Pictured: Careworker, 26, who stabbed her newborn daughter to death with scissors as she took her first breaths while her partner played Xbox in the room next door
- Rachel Tunstill, 26, stabbed and then dumped her newborn baby, Mia, in a bin
- She stabbed her with scissors while her boyfriend played Xbox next door
- She told her oblivious partner that she was ‘having another miscarriage’
- Tunstill was today jailed for life for the murder – she must serve at least 20 years
A woman who stabbed her newborn baby to death with a pair of scissors after suffering a mental breakdown while secretly giving birth was jailed for life today.
Rachael Tunstill, 26, from Burnley in Lancashire, stabbed little Mia Kelly 14 times moments after the infant was born – while her unsuspecting boyfriend played computer games in the room next door.
She then placed Mia’s remains in a Poundland bag, dumped the body in the kitchen bin and falsely told Ryan Kelly she had miscarried their baby.
Rachael Tunstill, 26, from Burnley in Lancashire, stabbed Mia Kelly 14 times just moments after the infant was born in her bathroom while her boyfriend played computer games
Mr Kelly, who had been in a relationship with Tunsill for nine years, did not suspect his partner was giving birth and thought she was going through the motions of a miscarriage she claimed she had suffered six weeks earlier.
Police were called in after she went to a local hospital for a check up and a nurse found she was still carrying the baby’s umbilical chord.
Tests showed Mia had been born alive but died after being stabbed in the back and neck area.
It emerged Mr Kelly had been led to believe Tunstill was just a few weeks pregnant and had no idea Mia had been born almost full term.
She placed Mia’s remains in a Poundland bag, dumped the body in the kitchen bin at their home in Burnley (pictured) and falsely told Ryan Kelly she had miscarried their baby
At Preston Crown Court Tunstill denied murder but was convicted after a trial and ordered to serve a minimum 20 years before she can be considered for parole.
A consultant psychiatrist said she had suffered an ‘acute stress reaction’ whilst giving birth.
Earlier Tunstill wept as the trial was told she had graduated with a Masters in forensic psychology at the University of Central Lancashire and also worked as deputy manager at a residential home for people with learning difficulties.
But the court heard she was possessive with her boyfriend and appeared to keep secrets from him and in March last year she told him she had a miscarriage when he did not even realise she was pregnant.
Staff at her workplace also became concerned when she complained of stomach cramps and having an ectopic pregnancy.
The following April she fell pregnant again but she kept the pregnancy a secret, never sought any medical assistance or underwent any scans.
By the following December she looked eight months pregnant but she falsely told her boss she was 11 weeks gone and told her boyfriend her drinking of ‘detox-tea’ had stopped her contraception working.
Fork lift truck driver Mr Kelly, 31, told the jury: ‘I thought our relationship was quite good. I was aware that she had a degree and a masters in psychology and to my knowledge she was studying for a PHD.
‘She told me at first that she had been employed as a psychologist and then that they didn’t need her services so she was offered a deputy manager job.
‘We were saving money to get some work done. In arguments she would shout at me and say I wasn’t listening. When that happened I would go on the Xbox, put my headphones in and ignore it.
‘She was quite secretive about a lot of stuff. She was very opinionated. We didn’t really discuss contraception but I knew that she was on the pill.
‘I was the one who wanted to start a family. In early December she told me that she was expecting a baby.
‘She told me that she was trying to sort out the university and childcare with them to see what they could do. She always organised her doctors appointments herself and rang the doctor.
‘I did notice that she started to gain some weight but she told me that she had body dysmorphic disorder and she only ate crisps and snacks.’
The tragedy occurred on January 14 whilst the couple were at home.
Mr Kelly said: ‘I was on the Xbox and was complaining of stomach cramps and she said she was going to have a bath and she just said ‘it’s happening again.’
‘She told me that she had had a miscarriage before so I thought that she could deal with it this time. I asked her if she needed anything and she told me it was just part of the process.
‘She said she didn’t want anybody and although she was pale and distressed, she said she was fine.
