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Last Updated: Friday, 26 November, 2004, 20:12 GMT
Mother denies poisoning son, nine
Petrina Stocker leaving court
Petrina Stocker denies manslaughter
A nine-year-old boy died after his mother spiked his hospital feed with salt to mislead doctors about his illness, a court has heard.

Petrina Stocker, 42, of Romford, Essex, denies the manslaughter of her son David Stocker.

Prosecutor Nicholas Hilliard told an Old Bailey jury David died in Great Ormond Street Hospital in August 2001.

A post-mortem examination found he died of sodium chloride poisoning, despite being on a salt-free milk feed.

At the time of his death, David also had wasted muscles consistent with chronic anorexia or chronic natural disorders.

Fabricate symptoms

Mr Hilliard said the salt poisoning was the last in a series of acts by Mrs Stocker to hoodwink doctors looking after her son.

"In each, the defendant tried to fabricate aspects of David's illness, either manufacturing false symptoms or inducing symptoms which would not otherwise be there," he said.

These are typical examples of behaviour known as fabricated illness where one person seeks to fabricate symptoms of illness in someone else
Prosecutor Nicholas Hilliard

David was first admitted to Oldchurch Hospital in Romford with stomach pains in March 2001.

The previously "fit and healthy child" had other symptoms such as weight loss and lethargy, but doctors could not find out what was wrong with him.

He was later transferred to Great Ormond Street, where doctors thought he might be suffering from a psychiatric illness.

He was discharged but was later readmitted and then moved again to Great Ormond Street.

Mr Hilliard said while David was in hospital, Mrs Stocker allegedly contaminated samples of his urine and vomit and interfered with drips giving him drugs.

"It may seem extraordinary, but these are typical examples of behaviour known as fabricated illness where one person seeks to fabricate symptoms of illness in someone else," he told jurors.

'Deliberate tampering'

"The whole picture of what was happening whilst David was in hospital demonstrates that the salt poisoning was the last event in a series designed to produce misleading symptoms in him.

"This was sadly quite deliberate."

Great Ormond Street Hospital
The boy died in August 2001 at Great Ormond Street Hospital
He said two milk bottles were most likely to have been tampered with in the ward kitchen to which staff and parents had free access.

The bottles were examined after blood tests two days before David died showed high levels of salt.

One had contained four-and-a-half level teaspoons and David had absorbed two teaspoons from another.

Mr Hilliard said: "The prosecution's case is that the reason for the high level was that his mother had added salt to the special milk feed that was being given to him."

Why would anyone do such a thing to a nine-year-old child in hospital?...It cannot be for any of the usual reasons. David had done no harm to anyone
Prosecutor Nicholas Hilliard
He said he was not suggesting Mrs Stocker was responsible for making David unwell in the period before the salt was administered or that she meant to kill her son.

But he added: "You must think there is an obvious risk to a sick child if you add a large amount of salt to his feed."

Mr Hilliard said: "The question was, who had added the salt to his feed and why? If it was deliberate, why would anyone do such a thing to a nine-year-old child in hospital?

"It cannot be for any of the usual reasons. David had done no harm to anyone."

The trial was adjourned until Wednesday.


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