Christmas death baby’s injuries ‘caused by traumatic attack’

14:38 27 January 2014

Exeter Crown Court.

Exeter Crown Court.

Archant

A ten-month-old who died after an alleged Christmas Day attack had trauma injuries to her head, a jury have been told.

Baby Kimberly Barrett had a combination of injuries which caused her death and could not be explained by an accident or by natural causes, according to a leading pathologist.

Her mother’s ex boyfriend James Hunt is on trial at Exeter Crown Court accused of causing the fatal injuries during an attack on Christmas night 2011 when he was in sole charge of the child.

He denied causing her any harm and says the only accident she suffered was a bang on the head against the side of her cot when she suddenly went floppy as he was putting her to bed.

Home Office consultant pathologist Dr Nathaniel Carey said this could not explain the injuries which killed her and said her death was caused either by violent shaking or by impact with a hard or even soft object.

He said he found three different areas of bruising on the back of her head, the forehead, and an ear which suggested non accidental injury.

Kimberley was taken to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital on Boxing Day evening after collapsing into a coma her mother Hayley Bradshaw’s home in Spencer Court, Ottery St Mary. She died on December 29 at the Bristol Children’s Hospital.

The prosecution say Hunt inflicted the fatal injuries while left alone with Kimberley for less than an hour on Christmas evening while Hayley visited a neighbour who lived on his own.

He had earlier gone to the neighbour’s flat to ask Hayley to come back because the baby was ‘kicking off’ but when she went home she found she found he had put Kimberley to bed and everything was quiet.

The child was ill when she checked her later that evening and remained unwell until her condition deteriorated 24 hours later and she fell into a coma.

Dr Carey told the jury that Kimberly had a combination of injuries known as a Triad which are indicative of shaking or other traumatic injury.

The three key elements are bleeding beneath a protective layer around the brain known as a dura, brain damage caused by lack of oxygen or the blood which carries it, and bleeding inside the retinas of both eyes.

He said in addition to these features there were other findings in the form of bruising inside the back of the head, on the forehead and on one ear, bleeding inside the optic nerve and around the inside of the eyes.

There was also bleeding inside the spinal column which may indicate it had been subject of rapid movement. In the absence of any other explanation, the fatal injuries must be non accidental.

He said: “It is likely the child’s head struck something but I cannot exclude the use of a weapon. The bruises under the scalp were typical of blunt impact. There must have been a significant force in this impact.

“The fall against the bars of the cot which the defendant mentioned to police could not have caused the multiplicity of sub scalp bruises seen here.

“Each of the components of the triad are present and we do not have an accidental explanation, so it is a presumption these are inflicted injuries. There can be no other explanation.

“There are two possible mechanisms. One is what is known as shaking injuries and there is also the possibility of impact injuries. I found evidence at post mortem of such injuries at three different sites on the head.

“Shaking involves moving a baby in such a way the head rocks backwards and forwards in such a way the structures and bridging veins between the brain and the dura are susceptible to being torn in movement.

“The blood found in the spinal cord may be caused by shaking or the spine curving one way and back the other, damaging the blood vessels.

“It all points to trauma and nothing else. There are injuries additional to the triad.”

Dr Carey said Hunt’s description of Kimberley going floppy on Christmas night was indicative that she had experienced an abrupt change in her condition and the delay in her falling into a coma was caused by the swelling of her brain to the point where she lost consciousness 24 hours later.

The trial continues.

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