Baby ‘could have died from medical condition’ Brain surgeon tells murder trial of ‘abnormalities’
A brain surgeon told a court yesterday that a baby allegedly murdered by her mother’s boyfriend could have died from an “underlying medical condition”.
Consultant neurosurgeon Dr Helen Fernandes told the High Court in Aberdeen that she could not be certain that the injuries of six-week-old Alexis Matheson were inflicted.
Dr Fernandes, of Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, told the jury that in her medical opinion there were many “abnormalities” in Alexis that could point to an underlying illness.
She was giving evidence as an expert witness at the trial of Mark Simpson.
Simpson, 29, is accused of assaulting the baby at Deansloch Crescent in Aberdeen between November 8 and December 9, 2007, when he was in a relationship with her mother, Ilona Sheach.
He denies murdering the child by seizing her, shaking her and compressing her chest, injuring her so severely that she died in hospital in Edinburgh on December 10.
Dr Fernandes said that some of the injuries in Alexis’s brain, including blood clotting, could have been caused by infection, dehydration or a bleeding or collagen disorder.
She said: “The distribution of blood seen on the baby’s CT scan is not typical of the distribution of blood we would expect to see in a baby who has been shaken.”
She also said she found the baby to have an abnormal bone structure and cells, which could point to a medical problem.
Dr Fernandes said: “The ribs are not of a totally normal construct for an infant of six weeks.”
She told the court that “normal handling” of a child with a collagen or bone disorder could cause injuries or fractures.
She said: “I do feel that there are many pointers in the evidence that’s available to us that things were not normal, and I think one should be careful about drawing such certain conclusions about shaken baby syndrome, for which the evidence is inconclusive.”
Dr Fernandes added: “It was the number of abnormalities that I found, and also the fact that the abnormalities were found within the collagen bone group and within the clotting group, the two main areas where we look for underlying medical conditions.
“I found those very difficult to ignore and come to a certain conclusion of inflicted injury. There was too much else going on here.”
Defence agent Herbert Kerrigan QC asked: “This tipped the scale against it being non-accidental injury?”
“Yes,” she replied.
Dr Fernandes also criticised an Aberdeen GP who saw Alexis a week before her death when she is said to have had red eyes.
She said the explanation given that Alexis was constipated was not, in her opinion, acceptable and the baby should have been referred to a paediatrician.
Mr Kerrigan also asked about the possible effects of a game called “fishy” on the baby.
The court had previously heard Simpson, of 2 Dunbennan Road, Dyce, say that Miss Sheach had played a game with the baby that involved a shaking motion.
She said: “I think in a vulnerable infant one would worry about the consequences of such a game.”