November 2000

No justice for shaken baby

A coroner has recorded an unlawful killing verdict on a 15-month-old baby even though no-one has been charged with her death.

Baby Emily Messer was shaken to death while only her parents and two other children were at home in Rochester, Kent, in December last year, an inquest heard.

The child had suffered “shaken baby syndrome”, which happens when a baby’s head is twisted and decelerated so violently that damage is caused to blood vessels in its brain.

Her death had originally been the subject of a murder inquiry and coroner Roger Sykes warned the child’s parents Lisa, 30, and Stuart, 33, they should say nothing to the inquest which might criminally implicate them in their daughter’s death. 

The couple, who are now separated, both agreed statements they originally gave to the police were “entirely truthful”.

Neither would say what had happened between 7.30pm on 18 December when the children were put to bed and the discovery of their dead daughter at 8.30am the following morning.

Passing verdict at Mid-Kent and Medway Coroners’ Court, Mr Sykes said: “It was obvious to the perpetrator that harm would be caused and that such action was therefore both unlawful and dangerous, even though the fact that she thereby lost her life was a matter of in-advertency as opposed to intent.

“I appreciate that this issue needs to be dealt with in a different arena and I would otherwise have wished to say a few words.” 

Home Office pathologist Peter Jerreat said the baby died from brain damage.

He told the inquest he believed the baby’s death was not an accident.

“This could not have been the result of over vigorous handling.

“There would have been immediate noticeable effects, possibly drowsiness or unconsciousness and limpness.

“It would have been something that I do not think you could disregard.”

After the hearing, Detective Inspector Dave Withers said: “This is a tragic death of a 15-month-old baby.

“If any further evidence is forthcoming the investigation will be continued.”