THE PARENTS of Workington baby Dallas Kelly were today behind bars - Reece Kelly for 18 years and Georgia Wright for three years.

Reece Kelly, 31, denied murdering his four-month old son but was convicted after a trial. Dallas's mother was cleared of 'allowing or causing' her son's death, but both parents were convicted of child cruelty. 

Mr Justice Dove, who passed sentence on the defendants today at Carlisle Crown Court, said Dallas's parents betrayed their son, at times even failing to feed him as they prioritised feeding their addiction to illegal prescription drugs.

PHIL COLEMAN describes the background to this tragedy...

REECE Kelly dared to believe he’d got away with murder.

As his four-month-old son Dallas fought for his life in hospital, 31-year-old Kelly clung desperately to his parallel reality, a fantasy in which he was the hero in his child’s hour of need.

The child’s mother, 23-year-old Georgia Wright – at work on a west Cumbrian burgher van when Dallas suddenly stopped breathing – later sent Kelly a series of text messages, thanking him for performing CPR on their gravely ill son.

She believed he had saved Dallas's life. “You don’t have to thank me, darling,” was Kelly’s response. “He’s my boy too.

“Never thank me for being a parent because I know you would do the exact same for [him]. You would have done the same for Dally doo because you are an amazing mum and I’m so lucky to have you in my life.”

Yet even as his son lay dying in a Newcastle Hospital in October, 2021, Reece Kelly continued to be in the grip of a powerful opiate addiction.

So overpowering was his craving that while his baby son was undergoing a crucial brain scan at hospital to determine the extent of his brain damage Kelly was desperately chasing contacts in Workington to source the illicit drugs he needed.

During the 90 minutes of his son’s scan, he sent 19 such messages.

As with most baby shaking tragedies, Kelly was brought to justice thanks to a meticulous police investigation, much of it built on the “silent witness” evidence provided by forensic pathology experts.Times and Star: Reece Martin Kelly

Part of the trial included phone video footage of Dallas, in some clips seen as his parents played with him on a play mat, at other times alone in his cot, crying and distressed as a TV played loudly in the background.

Dallas was rushed to hospital on October 15, 2021. Four days later, doctors at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary had accepted that he was beyond saving, accepting his life support machine should be switched off.

He died that day, October 19.

In the following days, a series of forensic medical experts began their examination of Dallas, whose tiny body provided the clues that would allow them – and ultimately a Carlisle Crown Court jury – to discover the truth.

In court, Kelly and Dallas’s mother listened intently as one expert after another set out their findings and damning conclusions. Wright’s eyes at times filled with tears, her gaze turned upwards.

Kelly remained stony faced.

The first expert witness was Home Office Pathologist Alison Armour, a veteran of numerous murder trials. Methodically, precisely, and without emotion, she described her findings. Dallas died from a traumatic head injury, she confirmed.

Dr Armour then provided the details of what she had found in her examination of Dallas.

First there were “fingertip” bruises on the baby’s torso, suggestive of forceful gripping at the time when he became critically ill. Dallas had also sustained six rib fractures, including one that was several weeks old.

The injuries were not, she said, consistent with attempts to resuscitate Dallas.

Under further questioning by prosecuting KC Richard Littler, Dr Armour said: “The bruises to the chest are consistent with grip type injuries of the chest, which can be seen in cases of shaking."

How much force would be needed to cause such injuries, asked the KC. Dr Armour replied:  “Considerable force.” Force powerful enough to fracture a baby’s ribs would also cause the child pain, she pointed out.

The pathologist was next questioned about the multiple brain bleeds Dallas sustained. These included bleeds in Dallas's eyes and within his spine. These injuries, said the pathologist, were consistent with Dallas being shaken.

Significantly, one of the bleeds was weeks old, suggesting an earlier trauma.

Dr Armour was then asked to deliver her assessment. She said: “It is my conclusion that the traumatic head injury was non accidental in nature. There was no preceding accidental trauma.

