An appeal has been launched to raise cash for a headstone for a Sheffield baby killed at the hands of her mum’s ‘sadistic’ boyfriend who battered her to death.
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Leonie Lewis was 14 months old when she was killed just a few weeks after her mum Joanne Sim’s evil boyfriend, Liam Foster, moved in to their home in Plover Court, Skye Edge.
The tot’s mutilated body was found by her mum on New Year’s Day 2003 – 12 hours after she put the youngster to bed.
She had more than 50 bruises and marks covering her tiny body, including 27 around her head and neck.
She had also been branded on her back with a cigarette lighter, and candle wax was found in her hair.
It was a blow, or series of blows, to her head, which killed her, a post mortem examination revealed.
Leonie’s sister, Kearnie Fletcher, 17, whose daughter Skylar is a similar age to Leonie when she was killed, has launched an online appeal to pay for a headstone after first visiting her sister’s grave two months ago and finding it apparently ‘abandoned’.
Kearnie and Leonie shared the same dad and the girls were born just weeks apart.
Kearnie, a student from Parson Cross, said she first found out about her murdered sister two years ago and was shocked when she recently visited her grave at Shiregreen Cemetery.
"My parents had wanted to protect me from the murder when I was young so I knew nothing about Leonie until I found out about her death about two years ago,” she said.
“When I visited her grave for the first time I was shocked because it looked abandoned, as though she had just been forgotten about and I was determined to do something about it.”
She said her dad, who was in jail when Leonie was killed and now lives on the east coast, had struggled to cope with the death over the years.
“He has struggled over the years because he was not able to protect Leonie because he was in prison when it happened and he finds it difficult to talk about her, but he supports me in trying to get a gravestone," she added.
“I have been down a couple of times and tried to tidy the grave and brighten it up with flowers but it still needs a proper gravestone.”
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Kearnie has not been able to trace Leonie's mum to discuss her hopes for the gravestone.
Leonie's killer, who was found guilty of murder and jailed for life, was branded a ‘danger to young children’ and told he should never again be allowed to live under the same roof as a young child.
Foster, of Spring Lane, Arbourthorne, was 24 when he was jailed and ordered to serve a minimum of 17 years behind bars.
He was said to have taken ‘sadistic pleasure in tormenting and burning young children.’
A motive for the killing was never put forward, but it was claimed that Foster never bonded with Leonie and is most likely to have struck in the middle of the night as her mum slept in the room next door.
Jailing him, Mr Justice Henriques said Foster was guilty of ‘a callous and vicious killing’.
Kearnie said parents in new relationships should be able to apply to the authorities to find out if new partners pose a risk to their children.
“What happened to Leonie could happen to anyone, so parents in new relationships should be able to apply to the authorities to find out if their partners pose a risk to their children,” she added.
“I am devastated at what happened to Leonie, at the suffering she went though.
“Having a baby of the same age has really brought it home to me and I want to do something to make sure Leonie isn’t forgotten.
"Your children are your world, you would do anything to protect them. I just wish it was possible for parents with new partners to find out whether they pose a risk."
To help fund a gravestone visit https://www.gofundme.com/leonies-headstone