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Thursday, 10 February, 2000, 18:22 GMT
Life for man who strangled son

Justice graphic The court was told the boy was strangled with a scarf

A care worker who strangled his seven-year-old son after learning he was to lose custody of the child has been jailed for life.

A jury at Stafford Crown Court took 26 minutes to find Karl Hammersley-Baker, 31, of Stoke-on-Trent, guilty of murdering his son Kirk.

"It was a wicked, wicked act," said Mr Justice Kay during sentencing.

He is a selfish, callous man who wanted to live his own lifestyle, who ironically worked as a care assistant, but cared so little for his own son
Detective Superintendent Jeff Virgo
"Nothing that happened could remotely justify what you did," he added.

Earlier, Hammersely-Baker told the court he had strangled the 3ft 11in boy with a bandanna-style scarf, but had not intended to kill him.

But the judge told the defendant the evidence against him had been overwhelming.

"The act that you did was a dreadful act and deprived your son of his life," he said.

Mr Kay also dismissed claims by the defendant that his son, who suffered from convulsions and asthma, would still be alive if Social Services had not sent him a letter warning that the boy's mother might be granted custody of him.

Kirk Hammersley-Baker Kirk's body was hidden in an outhouse
The judge said: "I would like to make it clear that I saw nothing in this case in any way to make me anxious about the conduct of social services."

The court also heard how Kirk, who was on a child protection register after suffering physical and emotional abuse, was killed as he slept.

His last words were reported by his father as being: "What's this scarf doing around my neck daddy?"

Nigel Baker QC, prosecuting, said that Hammersley-Baker had "entertained" two gay lovers at his home while his son's body lay undiscovered in an outhouse.

In police interviews, Hammersley-Baker told officers he had wanted to put Kirk out of his misery "so he couldn't go anywhere else".

Karl Hammersley-Baker Father strangled boy with bandanna
The court was also told how he had told a friend on the day before the killing: "If I can't have him, no one can."

After the verdict, Detective Superintendent Jeff Virgo, of Staffordshire Police, said: "He has not shown one iota or remorse."

He added that the killer's motive had been "selfishness".

"He is a selfish, callous man who wanted to live his own lifestyle, who ironically worked as a care assistant, but cared so little for his own son."

"It ranks among the saddest cases I have ever dealt with."

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