Lancashire mother found guilty of murdering her newborn baby with scissors after retrial

Rachel Tunstill, 28, who has been found guilty of the murder of her newborn daughter following a retrial. Ms Tunstill stabbed Mia Kelly to death with a pair of scissors in the bathroom of her home in Burnley in January 2017
Rachel Tunstill, 28, who has been found guilty of the murder of her newborn daughter following a retrial. Ms Tunstill stabbed Mia Kelly to death with a pair of scissors in the bathroom of her home in Burnley in January 2017

A mother who stabbed her newborn baby to death with scissors has been found guilty of murder following a retrial after her first conviction was quashed.

Mental healthcare boss Rachel Tunstill, 28, stabbed Mia Kelly to death with a pair of scissors in the bathroom of her home in Burnley, Lancashire, and then placed her body in plastic bags before dumping it in the kitchen bin.

She was originally found guilty of murder and jailed for a minimum of 20 years following a trial at Preston Crown Court in June 2017.

But, the conviction was quashed as Court of Appeal judge Lord Justice Treacy ruled that the jury in the case should have been offered a verdict of infanticide to consider.

On Tuesday, a jury at Liverpool Crown Court found her guilty of murder following a retrial, a Lancashire Police spokesman said.

The court heard Tunstill, a psychology graduate, had high-functioning autistic spectrum disorder.

She had claimed she was unaware her pregnancy was virtually full-term and thought she was having a miscarriage at the flat in Wellington Court she shared with her partner, forklift driver Ryan Kelly, 31.

But, the court heard the baby was almost full-term and she was 37 to 38 weeks pregnant.

The jury was told Tunstill had been charged with murder, but they were able to consider alternatives of manslaughter, manslaughter with diminished responsibility or infanticide.

Judge Mr Justice King told the jury: "Infanticide is where a woman by any unlawful deliberate act causes the death of her child, under the age of 12 months, but at the time of the act the balance of her mind is disturbed by reason of not having fully recovered from giving birth."

He added: "If the delivery of a child did no more than exacerbate Miss Tunstill's existing mental health conditions that is sufficient for a defence of infanticide, so long as the balance of her mind was disturbed at the time."

The defence said Tunstill's balance of mind was disturbed in the period following the birth on the evening of January 14, 2017, and that she suffered "an acute stress reaction".

In the weeks leading up to the birth Tunstill, a deputy manager at a residential home for people with mental health issues, carried out internet searches for terms including "how to end a pregnancy late".

She also searched for information on notorious killer Mick Philpott, who murdered six of his own children in a house fire, and the court heard she had said she was interested in how somebody described as a "psychopath" could have cried on television about the deaths before his guilt was revealed.

The court was told that since being in prison Tunstill had reported hearing voices and claimed they told her she was like serial killer Rose West.

Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Willis said: "This was a truly horrifying and callous killing of a defenceless newborn baby by her mother; her source of life and who should have been her source of love.

"What is worse is that a totally innocent man, still coming to terms with the realisation he had a daughter and that she had died, was questioned by police because Tunstill lied about the fact she had killed the baby, stating that it was stillborn.

"She has still never admitted why she killed Mia."

Tunstill is due to be sentenced today (Wednesday, February 6, 2019)..