Baby 'died from fractured skull'

A HOME Office pathologist has told jurors trying to decide whether a young father killed one of his baby sons that the four-month-old died as a result of a fractured skull.

A HOME Office pathologist has told jurors trying to decide whether a young father killed one of his baby sons that the four-month-old died as a result of a fractured skull.

James Tuffs, 21, of Forest Road in Onehouse, near Stowmarket, denies the manslaughter of Byron O'Leary and cruelty to both Byron and his four-month-old brother Tyrese, now nearly two years old.

Prosecutor Oliver Sells, QC, has told jurors at Norwich Crown Court that in January 2004 doctors declared Byron dead after he was found "grey and floppy'' at the family home in Stowmarket.

Tuffs had told police Byron had suffocated while he was sleeping with the baby on a sofa at their semi-detached home in Hill Rise, Stowmarket.


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But speaking during the third day of the trial pathologist Dr Michael Heath said that he died from a head injury.

Dr Heath, who has 27 years experience in his job and holds degrees in medicine and surgery, said: "My opinion is that the cause of death was due to head injury.

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"It would have been apparent the event had occurred. The child would have been in distress. You may have actually heard the fracture. You may have heard it cracking open.

"The bone to the skull I found to be very tough. To fracture this bone would have needed a significant force, applied in a fraction of a second."

The baby was discovered by his mother, 18-year-old Zoe O'Leary, on the sofa with Tuffs at about 9am on January 21 last year. Dr Heath said it was likely Byron survived for at least ten minutes after suffering the injury.

Dr Heath told the court Byron had internal bruising on his forehead, had a graze to his right cheek and a bruise to the left side of his head. He carried out a post-mortem on Byron's body on January 22 last year at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

The court earlier this week also heard from a medical expert who told of the extent of the injuries suffered by the twins, who had fractures to their skulls, ribs and limbs.

Jurors have been told that Tuffs could offer no explanation for the injuries to either of the twins when he was questioned by police.

But Karim Khalil, representing Tuffs, said that even an expert witness is capable of making mistakes and professionals specialising in the same area can hold differing views. Dr Heath later conceded that asphyxia was a factor in the baby's death.

Tuffs denies manslaughter and cruelty to Byron and cruelty towards Tyrese and the trial, expected to last up to three weeks, continues today.

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