Baby murdered by parents just hours after family social worker’s visit, court told
A 10-week-old girl was murdered by her parents just hours after a visit from the family’s social worker, a court has heard.
Lily-Mai Hurrell Saint George suffered 18 rib fractures, a leg fracture, and a fatal head injury allegedly caused by forceful shaking at the hands of Lauren Saint George and Darren Hurrell (pictured), both 25.
She had been discharged into her parents’ care just six days earlier despite the opposition of hospital staff, a jury was told on Thursday.
Wood Green Crown Court heard that police were called to a domestic incident at the family’s flat in Duckett’s Green, north London, the day before the baby arrived home.
And Haringey social worker Theresa Ferguson told the couple Lily-Mai would have to go into a residential unit around four or five hours before Saint George made a 999 call on the night of January 31 2018, the jury heard.
Lily-Mai was taken to North Middlesex Hospital suffering from injuries in keeping with suspected physical abuse but died two days later on February 2 after being transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital, said prosecutor Sally O’Neill QC.
Saint George, of Enfield in north London, and Hurrell, of Alvaston in Derby, are on trial, where both deny murder, manslaughter, causing or allowing a death and child cruelty.
Ms O’Neill said: “It is the Crown’s case that these two defendants, Lily-Mai’s parents, were responsible for her death and that these fatal injuries were caused to Lily-Mai by forceful shaking shortly before that 999 call only six days after she had been discharged into their care.”
The court heard the pair had been housed in a small flat while their baby was still in Barnet Hospital, having been born prematurely at 31 weeks.
Ms Ferguson, a social worker with Haringey Child and Family Services, was allocated the case after concerns were raised over the parents’ ability to care for Lily-Mai.
A decision was made to discharge the baby after a meeting that Saint George, who had known mental health issues, stormed out of due to “anger issues”, said Ms O’Neill.
“Almost all of the professionals at the hospital were opposed to the baby being discharged into the parents’ care at home and had expressed their concern about the parents’ ability to meet the baby’s emotional, developmental and physical needs on many occasions to the social services but nonetheless, the decision was made to discharge the baby into the care of her parents and the hospital had to accept that and deal with the situation as best they could,” she said.
Police were called to Hurrell and Saint George’s flat on January 24, the day before Lily-Mai was discharged, over a domestic incident but no offence was disclosed.
On the same day Ms Ferguson made a referral for a “legal gateway meeting” – one of the options available to the social services to take steps to intervene in the care of a baby – but went on annual leave the following day.
Ms O’Neill said: “To describe this timing as unfortunate is perhaps to understate the problem.”
A duty social worker visited the family on January 26 while Ms Ferguson made a home visit when she returned to work on January 30, followed by the health visitor, Alberta Nyantaki, on the same day.
Although Ms Nyantaki concluded that Lily-Mai’s needs were being “satisfactorily met”, she expressed “serious concerns” to Ms Ferguson, who told her the threshold for a child care protection plan had been met because of the couple’s volatility, the court heard.
That legal process, in the form of a legal gateway meeting, began the following day and Ms Ferguson visited the flat at around 3pm to explain options for a residential placement for the family or for Hurrell and the baby to go in without Saint George.
“Lauren Saint George reacted by becoming irate and saying that she wasn’t going into a unit and Theresa Ferguson could take the baby,” said Ms O’Neill, who explained that Hurrell agreed he would go into the unit.
“Theresa Ferguson left apparently confident in Darren Hurrell’s ability to protect Lily-Mai in the home and accepted his assurance that he would go to the residential unit the following day.
“Lily-Mai’s collapse happened later that day. The 999 call was made at 21.08 later that day so about four or five hours after Theresa Ferguson had left the family.”
The five-week trial continues.
Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2022, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) James Manning / PA.