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Mother, 24, ‘recorded audio of friend beating son months before they killed him’, court hears

A toddler allegedly beaten to death by his mother and her partner was told to shut up and warned that he would ruin the fun, a court has heard.

Prosecutors say Kyrell was repeatedly beaten by his mother and her then-partner over a number of weeks, with “poignant” secret audio recordings documenting the violence allegedly meted out by the couple in their one-bedroom flat in South London.

Kyrell, who was non-verbal, died in the flat on October 20, 2019, with a litany of internal injuries, including 41 rib fractures and a 1.6-inch (4 cm) wide cut to his liver.

His mother Phylesia Shirley and Kemar Brown, who is not the boy’s father, deny Kyrell’s murder at Shirley’s home in Thornton Heath.

Prosecutor Edward Brown, QC, told jurors at the Old Bailey: “Kyrell had his ribs crushed or broken from blows in the four weeks leading up to October 20.

“At least one of the defendants clearly inflicted a significant number of injuries in at least five separate incidents in the four weeks leading up to … Kyrell’s death.

“The pain and grief of those four weeks of abuse was vividly brought to the fore by those harrowing recordings.

“On October 20, his ribs were shattered again — it killed him.”

Police later discovered secret audio files on Shirley’s cell phone — the apparent results of attempts to catch Brown in infidelity — that inadvertently recorded the abuse, the prosecutor said.

They contain multiple audio files in which it appeared as if Kyrell was hit repeatedly, with Brown saying ‘shut up’, causing the toddler to cry and scream.

Kyrell Matthews, two, was abused for months at the hands of his mother Phylesia Shirley and her boyfriend Kemar Brown, according to recordings found on her phone, prosecutors said.

Kyrell Matthews, two, was abused for months at the hands of his mother Phylesia Shirley and her boyfriend Kemar Brown, according to recordings found on her phone, prosecutors said.

On another occasion, prosecutors said, Brown dealt the little boy several blows before telling him, “Don’t spoil the fun.”

Another file, the prosecutor said, recorded Shirley beating her own child and making him cry in distress.

Shirley is said to have made the secret phone recordings in her one-bedroom flat to check whether then-partner Kemar Brown had secret contact with other women.

However, police investigating the death of her son, Kyrell Matthews, found that the recordings contained disturbing evidence of the non-verbal boy being beaten repeatedly, with Brown saying ‘shut up’, causing the toddler to cry and scream.

Prosecutor Brown told the jurors, “It’s harrowing to listen because, the prosecutor says, you’ll hear Kemar Brown hit that kid over and over on different days, and you’ll hear Kyrell cry and scream as a result.”

On one of the tapes, the prosecutor said Kyrell became increasingly upset amid “clapping noises” and “slapping noises” as Brown told him to “shut up”.

The judges were told that Brown admits it is his voice on the recordings.

The prosecution said Shirley could then be heard asking “What did he do?” Brown is said to have replied “He got up.”

The prosecutor said: “Clearly she (Shirley) has at least seen suffering, expecting Kyrell to be punished by Kemar Brown.

“It is clear, says the prosecutor, what you can hear.”

In the fourth recording, taken in August 2019, Brown can be heard saying to Kyrell “Stop crying, stop crying, yes” and imitate the baby’s cry, followed by two clap sounds at intervals of minutes.

Minutes later, you hear Brown say, “What are you crying about?” followed by two claps or claps, after which Kyrell screams and cries softly.

Brown showed no emotion when the recordings were played.

The prosecution described the case as a “set pattern of repeated and significant attacks on a completely defenseless and young child”.

The judges were told that on one occasion in the days before his death, Kyrell apparently “didn’t want to go back to his mother’s flat” after spending the day elsewhere.

Jurors learned that the toddler did not attend a daycare and was thus in the full-time care of his mother, then 21 years old.

A court sketch of Phylesia Shirley and her partner, Kemar Brown, at the Old Bailey in London

A court sketch of Phylesia Shirley and her partner, Kemar Brown, at the Old Bailey in London

A court sketch of Phylesia Shirley and her partner, Kemar Brown, at the Old Bailey in London

Neither suspect was employed prior to Kyrell’s death, the court heard.

Both also said they left the flat at different times, close to the day the boy died – although only Shirley’s account could be confirmed by CCTV.

Shirley said she raised the alarm by calling the NHS non-emergency 111 number after she got home, saying her son had gone ‘floppy’, his eyes rolled back and he was having trouble breathing.

“The ambulance arrived just 12 minutes later and Kyrell was rushed to hospital. Both Shirley and Brown denied hurting him.

It was only after his death that forensics provided clues as to how he died.

Prosecutor Brown said, “This all happened behind closed doors, so to speak.

“After the initial investigation, the long task of examining a huge amount of phone data, which was searched over many months, was started and what was found was a section on Phylesia Shirley’s phone that contained a number of recordings.

“They are revealing – they are very poignant indeed.

Shirley and Brown both deny murder and face charges at the Old Bailey in London (pictured)

Shirley and Brown both deny murder and face charges at the Old Bailey in London (pictured)

Shirley and Brown both deny murder and face charges at the Old Bailey in London (pictured)

“Looks like Phylesia Shirley had her phone set to record what was or wasn’t happening in the flat when she was away, or at least wasn’t within earshot.

“Looks like she was checking on Mr. Brown to see if he had any contact with other women.

Judge Mark Lucraft QC described the audio footage as ‘difficult to listen to’.

The court previously learned that Brown was on his cell phone as emergency room doctors fought to save Kyrell’s life.

The prosecutor continued: ‘Phylesia Shirley was seen as upset in the flat and also in the hospital.

“When she heard of the decision to declare life extinct, she became hysterical.

‘Descriptions of Kemar Brown’s demeanor in the flat and hospital are those of a calm person, somewhat distant and somewhat unaffected, it seemed, as the emerging tragedy became apparent.

“Cameras at the hospital show him on his cell phone as ER staff tried to treat Kyrell and save his life.

“Brown’s reaction, or lack thereof, the prosecutor says, might surprise you if the child’s terrible condition and death were a surprise to him.”

“It is the prosecution’s business that the injuries to that very young child were inflicted by the defendants Phylesia Shirley or Kemar Brown or both,” Mr Brown said.

Shirley, of Thonton Heath, South London, denies murder but has admitted to allowing the death of a child and causing serious bodily harm to a child.

Brown, of Thornton Heath, South London, has denied murder, causing or permitting the death of a child and causing or permitting serious bodily harm to a child.

The process continues.

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