A tragic case has come to light as Rachel Tunstill, a mother in England who stabbed her newborn baby to death, has been found dead in prison. Tunstill, 32, committed the heinous act shortly after giving birth alone in her Burnley apartment in January 2017. Her partner was unaware of the horrifying incident as he was engrossed in playing Xbox in the adjacent room. Tunstill had been convicted of murder twice, with the second sentence being handed down in 2019. However, her conviction was initially overturned on appeal, only to be reinstated following a retrial. The circumstances surrounding Tunstill’s death in HMP Styal in Cheshire on August 1, 2023, remain unknown.
Rachel Tunstill, a psychology graduate and deputy manager at a residential home for individuals with mental health issues, was diagnosed with high-functioning autistic spectrum disorder. She claimed to be unaware of her pregnancy’s advanced stage and believed she was experiencing a miscarriage in her shared flat with partner Ryan Kelly. The jury was presented with multiple options, including manslaughter, manslaughter with diminished responsibility, and infanticide, in addition to the murder charge. The defense argued that Tunstill’s mental state was disturbed following the birth, leading to an acute stress reaction.
During the weeks leading up to the delivery, Tunstill conducted internet searches on terminating a late pregnancy. She also showed an interest in Mick Philpott, a notorious killer who murdered his own children in a house fire. In prison, Tunstill reported hearing voices that likened her to Rose West, a serial killer who, along with her husband, tortured and murdered numerous young women. The judge, Mr. Justice King, described the killing as a sustained and frenzied attack on a vulnerable victim. He emphasized that Tunstill’s duty was to care for and comfort her newborn, not to fatally stab her.
The horrifying incident occurred on January 14, 2017, when Tunstill gave birth alone in the bathroom. She requested scissors from her partner, claiming she was having a miscarriage. Unbeknownst to him, she used the scissors to stab the baby, Mia, 14 times immediately after her birth. Tunstill’s death in prison has prompted an investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, who offered condolences to her family and friends. Police findings from the investigation will be published on their website after it is complete.