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Baby Kimberly’s death could be natural, says defence expert

12:10 04 February 2014

Exeter Crown Court.

Exeter Crown Court.

Archant

A ten-month baby who died after an alleged Christmas Day attack may have died from natural causes, a jury has been told.

A leading expert has told a jury that Kimberly Barrett may have died as a result of a blood clot in an artery in her brain which produced symptoms similar to those of a traumatic injury.

James Hunt, aged 30, is on trial accused of killing the baby girl while he was left in sole charge of her on Christmas evening while he was living with her mother Hayley Bradshaw at a flat in Ottery St Mary.

The jury at Exeter Crown Court have heard a week of specialist medical evidence about how the child died with defence experts questioning the entire scientific basis of what is known as ‘shaken baby syndrome’.

The prosecution case is that Kimberly died from head injuries caused either by being shaken, slammed against a wall or other hard surface, or thrown onto a cot or mattress so hard that her brain moved inside the skull.

They say the baby suffered two different attacks on December 12 and 25 when Hunt lost his temper with the girl while left in sole charge of her.

Hunt, of Pellinore Road, Exeter, denies murdering Kimberly at her mother’s flat in Spencer Court, Ottery, over Christmas 2011.

The child died at the Bristol Children’s Hospital on December 29 after collapsing unconscious on Boxing Day and being transferred from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

Dr Waney Squier, consultant histopathologist at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, was called by the defence and told the jury that the association of the injuries with shaken baby syndrome is not accepted by all experts in the field.

She said Kimberly may have suffered blood clotting in a vein in her brain which caused it to swell and triggered internal bleeding which resulted in the other symptoms.

She said doctors who treated her at Exeter and Bristol were right to consider non accidental trauma as a diagnosis but should also have looked for other potential causes.

Dr Squier spent three days in the witness box and was cross examined by Mr Martin Meeker, QC, for the prosecution.

She said: “It is absolutely appropriate for them to have done so. The first consideration in a child who has bleeding inside the head is that there may have been some trauma if no natural or accidental explanation is forthcoming.

“However, one should never put on blinkers or not look for other causes. You fail the child if you fail to look for other conditions that may be treatable.

“A clot in the vein going down the top of the brain might cause the symptoms and signs seen in Kimberly.”

Mr Meeker suggested the whole picture of the evidence, with the other bruising, and the earlier incident, meant this was a unique case.

She replied: “Separate injuries must be treated separately. I think you are oversimplifying it. This is a very complex set of circumstances. I am not able to satisfy myself of the evidence of trauma at the time at the time of her collapse on December 25 or 26.

“You must consider the old subdural bleeding and the 32 minutes of hypoxia followed by resuscitation when the baby came into hospital.”

The trial continues.

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