Mother accused of manslaughter by gross negligence tells court son appeared healthy

An 18-year-old who was allegedly allowed to “rot to death” had appeared healthy in the preceding months, his mother has told a court.

Dawn Cranston, 45, claimed that her son, Jordan Burling, had experienced “fluctuations in his weight” in the years prior to June 2016, when paramedics supposedly discovered him in a soiled nappy and weighing less than six stone.

Prosecutors had previously claimed that Jordan’s condition at the time resembled that of a victim of a Second World War death camp, but his mother told a jury that he had maintained a “stocky build throughout the majority of his teenage years”.

Dawn Cranston is on trial at Leeds Crown Court accused of the teenager’s manslaughter by gross negligence, as are his grandmother, Denise Cranston, 70, and 25-year-old sister, Abigail Burling.

The trio also deny an alternative count of causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable person.

The jury had previously been told by prosecutor Nicholas Lumley QC that Jordan had been allowed “to decay, to rot to death, by those closest to him, over a period of, at least, several weeks”.

Speaking on Thursday, Dawn Cranston claimed that she asked her son “constantly” about his health, saying: “He started to get thinner at one stage, he would put on weight and then he would lose it again. It was back and forth like that for maybe a few years.”

The defendant told jurors that she, along with her mother and daughter, would feed him “pizzas, spaghetti bolognese, ravioli, spare ribs, crisps, Haribo, and all sorts of different things”.

However, she admitted that she had struggled to keep track of his diet and dental hygiene after she started working frequent night shifts in 2011.

Jurors had heard that Jordan developed slowly during his early years, with Dawn Cranston admitting that he “struggled to settle” when he first started school, but denying claims he had learning difficulties.

She said she was forced to start educating her son from home when he was around 11 years old following repeated instances of bullying at school, which culminated in his head being hit against a wall by a fellow pupil.

However, she acknowledged that, after the age of 16, he “did his own thing” after failing to decide which college he wanted to attend.

The defendant said: “If he wasn’t going out and about with Abigail (Burling) or by himself, he would be playing his computer games.”

The court heard that Denise Cranston had shared a bedroom with her two children at their home, but had slept downstairs on a sofa since her father took his own life in the room next to them in October 2006.

She claimed the incident led to a “freefall” and has left her with ongoing mental health difficulties.

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