A trial at Waterford Circuit Criminal Court of a young woman accused of manslaughter of her baby girl, heard how the body of the newborn was discovered with bloodstained tissues in a bin in the toilet at Caredoc.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded not guilty when arraigned to a charge of manslaughter at Caredoc on the Cork Road in 2018. She also denied a charge of child neglect on the same date.
An exclusive report by our sister newspaper, the Waterford News and Star, reports that at the opening of the case last Thursday Fiona Murphy SC said it was the prosecution’s case that the young woman attended Caredoc with her mother and grandmother sometime after 2am on the day in question complaining of constipation and back pain. Her mother was in the doctor’s office when the issue of her potential pregnancy was raised. The young woman was asked to provide a urine sample and left to go to the toilets. CCTV footage showed that she was in the toilets for approximately 12 to 13 minutes.
She returned to the doctor’s office and indicated that she wasn’t in a position to provide a sample.
The doctor referred her to University Hospital Waterford. The three women left Caredoc and attended at UHW at 3am, where there was a concern about bleeding and a belief was formed that she had recently given birth. On foot of an account given that she had bled into the toilet at Caredoc, a call was made to Caredoc at 7.30am. Gardaí were alerted and the toilet was closed off. Scenes of crime gardaí arrived at 1pm, and during the course of their search a bin was emptied and the remains of a baby girl was found.
The baby was examined and there was evidence that the baby was a full-term child, who breathed after birth. Ultimately, a finding was made that simple management of drying, keeping her warm and feeding her would have kept her alive, Ms Murphy SC said. The prosecution’s case was that by her actions and inactions the mother neglected the baby and ultimately that resulted in her death.
The mother of the defendant, visibly emotional as she gave evidence, said that she was suspicious that her daughter was pregnant, but that her daughter denied it, despite being given reassurances that everything would be okay.
After refusing to do a pregnancy test, she brought her daughter to her GP in early January, where she provided a urine sample, which returned a negative result. Three weeks’ later she brought her back for a blood test, but she refused to give one, and nothing could be done as she was over 18. Subsequently, she made her own doctor’s appointment without her mother and stated afterwards that she was “fine”.
Over the following months the mum continued to reassure and speak to her daughter, but she constantly denied being pregnant. Under cross-examination she said it got to the stage where both were not speaking.
In the early hours of the day in question the grandmother knocked on the mother’s door to fetch her as the defendant was complaining of back pain and constipation. The mother wanted the defendant to go to the hospital, but she had made an appointment at Caredoc.
Taking the stand Dr Adel Abdulrazak confirmed that he had been the doctor on call at Caredoc on the date in question. At 2.17am three ladies attended Caredoc. The grandmother waited outside as the mother and daughter came in to the consultation room. The doctor said the patient complained of lower back pain and constipation. He didn’t directly examine her but asked her to provide a urine sample, to rule out a urinary tract infection. He felt that the patient wasn’t telling him the main complaint.
When she left the room he asked the mother if there was anything that she was worried about, and she said she felt her daughter was pregnant. When the patient came back she did not give a sample. He felt there was a necessity to refer her for a blood test at University Hospital Waterford. In his referral letter the doctor said it was difficult to ascertain her real complaint. The patient denied any chance of pregnancy. He noted under reason for referral severe back pain, constipation, and pregnant with a question mark.
Via video link from the UK, Dr Annie O’Leary confirmed that the woman was transferred to the maternity ward at around 6am. Dr O’Leary spoke with the patient who told her that she believed she was pregnant and somewhere between 20-25 weeks gone, but she had not had a positive pregnancy test. She said she was bleeding and came to the hospital after Caredoc.
The doctor recalled that the patient had told her that she had planned on hiding the pregnancy and giving the child up for adoption. However, the doctor wasn’t sure she had been pregnant until receiving the results of a hormone pregnancy test. Evidence was heard that when the patient was being scanned the doctor couldn’t see a baby in the womb.
After seeking senior support, Dr O’Leary carried out an external examination and noticed signs of a perineal tear, an indication of recent childbirth. When the patient was told she had recently given birth she became upset and stated that she wanted to go home.
Dark-haired baby girl
Dr Sean McBrinn of Waterford Medical Centre attended the scene at Caredoc. He was asked to confirm the baby was deceased. The baby girl had dark hair and seemed to be full term. There was no heartbeat or breathing, and he pronounced the baby dead. Dr McBrinn confirmed that he didn’t see any signs of trauma.
Dr Michael Curtis, former Deputy State Pathologist, was asked to conduct a joint forensic and paediatric pathology report with Dr Peter Kelehan.
Dr Curtis noted that the baby was inside a yellow plastic bin bag on top of which Gardaí had placed a white disposable blanket. Multiple bloodstained tissues were present with the baby. Measurements were consistent with that of a full term baby. She weighed approximately eight pounds and two or three ounces. There was slight bruising in keeping with a difficult delivery or birth trauma. There was no evidence of a blow or being struck. There was no evidence that the baby inhaled water into the major airways, for instance from a toilet bowl.
The baby hadn’t been fed and mucoid fluid hadn’t been washed out. Samples were taken for toxicology and DNA testing.
In conclusion, Dr Curtis said the baby’s death was attributed to inattention at birth.
Professor Naomi McCallion, Professor of Neonatology and Consultant Neonatologist said all she could determine was that the baby established breathing over the first few minutes of life. She stated that once breathing was established it would be very unusual for it to stop. Professor McCallion was of the opinion that all would be required would be stimulation, feeding to prevent hypoglycaemia and keeping the baby warm.
The trial continues on Tuesday.