Mum accused of killing baby by ‘shaking him so hard he suffered brain injuries’

A mum has gone on trial accused of murdering her six-week-old baby boy by shaking him to death, causing a traumatic head injury.

Chelsea Cuthbertson, 28, denies the murder of Malakai Watts who was rushed to hospital from the family’s two-bedroom flat in Hythe, Southampton, Hampshire, on February 2 2019.

The baby, who was born on Christmas Day 2018, was put in a medically-induced coma at a paediatric intensive care unit at Southampton General Hospital but a decision was taken to turn off his life support four days later, and he died on February 6.

Sally Howes QC, prosecuting, told Winchester Crown Court: "Extensive post-mortem investigation identified pathological findings consistent with traumatic head injury.

"The likely mechanism of infliction is some form of shaking, possibly with some form of impact."

Ms Howes added that the cause of death was a fatal head injury, but eight rib fractures were also identified, with one having been suffered on an earlier occasion than the other seven.

The prosecutor explained that Malakai was born prematurely with his due date February 5, the day before he actually died.

She said that he had no ongoing medical conditions and health visitors who made home visits reported no concerns, although they did report a smell of cannabis in the flat, which Cuthbertson denied smoking.

Ms Howes said that Cuthbertson’s partner, Del Watts, who worked as a car valet in Eastleigh, told police that on the day before Malakai was taken ill, he had taken cannabis and cocaine and drank beer, and Cuthbertson had drunk some wine.

He also said that after they had woken up to feed Malakai at 4am, he had gone back to sleep in the lounge because he could tell Cuthbertson "was going to get angry and argumentative".

Watts had then left for work arriving by 8.30am, about an hour before Cuthbertson called 999 reporting that Malakai had stopped breathing.

Ms Howes said the defendant had said that "she had got up and gone outside for a cigarette, she was only outside for five minutes. When she came back in (Malakai) was not breathing".

A paramedic arrived at 9.44am to find Cuthbertson giving chest compressions to Malakai which he took over before colleagues arrived, and the baby was taken to hospital by ambulance, the prosecutor said.

She added: "The baby was dressed in a nappy, his skin colour appeared slightly tan brown to grey and his lips appeared pale, and when held he felt floppy but was warm to touch."

Ms Howes said that at hospital, Malakai’s fontanelle – the soft spot on a baby’s head where the skull has not fully formed – was tight and bulging which suggested increased pressure and bleeding around the brain.

A CT scan confirmed this and an examination of the eye found retinal haemorrhages in the right eye.

Ms Howes added: "The findings raised the possibility of non-accidental injury."

The trial continues.

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