In a tragic and harrowing case, Rachel Tunstill, a 32-year-old woman, who had been previously convicted of murdering her newborn baby, was found dead in HMP Styal, Cheshire. Tunstill had been serving a life sentence for the murder of her daughter, Mia Kelly, who she killed shortly after giving birth alone in the bathroom of her flat in Burnley, Lancashire, in January 2017.
At the time of the incident, Tunstill’s partner, Ryan Kelly, was playing Xbox in the next room, unaware of the horrific events unfolding just a few feet away. Tunstill stabbed baby Mia to death with a pair of scissors before placing her lifeless body in plastic bags and disposing of it in a kitchen bin.
After a trial at Preston Crown Court in June 2017, Tunstill was initially found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years. However, her conviction was later quashed by an appeals court judge, who ruled that the jury should have been offered the option of considering a verdict of infanticide.
Following a retrial at Liverpool Crown Court, Tunstill was once again found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 17 years before being considered for release.
The news of Tunstill’s death in custody has prompted an investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman to determine the circumstances surrounding her passing. The Prison Service has not disclosed any details about the cause of her death at this time.
During the trials, the court heard that Tunstill, a psychology graduate and deputy manager at a residential home for individuals with mental health issues, had been diagnosed with high-functioning autistic spectrum disorder. She claimed that she was unaware of her pregnancy being virtually full-term and mistakenly believed she was having a miscarriage.
Evidence presented during the trials revealed that in the weeks leading up to the delivery, Tunstill had conducted internet searches on how to end a late pregnancy. Disturbingly, she also looked into information about notorious killer Mick Philpott, who murdered six of his own children in a house fire.
While in prison, Tunstill reported hearing voices and made references to being similar to Rose West, a serial killer infamous for her collaboration with her husband in the torture and murder of at least nine young women between 1973 and 1987.
In his sentencing remarks, Mr. Justice King described the killing as a sustained and frenzied attack on a particularly vulnerable victim due to her young age. He condemned Tunstill’s actions, emphasizing that her duty as a mother was to care for and protect her newborn baby, not to harm her in such a brutal manner.
The tragic events surrounding Mia Kelly’s murder have left many questions unanswered about what led Tunstill to commit such a heinous act. While the details of her mental state and motivations may never be fully understood, the loss of an innocent life and the pain inflicted on her family remain deeply troubling.
As the investigation into Rachel Tunstill’s death in prison unfolds, authorities will seek to ensure that all necessary measures are taken to prevent similar tragedies in the future. The case also highlights the importance of providing appropriate mental health support and intervention for individuals at risk to prevent such devastating outcomes.