‘I knocked on the door twice to see if she wanted anything and she asked for scissors so I gave her those. She said ‘thanks babe’ and I went back to the Xbox and she closed the door.
‘The only time I heard a noise was something that sounded like squeezing air out of a water bottle noise. She was extremely pale and weak so I did suggest that we go to bed.
‘When I got up the next day for work I gave her a kiss and told her I loved her. I was on my dinner break when I messaged her.
‘She told me she was going to the hospital and I thought it was about her miscarriage and that she would be fine.
‘When I got home from work police were there and they then wanted to search the bins. If I’d have known what was going on I would have done everything in my power to do something about it. I loved her very, very much. I was very proud of her. She was good to me, very loving.’
Prosecuting Louise Blackwell QC told the hearing: ‘He recalls that when she was in the bathroom he asked her if she was okay and she said she was okay and said that she had a miscarriage.
‘He didn’t fully grasp the situation but did ask if she needed medical attention and she declined and he believed that she was about to handle it herself. She didn’t accept any help and he was totally unaware about the birth and death of Mia Kelly.
‘He described feeling exceptionally guilty about what had happened while he was in the flat while he was blissfully unaware of the circumstances of what was happening in the bathroom. He said that she was over possessive of him and as a couple they became isolated. He accepted that control because he didn’t get anywhere when he questioned her.’
Detectives examined Tunstill’s iPad and found internet searches had been carried out on pregnancies, about drugs that induce abortion and about a man who was arrested over the murder of his children.
She later claimed the baby was already dead when she was born and claimed she never even knew whether the infant was a boy or a girl.
In court she claimed she had had Asperger’s syndrome and harboured paranoid thoughts that people were out to kill her and her unborn child.
She insisted she thought was having a miscarriage but didn’t believe Mia to be a full term baby and she said the child showed no signs of life.
She accepted causing the baby’s stab wounds but claimed she could not recall administering them.
But the jury rejected her account and took less than four hours to find her guilty of murder.
Sentencing, Mr Justice Davis, said: ‘The victim was a baby who had barely taken its first breaths.
‘The victim was killed by her mother and her mother, having killed the baby, took limited but definite steps to conceal what she had done.
‘Had there been no visit by the defendant to the hospital on the following day, or the day after, it is perfectly possible that the bin in which the body was kept would have been put into the communal waste and been disposed of with nobody being any the wiser.
‘Rachel Tunstill gave wholly contradictory accounts as to whether or not she was pregnant and if she was, to what extent.
‘Without her crime being discovered by the hospital, she would have claimed some late miscarriage and nobody would have been any the wiser.’
Following the jury’s verdict, Tunstill fell to the floor sobbing loudly as justice Davis said: ‘What you did was to take the life of a newborn baby.’
Flanked by medical support workers, Tunstill wailed: ‘I’m not going anywhere’ as she was led from the dock to the cells.
The judge said: ‘In closing his case to the jury Mr Kealy, Tunstill’s defence lawyer, said the jury would want to know why this had happened, and so they would, and so would I.
‘The answer is that there is no way of knowing why this happened, just that it did.
‘It is a truly distressing, dreadful crime.’
The judge handed Tunstill a life sentence with a minimum term of 20 years.
Detective Chief Inspector Jill Johnston, of Lancashire Police, who led the investigation, said: ‘This was a truly horrific incident involving the callous and brutal murder of a defenceless new-born baby. I cannot begin to understand why Rachel Tunstill committed this horrendous act.
‘The person who should not be forgotten in this is the victim. This poor child should have been able to look to Rachel Tunstill for the protection and love of a parent. Instead this defenceless baby found herself subjected to the dreadful injuries which sadly caused her death.
‘My thoughts remain with the wider family of baby Mia who have been through so much over the last year. They have conducted themselves with tremendous dignity and I hope that this conviction and sentence can offer them some comfort as they try to move on with their lives.
‘Finally I would like the jury for their careful consideration of this case and all of the police officers and staff involved in this very difficult and upsetting enquiry. They have conducted themselves with great professionalism. I would also like to thank again the community in Burnley for their co-operation and understanding throughout this time.’