The parents of an eight-week-old baby girl who died with more than 60 broken bones in her body have been jailed after being found guilty by a jury of causing or allowing her to suffer serious physical harm.
Naomi Johnson, 24, of Octavia Street, Battersea, and Benjamin O’Shea, 26, of Dominion Drive, Rotherhithe, were sentenced at Inner London Crown Court on Friday, 28 January. They had blamed paramedics for the injuries. Radiologists said the fractures were highly indicative she had suffered physical abuse – but no exact cause of death was established.
The couple suggested their daughter’s death could have been the result of inoculations she had received when they took her to the GP the day before her death, and that the rib fractures were caused by paramedics performing CPR.
Johnson was sentenced to seven years and two months in prison.
O’Shea was sentenced to eight years and eight months in prison.
Both had previously been found guilty of causing or allowing a child to suffer serious physical harm in relation to their eight-week-old girl, Amina-Faye. They were also found guilty of cruelty to a person under 16 years of age in relation to a separate child.
The couple – who met when she was 15 and he was 18 or 19, and who have now split up – had called 999 after their daughter stopped breathing. Paramedics arrived within minutes but she died at the scene.
Detective Inspector Melanie Pressley, who led the investigation said: “No jail term will ever be worth the life of baby Amina-Faye. However, I hope that today’s sentence is a clear message that the children in this case mattered and those who think they can get away with inflicting such abuse will be punished. I know I speak for everyone involved in this investigation when I say it has been truly heart-breaking to investigate and Amina Faye and the other child in this case will stay with us all.
“This trial has heard complex medical evidence and various points of law but at the heart of this case and our investigation, are two children. Two children that my team and I have worked tirelessly to get justice for and it is them that I am thinking of today.”
Johnson and O’Shea’s offending came to light following the death of their 8-week-old baby girl, Amina-Faye.
Amina-Faye died on 26 April 2019. Johnson and O’Shea called 999 but there was nothing paramedics could do to save the child’s life.
O’Shea initially told paramedics that the day before Amina-Faye’s tragic death, he had taken her to the GP for a routine visit and she seemed fine upon returning home. The next morning, the day of her death, O’Shea said that she seemed grumpy when she woke up at 7.30am and Johnson had given Amina-Faye some paracetamol before settling the child down to sleep again. O’Shea also told paramedics that when Amina-Faye had settled, he put her back to bed and then when he checked on her about 20 minutes later, she was unresponsive which is when he woke Johnson and phoned 999.
Later in hospital, O’Shea told doctors that they had given Amina-Faye two separate doses of paracetamol due to the child having a fitful night. When he went to check on Amina-Faye, he said she did not look right and her arms seemed floppy. He put his ear to her to her chest and heard a faint heart beat and no breathing so ran to Johnson to phone 999 and commenced CPR.
There were no visible injuries and the cause of her death was originally thought to be Sudden Unexplained Death in Infants but during the first regular post mortem, skeletal X-rays showed a catalogue of injuries the child sustained in her short life.
Amina-Faye was found to have over 60 fractured bones in her body, including 41 identified fractures to her ribs, anteriorly and posteriorly, and 24 limb bone fractures.
Radiologists found the multiple fractures were highly indicative that Amina-Faye had suffered continued physical abuse. Some of the fractures were relatively recent while others had begun to heal suggesting that over the course of her eight-week life Amina-Faye had been subject to multiple episodes of abuse.
As a result of these findings, a special post-mortem was carried out – but no cause of death could be established.
Due to the level of injury the child had sustained, a police investigation was launched on 3 May 2019 and Johnson and O’Shea were immediately arrested.
During the course of their police interviews both Johnson and O’Shea claimed that Amina-Faye’s death was the result of the earlier visit to the GP and the fractures had been caused by the paramedics.
Detectives from the Met’s Homicide and Serious Crime Command led the extensive investigation into Amina-Faye’s death and consulted with a number of medical experts over the injuries she had sustained.
A professor of Osteoarticular Pathology found that the rib fractures had been sustained on at least two occasions and the limb bone fractures on at least seven occasions. He also found that the pattern of fractures showed they could not have been caused accidentally.
Neuropathological examination found evidence of a small, healed subdural haemorrhage. This was supported by Ophthalmological examination that found evidence within the retina, extraocular muscles and orbital fat which indicated previous bleeding in those locations but there was no evidence of recent retinal haemorrhages.
Text messages exchanged between the pair revealed that O’Shea boasted of his military service when in fact he had been a reservist for a couple of years. He had also made numerous calls to NHS 111 between 2016 and 2019 referring to his self-diagnosed PTSD and his aggression issues.
Detectives found a call to NHS 111 from 1 April 2019 from Johnson where she reported Amina-Faye had been coughing blood. When the doctor phoned back and spoke to O’Shea to advise him to take Amina-Faye to hospital, O’Shea failed to tell Johnson and the child was not taken to the hospital.
In later police interviews, the pair both denied injuring the child.
In relation to the second child, who was known to the pair, detectives found texts between the pair where they both admit to slapping the child and treating the child poorly. Johnson said she had slapped the child three times and then only gave the child water until dinner. O’Shea in another text to Johnson discussed his difficulty at keeping calm after the child knocked over a drink in a fast food restaurant.
DI Pressley continued: “Johnson and O’Shea have rightly been jailed for the monstrous abuse they subjected these children to. Throughout our investigation Johnson and O’Shea have been steadfast in their refusal to answer our questions. Thanks to the expertise of doctors who assisted us in this case, we know the trauma Amina-Faye suffered in her all too short life. Johnson and O’Shea betrayed everything that children deserve from adults.”
= Reporting restrictions remain in place in relation to the identification of the surviving child in this case.
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