Page last updated at 16:50 GMT, Tuesday, 9 September 2008 17:50 UK

Disability 'behind girl's death'

Naomi Hill
Four-year-old Naomi Hill was a pupil at Golftyn Primary School

A mother drowned her four-year-old daughter in the bath because she could not cope with the girl's mild cerebral palsy, Chester Crown Court has heard.

Joanne Hill, 32, who denies murder, wanted to put Naomi up for adoption but hatched the plan when her husband refused, jurors heard.

She killed Naomi at her Connah's Quay, Flintshire, home, it is claimed.

The trial began on Monday but had to be stopped on Tuesday for legal reasons before a new jury was sworn in.

A new jury was sworn in and the case was opened again by Michael Chambers QC on Tuesday afternoon.

He described to the jury of eight men and four women how after drowning Naomi, Hill dressed the little girl and drove around for eight hours before carrying her body into the casualty department of a local hospital.

He told the court how witnesses will describe how Hill, an advertising saleswoman, was "embarrassed" by her daughter, who wore callipers and had hearing difficulties, and was irritated by some of the effects of her medication.

Joanne Hill
She moved quickly and efficiently to do what she had decided to do
Michael Chambers QC, prosecuting, on Joanne Hill, pictured
Mr Chambers said: "The prosecution say the defendant could not come to terms with the fact that Naomi was disabled, suffering from a mild form of cerebral palsy affecting her ability to walk.

"She left a lot of the everyday care of Naomi to her husband Simon, she even suggested to him that Naomi should be adopted.

"But he would not agree to that because he doted on her."

Mr Chambers told the jury Ms Hill had a history of alcohol abuse, which had previously caused a deterioration in her marriage, and had suffered anxiety and mental illness in the past.

But he said in the months and days leading up to the death of Naomi, the mother's behaviour was considered normal and rational.

'Suicidal thoughts'

He said: "The defendant told police that on that Monday, the day Naomi died, she had thought of killing Naomi and also suicidal thoughts.

"We say she wasn't suffering from depressive mental illness at that time.

"She moved quickly and efficiently to do what she had decided to do."

Mr Chambers described how, on the day of Naomi's death, Ms Hill had left work and arrived at the childminder's to collect her daughter.

Joanne Hill's family home
The court was told that Naomi Hill was killed at the family home
Mr Chambers said: "The defendant went upstairs to run a bath, adding bubble bath, and came down for a glass of wine. When the bath was full she told Naomi she was having a bath.

"But Naomi didn't want one so she carried her upstairs and undressed her. The defendant put her in the bath and drowned her by holding her head under the water for a long time."

Mr Chambers said Ms Hill then dressed Naomi and left the house, placing her daughter and a bottle of wine in the car, before her husband returned home from work.

The prosecutor told the court it is still unclear what Hill was doing in the eight hours leading up to her arrival at hospital with Naomi dead in her arms.

Police have been able to establish that she visited a petrol station at about 11.30pm that night and the jury were shown CCTV footage of her smiling and joking with the sales assistant.

Facial haemorrhages

About 3.35am Hill, with Naomi in her arms, walked into the A&E department of the Countess of Chester Hospital saying: "Somebody help me. I think she's dead."

Mr Chambers described Hill at this time as upset and distressed but he said: "However, she lied to doctors she had found Naomi not responsive.

"She also told lies by saying she arrived in a taxi. It appears to show she was trying to protect her position."

After Naomi was pronounced dead, police were notified and when asked what happened to the little girl, Hill told them she couldn't remember.

A post-mortem examination found Naomi had died by drowning and also found facial haemorrhages which, Mr Chambers said, point to the girl's head being forcibly held under water with her face against the surface of the bath.

He also said there was evidence that a hand was held over Naomi's mouth and nose.

When Hill was arrested she was found to be twice over the drink-driving limit and police doctors advised she could not be interviewed until she had sobered up.

Mr Chambers told the jury Hill admits the unlawful killing of Naomi but her defence will argue she is guilty of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.

The trial continues.

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