennon was found guilty of allowing Jacob’s death on August 27 2019, having admitted child cruelty.
On Friday, Mr Justice Sweeting handed Drummond a life sentence with a minimum term of 32 years for murder and six years to run concurrently for wounding.
Lennon was handed 10 years with six years’ imprisonment concurrent for the cruelty charge.
In the televised sentencing, the senior judge said Drummond was “emotionally volatile” which was made worse by his drug use.
He rejected Lennon’s claim that she was coercively controlled by her boyfriend, saying she had prioritised her relationship over her son’s welfare.
The judge said photographs taken by Lennon of Jacob’s injuries were “truly shocking” and noted one of her friends had described his head as looking like a “basketball”.
He said: “Perhaps the most haunting photograph is not one of those that show injury but that taken on August 12 when Jacob appears well, a bright and cheerful toddler – less than a fortnight later he was dead.”
Detective Chief Inspector Wayne Jolley, of Scotland Yard, said it was the saddest case of his 30-year career, and “distressing and emotional” for all those involved.
He said what Jacob suffered was “truly awful and cruel” with the fatal head injury likened to being dropped from a first floor building.
“There were over 20 individual injuries to his body at the time of his death.
“One of the most significant injuries was the injury to his genitalia, which was cruel and sadistic in its own right,” Mr Jolley said.
He added that the defendants were “quite despicable” as they joked about Jacob’s suffering in messages punctuated by laughing emojis.
Five days before the killing, former caretaker Drummond told Lennon he was putting Jacob into the “torture chamber” in reference to his bedroom.
It followed a meme of the Hollywood actor Ben Stiller in the film Happy Gilmore with the quote: “Now you will go to sleep or I will put you to sleep.”
Social Services had placed Jacob under a child protection plan under the category of emotional abuse in December 2018 and the case had been downgraded to the lowest category a month before his death.
On August 20 2019 Lennon lied to a social worker by saying she was on holiday in Hastings to skip a planned visit.
By then, Drummond had already embarked on “a campaign of deliberately assaulting and hurting Jacob”, prosecutor Sally O’Neill KC had said.
Drummond was said to be frustrated at Jacob staying in bed with him and Lennon rather than his cot.
On the day before the fatal attack, he was further angered at having to go to a police station after a former girlfriend accused him of harassing her in a way that was “little short of obsessive”.
Early the next day, Jacob was taken out of bed and shaken and hit so severely he fell unconscious.
Medics found Jacob’s eyes were so swollen they could not open and he “looked like a panda” and he died shortly after being taken to hospital.
A post-mortem examination found he died from a fatal head injury, likely from being hit against a blunt surface while being shaken, as well as 20 marks of recent injury.
The pathologist identified a “gaping” 3cm long cut to Jacob’s penis from “extreme pinching” or “biting” and a wound to his scrotum consistent with being pierced with a skewer.
A claim the cut could have been caused accidentally by an older child using a Toy Story themed “Mr Potato Head” plastic knife was rejected.
Lennon also claimed Jacob fell out of his cot and had tripped days before as they returned to their flat in Roehampton, south-west London, from a supermarket.
In their trial, Drummond denied responsibility for Jacob’s injuries and Lennon claimed she was “coerced and threatened”.
Her barrister Jane Bickerstaff KC said she had been “deceived” by the men in her life and was a victim of Drummond’s “violent and sadistic” behaviour.
Ms Bickerstaff said Lennon had been “extremely fearful” that Social Services would see Jacob’s bruises and her case be “re-categorised” after being downgraded on July 29 as a result of her efforts.
Mitigating for Drummond, Anne Whyte KC said he had “anger management problems” but there was no evidence of “gratification or glee” at harming Jacob.
Drummond had previous convictions for having drugs, holding a knife against his mother’s throat and assaulting an ex-girlfriend by pushing her against a wall.
An NSPCC spokesperson said: “The horrifying cruelty and abuse suffered by Jacob Lennon before his tragic death is deeply upsetting and difficult to comprehend.
“A child safeguarding practice review must urgently establish whether more could have been done by agencies to protect him from Drummond and Lennon, so that everything possible can be done to prevent future tragedies.
“We know that very young children are particularly vulnerable to abuse due to how completely reliant they are on the adults around them for care and protection.
“Changes recommended by previous reviews and experts must now be adopted nationally by the Government to transform the child protection system.
“We hope this will ensure that different agencies are able to work together effectively, and focus on children and babies such as little Jacob.”