January 2019: The Parole Board recommended that Smith is now suitable for a move to an open conditions prison, which would be a step towards possible release

July 1996

Infanticide father gets life terms

A father was sentenced yesterday to three life jail terms with a recommendation that he should never be released after being convicted of suffocating his three young children.

Simon Smith (27) was found guilty of murdering his 10 month old daughter, Eleisha, in December 1989 and his six month old son, Jamie, in April 1993 in Staffordshire.

He had previously been convicted of the murder of hiss three month old daughter Lauren, in November 1994.

October 1997

Simon Smith carried his baby daughter into the house. She was just 12 weeks old and it was the first time Simon had looked after her on his own.

He had taken the little girl shopping that morning and stopped off for a drink on the way home.

Now he had to nip to the bathroom so he placed Lauren on the sofa while he went upstairs.

When he came back down she was lying motionless, not breathing and very cold.

Simon phoned for an ambulance and his emergency call went through to the police as well. Within minutes help arrived.

A police officer who was first on the scene tried to resuscitate Lauren as did the ambulance crew when they arrived.

She was rushed to Stafford District General Hospital but everyone’s efforts were in vain.

Lauren died on Thursday November 17, 1994.

Simon seemed devastated. “Why me?” he kept asking. “Not again. Why me?”

Nurses at the hospital remembered Simon. He’d been there twice several years before.

The first time was on December 10, 1989, when he’d rushed in his daughter Eleisha Jane Hall.

She was 10 months old and, like Lauren, she appeared to have died of sudden infant death syndrome – cot death.

And on April 4, 1993, he had brought in his six-month-old son, Jamie Mark Smith. He too had inexplicably died.

Armed with these facts the police were instantly suspicious and launched an investigation into the deaths of all three children.

It was the beginning of a series of revelations that were to devastate all those who knew and trusted Simon.

Now 28, he was a tall, slim, handsome man who got on well with other people.

At the time of Lauren’s death, he was living with Rachel Playfair, now 26, in the small town of Stone, about 10 miles north of Stafford.

The couple had been together for about a year and seemed thrilled when Lauren was born.

Rachel knew that Simon’s two children from his previous on/off relationship had died of cot death. But she had no reason to suspect he was involved. And when she was called to the hospital and learned the terrible news about Lauren she was absolutely distraught.

A physiotherapist, she had only returned to work after maternity leave that week. For the first three days, a child-minder had looked

after Lauren. But on that fateful Thursday, Simon had a day off from his job as a care assistant in an old people’s home and he looked after the little girl.

When Rachel was eventually fit to be interviewed, nearly a week after the death, pieces of the grim jigsaw began to drop into place.

“As we talked to her and asked her questions, her suspicions were aroused,” said Superintendent Alec Salt who led the inquiry.

“For example it’s recommended that you never lay a baby on its stomach but she went to Lauren once after Simon had been looking after her and she was face down.

“Research into cot death has shown it’s not a good idea to keep a baby too warm but Rachel remembered going to Lauren after Simon and finding her wrapped up and very hot.

“As Simon had been through two cot deaths, he should have known these things.

“Rachel didn’t know what to think so she told Simon to move out for a while and he went to stay with his parents.”

When police started asking questions about Simon’s movements on the day of Lauren’s death, he told them he had taken Lauren in the car to Stafford.

He said they went shopping but Lauren was crying and he couldn’t make her quiet. Despite the fact that it was her feeding time and she was screaming for food, Simon drove back to Stone and went for a drink.

Then he drove Lauren home and carried her into the house.

He said she was fine when he put her on the sofa while he went up to the bathroom but was cold and still by the time he came back.

Paediatric pathologist Dr David Fagan carried out a post-mortem on Lauren. He couldn’t explain her death and continued to carry out tests.

And the more police checked Simon’s story, the more unlikely it seemed. Why would anyone go for a drink when a baby was screaming to be fed?

No-one in any of the shops Simon visited remembered a screaming baby. And a neighbour who saw Simon carry Lauren into the house thought the child seemed very limp. Normally she was an active baby.

On the Friday after Lauren’s death, Simon was arrested on suspicion of killing her. It was too much for him. He broke down and confessed.

According to Simon, Lauren wouldn’t stop crying after their shopping trip so he pushed her face down into the car seat. Then he smothered her with his hand.

Armed with the confession, Supt Salt began to look into the deaths of Smith’s previous two children.

“Doctor Fagan agreed to look at certain things for us,” he said. “But he recommended that we should look for a paediatrician to help us.”

Supt Salt contacted colleagues in Lincolnshire who had conducted the inquiry into nurse Beverley Allitt who killed four children.

They put him in touch with paediatrician Professor Sir David Hull.

“He drew up similarities between all three deaths,” said Supt Salt.

“For example, Simon had always been the last person to see the child alive and the first to find it dead – and he concluded Simon was responsible for all three murders.”

Police were convinced he’d smothered Eleisha and Jamie as he had Lauren.

At Stafford Crown Court on July 4 last year, Smith pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Lauren but denied killing Jamie and Eleisha.

The jury didn’t believe him and he was convicted of murdering all three babies.

Justice McKinnon handed down three life sentences saying that in Smith’s case “life should mean life”.

For Smith’s family and the mothers of his children, the tragedy continues every day.

Supt Salt said Rachel has been destroyed by what happened. And Tracy Hall, the mother of Jamie and Eleisha, is still getting over the shock.

Strangely, she had two young children from another relationship living with her at the time Simon killed his own babies.

He didn’t touch them. He only murdered his own flesh and blood.

“I feel so sorry for Simon’s parents because they’re lovely people who’ve been devastated,” said Supt Salt who, along with five other officers on the case, was awarded a commendation for his part in the inquiry.

“It was a very, very traumatic case to investigate. There is one thing I will never forget.

“A very experienced detective constable on our child protection team was listening to Simon’s taped confession of Lauren’s murder.

“There were tears running down her cheeks and when it finished, she got up and gave the detective sergeant who was one of the interviewing team, the biggest kiss I’ve ever seen.

“Nowadays we get inquiries from other forces who have similar complicated cases to investigate and we give them advice where we can.

“We do appreciate that some babies die for unexpected reasons and we don’t suspect everyone who has a child who dies.

“But when there is a doubt as there was in Simon’s case, the important thing is to get to the truth.

“Obviously we can’t bring those three children back but at least their families now know what happened.”