Hero paramedic condemns court sentence

By Dave GooderhamA PARAMEDIC, who saved the life of a baby who was left brain-damaged after being shaken by her father, has criticised the decision to jail him for only one year.

By Dave Gooderham

A PARAMEDIC, who saved the life of a baby who was left brain-damaged after being shaken by her father, has criticised the decision to jail him for only one year.

American serviceman Nicholas Zeltinger, 25, was found guilty of battery and aggravated assault after a court martial heard he had shaken his three-month-old daughter Jessica twice in 10 days.

But paramedic Steve Murrow said he was “shocked” by the small sentence passed on the RAF Mildenhall-based staff sergeant, who could have been given seven years in prison.


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Mr Murrow said: “The baby was dead on arrival. She had no heartbeat and it was only because of the resuscitation I carried out that she survived.

“I was shocked when I heard the sentence, I couldn't believe it. But the most important thing is that she is alive. When I managed to get her back, I was chuffed to bits.”

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Mr Murrow, a member of a Bury St Edmunds rapid response unit for the East Anglian Ambulance Trust, took just three minutes to get to Zeltinger's home in Mildenhall - which meant he was able to save Jessica's life.

“I can remember everything really well - when you resuscitate a baby, you don't forget it in a hurry,” he said.

“I was off-duty, but I responded from home at about 5am. I was told this baby was choking and the ambulance was committed to another job.

“When I got to the address, Jessica was lying on the sofa star-shaped, lying on her back and lifeless.”

Mr Murrow said Zeltinger had told him that Jessica had stopped breathing after he had fed her.

“At that time, I had no real reason to be suspicious of him. When I learnt that Jessica had been in hospital a few days prior, it all became clear. In court, it was clear that there had been two separate bleeds to the brain,” he added.

Zeltinger, an electrician in RAF Mildenhall's 100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, was convicted by a panel of three officers and two enlisted members and sentenced at RAF Lakenheath on Saturday.

As well as being jailed, he was reduced to the rank of airman basic and given an honourable discharge.

U.S. forces newspaper Stars and Stripes said Zeltinger had returned from temporary duty at RAF Fairford on June 11 last year and spent the night with Jessica while his wife Michelle, also a staff sergeant, had been at work.

The next morning his daughter was seen with a facial bruise and red eyes. Her parents took her to RAF Lakenheath's on-base hospital and Zeltinger told doctors he had dropped a seat belt buckle on Jessica while removing her from the car seat.

Ten days later, Mr Murrow was called after Zeltinger had said Jessica's breathing and heart had stopped.

The court martial heard medical experts had claimed Jessica had been the victim of child abuse after viewing images of her fractured ribs and damaged brain.

Captain Dr Johnathan Cutting, commander of the U.S. Navy clinics in Britain, said: “I have a very strong opinion that this child was injured by child abuse.”

Major Dr Dawn Peredo, who saw Jessica on both occasions in hospital, added the toddler had lost development skills due to a “violent shaking”.

A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said Zeltinger had not been prosecuted in a British court because foreign military organisations have the right to deal with their own personnel under the Visiting Forces Act 1952.

dave.gooderham@eadt.co.uk

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