“The marks on the chest are consistent with grip type force being placed around the chest with forceful and vigorous shaking, causing the baby’s head to move backwards and forwards; causing catastrophic internal head injuries which were ultimately responsible for the death of the baby.”

The next witness was Consultant neuropathologist Dr Daniel Du Plessis.

Asked about one of six rib fracture found on Dallas, estimated to have been six to 12 weeks old, Dr Du Plessis said: “There were two occasions when something happened involving physical force.”

Commenting on the head injuries Dallas sustained on October 15, the doctor said: “Such injury was most likely the result of forceful shaking. A fatal head injury would have occurred while he was in the sole care of his father.”

Mr Littler asked Dr Du Plessis to comment on the account given by Kelly of what he did on the morning of October 15, 2021, when he denied “violently” shaking his son, claiming did so only “gently” to rouse Dallas.

He said his son’s head had “never left the pillow.”

Responding, the doctor said: “There’s never been a case in which a child was fatally injured in that manner.” He said it was “inconceivable” that the actions described by Kelly caused the injuries Dallas sustained.

The jury also heard from consultant ophthalmologist Dr Jo McPartland. Her examination of Dallas's eyes revealed extensive retinal bleeding and detachments.

“Would injuries of this nature be consistent with a conclusion of shaking?” asked Mr Littler.

The doctor replied: “If there is a forceful, repetitive shaking, which forces the head to move backwards and forwards on the neck to the extremes of movement then that can cause all of the findings I identified.”

The injuries Dallas sustained were at “the severe end of the spectrum” for such injuries, she said. Such injuries normally result from motor vehicle accidents, or multi storey falls, or cases of head crushing.

All murder trials strive to uncover the truth.

Messages exchanged between Kelly and Wright show clearly just how traumatised Dallas’s mother was when her son’s life hung in the balance.

“I just want to see his beautiful little face again and give him the biggest kiss,” she wrote.

“I am never going to let him out of my sight again. I am not going to go back to work for as long as I have him.”

In Wright’s case, there was powerful evidence to show she was desperate for Dallas to thrive; several weeks before his death, worried about the baby’s inability to gain weight, she took him the A&E Department of West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven, demanding that he be examined.Times and Star: Georgia Wright

Her fears were well founded: Dallas had a hole in his heart. But Wright failed to identify the biggest threat to her son: Reece Kelly.

She trusted him, she told the jury. When he admitted manslaughter on day two of the trial – effectively admitting his actions had caused his son’s death – it was a bombshell moment for her, she suggested.

Asked what she thought of Kelly at that point, she replied: “A monster.” Even then, Kelly refused to accept that he intended to cause his son serious harm - a necessary condition for a murder charge to stand.

Over many months, detectives - led by Superintendent Jenny Beattie - pieced together the grim background to this tragedy: how Wright and Kelly were in the grip of opiate addiction.

There were clues to the looming tragedy: Kelly’s growing struggle with withdrawal, failures to take Dallas to routine medical appointments, and the increasingly frantic efforts to find cash to buy prescription only pills.

Three days before Dallas was fatally injured, his father told a contact he was “rattling,” a reference to suffering withdrawal symptoms.

In one message, he pleaded with a relative for money to pay for pills. He wrote: “Please, I feel like my head’s going to snap… £20 will do. I am so sorry. I’ve never struggled this bad; I can’t cope with this.”

Tragically, Kelly did snap.

In his police interview, Kelly - head bowed, shoulders slumped, his tone leaden - continued to deny being responsible for Dallas's death. He said he loved his son.

But as he sat in the dock at Carlisle Crown Court, listening to the evidence of his own messages and the testimony of medical forensic experts, he must have realised finally that his lies could not save him.

Kelly was convicted of murder and child cruelty. Wright was cleared of allowing or causing the death of her son but convicted of child cruelty.