Teenage parents spared jail for hiding their dead baby's body at Milton Keynes nature reserve
"The loss of this young lad is a life sentence. He was conceived out of love and was shielded from official investigation out of love"
Nobody knew that teenage lovers Jessica Cooper and Sebastian Bowerman were expecting a baby and when it was stillborn, they hid it under the bed, a judge heard today.
Later, in the dead of night Sebastian put the baby’s body in a backpack and went out looking for a place to dispose of the remains.
The teenage father eventually hid the corpse in Bletchley's Blue Lagoon nature reserve but the deceit ate away at him and eventually he told his mother what had happened and she alerted the police.
The couple were arrested after searchers found the baby’s body and later they were each charged with endeavouring to conceal the birth of a child. They admitted the preventing lawful and decent burial of a dead body and appeared at Crown Court for sentencing.
A kindly judge spared the pair jail, describing the case against them as a tragedy. He gave them both a community order and said it was the right time to get their lives back on track.
Jessica Cooper and Sebastian Bowerman discovered that Cooper had become pregnant during her time as a GCSE student at school. Aylesbury Crown Court heard how the couple had decided they would keep Cooper's pregnancy a secret from everyone.
Prosecutor Abigail Husbands told the court: "On March 2, 2018 Bowerman received a call from Cooper saying that something was happening and he arrived at her house at about 8.30am.
"He found her screaming in pain and realised that she was having the baby. He took her to the bathroom and got towels and the baby arrived 25 minutes later."
Ms Husbands told the court that the baby boy, called Garrick Cooper, briefly moved his arms and legs but it was soon clear he was not breathing and Bowerman, aged 17 years at the time, and Cooper, aged 16 years at the time, realised he had died.
The prosecutor added: "They put the baby in a bin bag and put it at the foot of the bed and it stayed there for a few days. They agreed that they should take Garrick to the Blue Lagoon Nature Reserve, Milton Keynes.
"Bowerman took Garrick in his backpack at about 1am and found some undergrowth near a footpath. He put baby Garrick there wrapped in towels and the bin bag.
"He told the police he had returned to the location later but he had forgotten exactly where the baby was."
Judge Francis Sheridan was at pains to clarify that Cooper, who lives in Shenley Brook End, and Bowerman, from Emerson Valley, had not had any hand in the death of the baby Garrick.
Both Cooper's and Bowerman's parents were never aware of their pregnancy although Cooper's mum did once notice her bed sheets were slightly bloody but beyond that, they were unaware of what was happening.
The court heard that in June 2018, three months after they had hidden the baby, Bowerman phoned his horrified mother Claire to reveal what had happened.
Ms Husbands explained: "On June 18, Ms Bowerman received a distressed phone call from her son. He said that him and Cooper had had a baby which was stillborn.
"Mrs Bowerman had never even known that Cooper was pregnant. Bowerman revealed in the phone call that he had buried the baby at the Blue Lagoon which was what Cooper wanted.
"Mrs Bowerman told her son that he needed to go to the police. Bowerman explained he had promised not to tell anyone but he agreed to ask Cooper what he should do."
The hearing was told that after agonising over what to do, Mrs Bowerman, who was sat in the public gallery supporting both Bowerman and Cooper, took the courageous decision to contact the police and reveal what the couple had done.
Judge Sheridan praised her decision, saying: "She deserves to be commended for contacting the police. It was the right thing to do to contact the police."
Defence barristers for the couple revealed they had both struggled with their mental health since the tragedy of baby Garrick's death. They also revealed the couple were still close friends and were supporting each other through the grieving process.
Sentencing the couple, Judge Sheridan said: "This case is a tragedy. Cooper was petrified of her mother finding out she was pregnant, she was a GCSE student who wanted to be successful in life.
"Before you could do anything the time had passed and your parents did not know about your pregnancy. Then the time came and you gave birth to Garrick and in the pain, you realised you were actually in labour. The only person you felt you could turn to was your boyfriend.
"He tried to do what he could to help."
Judge Sheridan told Mrs Bowerman that he "could not imagine what she must have felt" when she decided to contact the police before adding: "It is to your immense credit that you contacted the police about your firstborn grandchild."
He also praised the investigating officer from Thames Valley Police, Detective constable Katrina Walmsley, for "leaving no stone unturned" in her investigation.
Both Cooper and Bowerman were handed a 24-month community order and compelled to complete 45 days of rehabilitation activities such as grief counselling and mental health training.
The judge told Cooper: "If you are to have another child you need to be able to love it and cherish it. You need help to do that."
After warning the couple about the dangers of drugs, Judge Sheridan closed the hearing by saying: "The loss of this young lad is a life sentence. He was conceived out of love and was shielded from official investigation out of love.
"He was disposed of at the Blue Lagoon as they wanted him to be near his grandmother."