‘Nothing evil’ meant by ‘bite him’ text message, toddler murder trial told

Alfie Phillips died on November 28 (PA)
Alfie Phillips died on November 28 (PA) Alfie Phillips died on November 28 (PA)

A man accused of murdering an 18-month-old boy said he meant “nothing evil” by a text message telling the boy’s mother to bite him hard just weeks before his death.

Jack Benham, 35, told Maidstone Crown Court he meant the message as a joke in response to when Sian Hedges, 27, his partner at the time, said her son had bitten her and it hurt.

Benham and Hedges are jointly accused of murdering Alfie Phillips, who died with 70 injuries and bruises to his body, overnight on November 28 2020 at Benham’s caravan in Hernhill, near Faversham, Kent.

“I would never force her to bite her son,” he told jurors about the text sent on October 15 2020.

The text read, “Bite hard you have to once I bet”, after Hedges had messaged him: “Little shit bit my arm this morning, f****** hurt.”

At Maidstone Crown Court on Friday, Benham said: “Even reading it I’m not believing it. I didn’t mean nothing evil by that.”

The maintenance engineer added: “I mean given the situation it’s not great, I understand it was said in saying it was a joke.”

Jurors previously heard that Benham told police he bit Alfie on his back and shook him the morning he found him unresponsive in an attempt to rouse him.

The toddler was also found to have traces of cocaine in his body after his death, the court heard.

In further text messages read to the jury on Friday, Benham told Hedges: “I’m an unstable drug addict at the moment and it intervenes with life.”

In Hedges’ reply, she said: “Yeah but that don’t stop me liking you, I’m not exactly stable myself am I, come on.”

Asked about this in court, Benham said: “I was making a joke but at the same time I was trying to warn her I was in a bit of a rut and I was using drugs very heavily.

“That I’m addicted to drugs, that’s what I was telling her, I am addicted to drugs.”

Benham, who is not Alfie’s father, told the court the pair began their relationship around September 2020 after meeting each other more frequently at the same friend’s house where they would buy drugs.

Benham admitted to smoking cannabis, using cocaine and smoking crack cocaine.

The father of two daughters told jurors on Thursday that his drug habit was the reason his former partner of 14 years had “kicked him out” in March 2020.

On the night before Alfie died, the court heard from Benham how Hedges went to buy drugs from their friend and repay her £400 debt, and also get mixers and drinks for their evening together in the caravan.

The pair are accused of “meting out some sort of aggressive, violent ‘discipline’” to Alfie that night when they were drinking and taking cocaine, which resulted in his death.

Benham, of Hernhill, Kent, and Hedges, of Yelverton, Devon, deny the charges against them.

Benham will continue giving evidence on Monday as the trial continues.