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EDITIONS
Monday, 22 July, 2002, 21:17 GMT 22:17 UK
Mother guilty of trying to kill son
Michelle Dickinson
Michelle Dickinson had denied the charges
A woman has been found guilty of attempting to murder her seven-year-old son by poisoning him with anti-epileptic drugs.

Michelle Dickinson, 30, was found guilty at Liverpool Crown Court on Monday after an 11 week trial.

The court heard how Dickinson, from Seascale, Cumbria, invented symptoms of epilepsy for her son Michael and fed him a cocktail of prescription drugs for four years.

Michael died from pneumonia in hospital in Leicester in October 2000, after spending 102 days on a life support machine.

Michael Dickinson
Michael died in October 2000

Mr Justice Pitchers adjourned sentencing pending a psychiatric report into whether Dickinson suffers from a mental disorder that causes parents to injure their children to attract attention.

"It may be Munchausen's (Syndrome) by Proxy, but I am not in a position to make that diagnosis myself.

"It would be wrong for me to proceed on my suspicions about how dangerous you are. I need proper medical evidence about it.

"The only possible outcome is a very substantial sentence, and I must warn you my mind is working towards an intermediate life sentence.

'Drooling victim'

Dickinson falsely claimed her son had been suffering from epilepsy since he was three years old and began poisoning him with the drugs.

She managed to get double the prescribed quantity of drugs from her local GP surgery, Seascale Health Centre.

Eventually she tried to kill Michael by giving him drugs through a nasal feeding tube.

The jury was told Dickinson had reduced her son from being an ordinary little boy to a "drooling, pathetic victim in a wheelchair".

During the trial, prosecuting counsel Alistair Webster QC, said rarely could there have been a case in which a defendant had lied so often to try to avoid detection for what she had done.

Dickinson was also found guilty of four counts of cruelty.

Sentencing was adjourned for psychiatric reports.

System failed

Speaking on BBC Look North, Dr Robert Walker, from West Cumbria Primary Health Care Trust, said an inquiry had been held into how Dickinson managed to get more than twice the prescribed quantity of drugs from her local surgery.

He said: "The system should have flagged up the quantity issue because most prescribing is computerised.

"If the software is appropriate it should flag up warning signs if the medication is not due.

"That did not seem to be happening with the system in Seascale."

Doctor Venkat Ramesh, a child neurologist, began to suspect Michael was being given too many drugs by his mother in the summer of 1999.

He told the BBC he considered contacting social services, but wanted to gather more evidence first.

He said: "I really feel bad that it was an opportunity lost when we may have been able to save his life. It's a terrible tragedy."


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01 Jul 02 | England
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