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Last Updated: Friday, 7 July 2006, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Unlawful killing verdict on baby
Chloe Thomas

A verdict of unlawful killing has been returned on a 14-week-old baby who suffered 40 broken bones.

Chloe Thomas had "devastating head injuries," and Cardiff coroner Mary Hassell said there was no doubt in her mind she had suffered sustained abuse.

The inquest was told by her father Ceri Thomas, 23 - who had earlier avoided a murder charge - he had been teaching her to walk before she was injured.

Chloe had skull, wrist, rib, leg and finger fractures when she died in 2003.

Thomas said the "inexperience" of himself and partner Sarah Scott, 19, may have played a part in Chloe's death.

I told him he shouldn't hold her like that, but he was very angry and didn't seem to care
Sarah Scott, mother

A doctor said the child's injuries were "probably non-accidental".

Chloe's parents had previously pleaded guilty to child cruelty. Thomas, from Bridgend, was jailed for three months and Scott, from Cardiff, was given a three-year community rehabilitation order.

In January, the prosecution told a judge at Swansea Crown Court that it would no longer press ahead with a murder charge against Chloe's father.

Peter Murphy QC said a prosecution expert had concluded she died from shaken baby syndrome. A defence expert later identified an earlier injury to Chloe and, in her opinion, a choking fit could have raised her blood pressure, causing previously damaged tissue inside her head to rupture.

Mr Murphy said that the prosecution could not discount such a theory and they could not prove whether the injuries were caused by her parents.

Ceri Thomas (L) and Sarah Scott
Ceri Thomas and Sarah Scott each said the other had 'walked' the child
The judge entered a formal not guilty verdict to the charge of murder.

Chloe, their only child, died after she stopped breathing at their home in Bridgend, south Wales.

Giving evidence at the inquest on Friday, Thomas said he and his girlfriend had tried walking their daughter at eight weeks.

He said: "I did try to walk her once, but I know that Sarah did it several times but I don't see how it would have caused the injuries.

"The night she died, she seemed perfectly normal but then went floppy and pale.

Bruises

"When I put her to sleep I realised that she wasn't breathing and I thought she was dead.

"Maybe Chloe's death was down to mine and Sarah's inexperience and not accepting any help from social services.

"If we had accepted help and been more experienced maybe Chloe would be with us today."

The inquest had heard Chloe's aunt saw bruises over her body and Scott told her they were caused by teaching her to walk.

In her evidence on Thursday, Scott - who denied she had ever walked the child - told the hearing her ex-boyfriend used to pick the child up roughly in arguments.

She said Thomas would threaten to leave the family home and then grip the baby tightly in his arms.

Scott said: "During one argument he said 'you ain't having my daughter - she's coming with me', and picked her up.

Skull fractures

"He was holding her with his arm across her middle - her head was hanging down.

"I told him he shouldn't hold her like that, but he was very angry and didn't seem to care. I was scared she might get hurt."

Dr Susan Morris, a children's radiologist, told the hearing the fractures to Chloe's ribs would have been caused by an unusual amount of crushing pressure on her body.

She also said other fractures to the child's legs and arms would have been caused by a twisting motion.

She said: "The fracture to the shoulder is an unusual one - I've only ever seen it in books before.

"It requires an unusual kind of pressure - I'm guessing it would be caused by swinging the child around by the arm. This injury is probably a non-accidental injury."

Dr Morris said two skull fractures on the back of the head would have been caused by Chloe colliding with something hard.

Thomas and Scott, who have since split up, sat at opposite ends of the hearing.




SEE ALSO
Police 'may review' baby's death
07 Jul 06 |  South East Wales
Mother 'feared' for abused baby
06 Jul 06 |  South East Wales
Baby 'at risk' month before death
04 Jul 06 |  South East Wales
Baby died after 'walking lessons'
03 Jul 06 |  South East Wales
No prison for baby death cruelty
20 Feb 06 |  South East Wales
Father avoids baby murder charge
30 Jan 06 |  South East Wales

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