Thursday, 23 September 2010

SBS: death after 14 years

THE devastated mother of a child left with injuries 'like he had fallen out of a seven-storey window' says her son's killer needs to be brought to justice.Ellis Brigden was shaken so badly at three months old that he was left with cerebral palsy and was virtually blinded.His attacker, Gary Andrew Swan, served one year of a two-year sentence for grievous bodily harm at Stafford Prison for the attack.Ellis, of Warren Road in Brean, lived for 14 years in a severely disabled state, needing full-time care, but an inquest into his death this week said he died as a result of injuries he sustained as a result of the 'shaken baby syndrome'.His mum, Mae Pleydell-Pearce, says she feels like the justice system has let her down and she is now seeking a fresh trial for the man who inflicted the appalling injuries on her son.A police statement read out at the inquest said that the law before 1996, when Ellis was injured, meant that this would not be possible unless someone who was injured died as a result of an attack up to one year and one day after the injury.At the inquest at Flax Bourton Coroners Court assistant deputy coroner, Tony Woodburn, recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.Consultant paediatrician Rebecca Mann told the hearing that Ellis had suffered an 'acute' injury at three months old and a police statement confirmed that Mr Swan was found to be responsible for the injuries to Ellis, also leaving him with a broken leg and rib. Mae, aged 38, and adoptive father, 31-year-old Patrick, of Warren Road, Brean, were told at the inquest that the chest infection that killed Ellis was the result of those horrific injuries he sustained as a baby.The court heard how Ellis had become so severely disabled through his injuries that he was unable to clear his chest after contracting the MRSA infection, which he picked up because of his poor immune system.He then developed a chest infection and died last May at Children's Hospice South West's Charlton Farm in Wraxall, where he sometimes went for respite care.Mae said: "I feel as though the justice system has let me down."The man who killed my son served just one year of a two-year sentence - something similar to what you get for burglary."Medical experts said at Gary's trial that Ellis' injuries were similar to those he would have had if he had fallen from a seven-storey window or had been in a car crash at 70mph without being strapped in."I want justice for Ellis."Ellis' family described many good times they had as a family, one of the fondest memories being when the youngster was there when Mae and Patrick married at St Bridget's Church in Brean on Christmas Eve, 2007.They arranged the ceremony within a couple of weeks when they knew the youngster's health was deteriorating.But there were also many dark moments.Mae added: "By the age of three months Ellis was giving me the joy of reaching for my hand, watching me wherever I walked, and bringing everything to his mouth, from food to cushions. "Our mother and son bond was weaved by the hours of play, cuddles, communication and love."Then he was shaken violently by Gary."Doctors begged for my permission to switch his life support off, but I refused. "They described how, if by a miracle he survived, Ellis would suffer every day, and that his quality of life would be zero. "They told me his brain damage was so severe he would not move or speak and that he would suffer unimaginable pain with illness caused by a poor immune system. "They described how his world would be one of confusion and darkness, as his eyes were filled with blood and the damage to his brain was huge."I could not be the person who decided my son would be switched off forever, I couldn't not give him the opportunity to live."In my daze, my baby looked normal, just asleep."Ellis's whole life and health went in waves."I lost count of the times I listened to bleeps, and watched monitors in intensive care with Ellis's chest problems, in the 14 years he was with us. "I try to erase the memories of all of his agonising operations and his confused little face."However, there has been happy moments and Ellis had a strong bond with his family. "We all found precious moments with him, and his smile and strong hand grasp was evidence that he loved us, as much as we loved him. "The positive memories help my grief, even when reason for such loss of a whole and precious life trips me up."As a mum, I watched my son struggle to communicate the pain he was in and watch him having to endure suffering beyond anything any person should ever have to and I could do nothing about it."I often wondered, whilst he lay there wheezing on oxygen, tubes and wires everywhere at home in his bed or in hospital, whether Ellis should have died when he was injured."The answer is 'yes'."It took 13 years and now he is free.

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