Mother gets 25 years' jail for murder

THERE was no shortage of people in Dean Shillingsworth's life who would have given him all the love he needed - but his mother, Rachel Pfitzner, never could. Something she saw in her two-year-old boy helped fuel a rage within. After weeks of mistreating him, she finally murdered Dean in October 2007.

His body was found in a suitcase floating on a duck pond at Ambarvale.''I tried to love him,'' Pfitzner told police. But, she added, ''I didn't see Dean as a child.''Pfitzner, 28, pleaded guilty to his murder.

She nodded as she was sentenced in the Supreme Court yesterday to at least 19 years and two months in jail.Earlier she had wiped away tears as Justice Robert Hulme recounted her different versions of the killing. Pfitzner told police she shook Dean and threw him to the ground.

But in a secretly recorded conversation, she told her mother she choked him, swinging him around by his hooded jumper when ''the rage came up''.

Justice Hulme said that while Dean was asphyxiated, it was impossible to establish how. Finding reasons for the murder was almost as difficult.

Pfitzner's troubled relationship with Dean's father, Paul Shillingsworth, played a part. He had allegedly threatened her and she told police that when she looked at Dean, ''all I could see was Paul''."I just kept seeing his father and couldn't stop myself,'' she said.

Dean was supposed to be in the care of Mr Shillingsworth's mother, Ann Coffey. Pfitzner failed to return the boy after an access visit in July 2007 and initially was ''on a real high'' to have him back. But things soon deteriorated.

Pfitzner severely punished Dean for what she saw as his deliberate disobedience. When he sought her affection, she thought he was clingy. She resented his presence and could not bear to have him touch her.

It was clear in the weeks before the murder that Pfitzner was struggling to cope. Her mother had promised to take Dean in, and was taking legal action to regain custody of the boy. Still, Pfitzner would not give him up.On October 3, she told a social worker she could not stand Dean and ''just wanted him gone as soon as possible''. Eight days later - the day a court ordered he be returned to Mrs Coffey - she killed him.

Justice Hulme said Pfitzner, who has a severe personality disorder, ''gave in to her anger'' but did not intend to kill Dean.''I am satisfied that she came to loathe Dean because he reminded her of his father, towards whom she held ambivalent feelings.

''Dean was entitled to love, protection and nurture but instead she took away his very life''. He jailed Pfitzner for a maximum of 25½ years.

The woman Dean called ''Mum'', his grandmother Mrs Coffey, was too distraught to comment outside court.

As for Pfitzner, she is convinced she has her son's absolution. ''Dean forgives me,'' she recently told a psychologist. ''He's safe now and with God.''

Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide