A mother whose baby son wouldn’t sleep inflicted a series of injuries on him which only came to light when she broke his skull, a court heard yesterday.
The Brighton mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told police she had been struggling to cope with the pressure of caring for the boy and his one-year-old brother while her partner worked long hours.
At the opening of her trial at Hove Crown Court yesterday, the jury was told she had confessed in both writing and at a police interview to injuring the boy. She also told police she had accidentally broken his skull on a doorframe.
But after being charged with child neglect and grievous bodily harm, she retracted her confession and pleaded not guilty.
Prosecuting, Beverley Cherrill said: “Her partner was working such long hours he barely saw the family. It seems this was the cause of some arguments between them, but she never claimed he was violent to her of the children.
It was clear from calls that she made in police interviews that she was finding it extremely difficult to cope with two small children, especially as the baby would cry during the night and was difficult to soothe.
“Her partner would sleep in a room with the one-year-old and she would sleep in a room with the baby and when he wouldn’t sleep, which seems to have been quite often, her partner could hear her shouting obscenities at him which caused him some concern.
“He never witnessed violence, but he was concerned about her attitude. When he spoke to her about this, he said the would end up having an argument.”
When the baby was five months old, in February 2018, the father’s hours were reduced and the mother got a job in the evenings.
On the evening of 9 February, when the father was looking after the children, the baby was screaming constantly, and when he texted the mother, she called an ambulance and came home.
Paramedics initially thought the infant might have meningitis, but tests at the Royal Alex uncovered a skull fracture and multiple older injuries, some described in court as “life-threatening”.
Doctors believe the baby was about three months old when the abuse began. The court heard it’s agreed the child’s long list of injuries include multiple healed fractures to his chest wall and right clavicle, bruising to his head and back, a squint and a bleed on the brain.
It’s also accepted they must have been inflicted upon the baby.
Both the mother and the father were arrested. In the mother’s second interview, a female officer sympathised with the stresses of looking after babies.
She asked if it’s possible she had hurt the baby by accident, telling a story about how her friend had accidentally knocked her baby’s head on a doorframe.
The mother insisted she had not, suggesting that the father, a friend who had stayed or even the boy’s one-year-old brother had injured himm.
No charges were brought at that time. However, 19 months later in October 2019, she and the father had separated, and she sent him a written confession saying she had caused the baby’s injuries.
She said it hadn’t been deliberate – and the skull fracture had been a complete accident. At a subsequent police interview, she said she had knocked his head on a doorframe – in the same way the police officer had described her friend doing the previous year.
When he was younger, she said she had often shaken him when holding him by the hips or the arms when his head was not supported, and squeezing him sometimes,
When she did, she felt very guilty afterwards and tried to comfort him.
Mrs Cherrill read out the written confession, which said: “I wasn’t conscious how much I hurt him and even in hospital I couldn’t believe it and I thought it was something else wrong with him when I was interviewed by police.
“After, I just wasn’t brave enough to tell it was me . . . I deeply regret each of my steps.
“I love [my baby] with all my heart and I never had any intention of hurting him so much . . . I’m just willing to pay for it and just want for [my children] to forgive me one day.”
The trial, which is scheduled to last until the end of next week, continues.
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