Postman jailed over death of girlfriend’s young son

Last year Scott Coombe admitted manslaughter and child cruelty relating to three earlier incidents of assault or mistreatment.

06 January 2023

A postman who killed his girlfriend’s 18-month-old son after a series of assaults has been jailed for nine years.

Devout Christian Scott Coombe repeatedly injured  Andrew Cawker before losing “control” and causing his death on July 22 2019.

Coombe, 24, of Petts Wood, south-east London, had been “besotted” with the child’s mother, Tamika Beaton, but struggled to cope, the Old Bailey heard.

Initially, the couple had wrongly blamed Andrew’s injuries on his father, Ben Cawker, and on the child’s “clumsy” nature.

Coombe had even claimed he had raised concerns with his brother, who was a serving police officer.

Last year Coombe admitted manslaughter and child cruelty relating to three earlier incidents of assault or mistreatment.

Beaton, 25, from Peckham, south-east London, was found guilty of child cruelty by wilfully neglecting to protect her son.

On Friday, Judge Mark Lucraft KC jailed Coombe at the Old Bailey for nine years.

He sentenced Beaton to 12 months in custody suspended for 18 months.

Tamika Beaton court case
Tamika Beaton arrives at the Old Bailey in central London for sentencing (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The judge acknowledged Coombe’s expression of remorse and written apology to Mr Cawker, but said he could not ignore the “aggravating factor of casting suspicion on others”.

He said Andrew’s father, who was not in court, had faced a “nightmare scenario of having his son killed and having some stain cast on him”.

He said: “I was struck by him, the way he gave evidence. He is someone who bears no responsibility for what happened to his son.”

The judge noted Coombe was working full-time as well as taking on domestic chores and childcare.

Andrew was said to be a “boisterous child” with difficulty sleeping and high levels of energy who could be demanding, he said.

But the judge said that these circumstances were not uncommon in parenthood.

On the seriousness of the offence, he told Coombe: “There is a clear history of violence or abuse towards Andrew by you.

“Andrew was particularly vulnerable because of his age. There was also the abuse of a position of trust.”

He told Beaton: “It is clear to me you were fully aware of the injuries to Andrew. There was no adequate explanation for them.”

Previously, the court had heard how Beaton had put her own interests before those of her son with “catastrophic” consequences.

Beaton had begun cheating on Mr Cawker after meeting Coombe at a fitness class while trying to lose weight after Andrew’s birth.

She had confirmed her relationship with Coombe by December 2018 and by March the following year Andrew began to show “regular bruising”, the court was told.

Outlining the fatal assault, prosecutor Sally O’Neill KC had said: “On July 9 2019 she had gone to a dance class, leaving Scott Coombe in charge of Andrew, knowing that he had done a full day’s work as a postman.

“He was willing to look after Andrew but the risks of allowing him to do so must have been obvious to Tamika Beaton, and she chose to disregard them as she had done on a number of previous occasions.”

Coombe became “irritated”, leading to him shaking and throwing Andrew down, jurors heard.

The child hit his head on the floor and never regained consciousness.

In a 999 call, Coombe told emergency workers the child had started “looking a bit stiff” and collapsed while playing.

Andrew was taken to hospital where he died from head injuries days later.

Coombe had admitted manslaughter on the basis that he became irritated, picked him up and “in a moment of anger and frustration, shook him vigorously backwards and forwards briefly and then threw him backwards”.

Before the tragic incident, it was clear to Beaton that Andrew had “unexplained injuries” while in Coombe’s care at the flat in East Dulwich where she was living at the time, the court had heard.

Ms O’Neill said: “She was putting her own interests before those of Andrew – with the most catastrophic consequences for Andrew.”

In mitigation, Paul Mendelle KC said Coombe had been “besotted” with Beaton and made “considerable efforts” to provide for the family, despite his young age and lack of experience in looking after young children.

Mr Mendelle said Coombe, a “deeply religious young man”, never intended to harm Andrew but in a matter of seconds “lost control”.

In an unusual move, an older prisoner at Belmarsh prison, to whom Coombe has acted as carer, submitted a handwritten letter to the court.

In it, he wrote: “He does my washing and cleans the prison. Whatever mistake he has made, in my opinion he has made my life so much better.”

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