Father, 31, ‘murdered his three-month old daughter’ who was found underfed and with an ‘appalling catalogue of injuries’ including 31 rib fractures

13th January, 2022 9:26 pm

Father, 31, ‘murdered his three-month old daughter’ who was found underfed and with an ‘appalling catalogue of injuries’ including 31 rib fractures while being monitored by social services, court hears.

A farm worker murdered his baby daughter by inflicting an ‘appalling catalogue of injuries’ on her while being monitored by social services, a court has heard.

Christopher Easey, 31, and his wife Carly, 36, from Morton on the Hill, Norfolk, are accused of inventing excuses to explain away bruises on their newborn Eleanor.

The couple are said to have even hoodwinked three doctors by falsely claiming some bruises to her face and jaw were caused by a poorly fitting car seat.

Norwich Crown Court heard how hospital staff had raised safeguarding fears about Eleanor over concerns pub worker Mrs Easey had ‘concealed’ her pregnancy before her birth.

They also feared she had was not bonding normally with her baby in the days after her birth at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, Norfolk.

A post mortem found Eleanor had a fatal head injury as well as older head and neurological injuries, 31 rib fractures and five fracture sites on her limbs, and was poorly nourished.

Paramedics were called at 8.25pm on December 18, 2019, to reports Eleanor was ‘struggling to breathe’ at her home.

Norwich Crown Court heard they found the three-month-old baby was pale, floppy and lethargic with her eyes half open, a low heart rate and erratic breathing.

Her condition was judged to be critical at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital before she was transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge.

Doctors ruled she had a catastrophic brain injury which was incompatible with life and her support was withdrawn on December 20, said prosecutor Sally Howes QC.

Ms Howes said Eleanor had died of a non-accidental injury involving ‘accelerated movement, in other words some form of shaking’ and an impact to the head.

She added: ‘It’s the prosecution case that she was murdered by her father. Her mother Carly Easey is charged with allowing a death of a child as she failed to protect this vulnerable young infant from serious physical harm.’

Ms Howes described Eleanor as being significantly underweight as a result of being underfed.

The court heard how Mr and Mrs Easey had got married after meeting in July 2016 on the rural community dating website Muddy Matches.

Mrs Easey suffered a miscarriage in November 2018, and became pregnant again, but evidence suggested she did not ‘acknowledge her condition and appeared to be in denial’, said Ms Howes.

She was taken to hospital by her husband on September 12, 2019, after complaining of severe stomach cramps, but she insisted that she did not think she was pregnant as she had taken tests which were inconclusive.

Mrs Easey instead claimed that she thought her swollen abdomen was down to irritable bowel syndrome.

But she began bleeding and was given an emergency caesarean. Eleanor was found to be around two weeks premature and weighed 2.57kgs.

Mrs Easey was taken to intensive care as she had lost 1.7 litres of blood and had developed an infection. Eleanor was also put into neo-natal intensive care for infection screening

Staff noticed that Mrs Easey was ‘anxious about coping with the demands of being a parent’ and were concerned that she did not want her baby to be brought to her bedside

The hospital’s midwives seemed ‘bothered’ that she did not appear to want to care for her baby, leaving bottle feeding up to staff.

Mr Easey also lied to a midwife that he was a vet when he was really a cattle stockman, said Ms Howes.

She added: ‘A picture appeared of a couple who would only accept what they wanted to accept and had a worrying tendency to live in their own self-deluded way.’

Mrs Easey declined mental health treatment when she was released from hospital on October 18, 2019, and appeared to ‘want to go back to her life before’.

Eleanor remained in neo-natal intensive acre, but staff noted that her parents ‘did not visit her very much’.

Hospital staff referred the family to social services as a safeguarding case due to Mrs Easey having a concealed pregnancy which was not reported to health professionals.

Neither parent attended a meeting with a health visitor at the hospital on September 21, 2019, said Ms Howes.

Mr Easey claimed later in a phone call how ‘annoying and unnecessary it was for social services to be involved in the family at all.’

Eleanor was said to be in a healthy condition before she was allowed home on September 26, 2019.

Norfolk County Council social worker Faye Kimber visited the couple later the same day and ‘noted little communication or interaction’ between them and Eleanor.

A health visitor noted red marks on Eleanor’s cheeks on October 4 and was told that she had scratched herself, said Ms Howes.

Ms Kimber expressed concerns on a later visit on October 8 that Eleanor was vulnerable because of the couple’s two boisterous dogs.

Ms Howes added: ‘Carly Easey was very upset and her main concern was her dogs’. But the couple got a more secure dog guard between their kitchen and lounge the next day.

The health visitor noted two scratches on Eleanor’s nose on October 9, But Mrs Easey insisted the injuries were caused by her baby’s fingernails

Ms Kimber and a health visitor noticed a bruise on Eleanor’s left cheek on October 23 and Mrs Easey claimed that she had caught her face on the poorly fitting strap of her car seat when they had driven down a bumpy road.

At the time, Eleanor was sitting in a dark blue Maxi-Cosi pebble car seat which had been given to them by a friend and did not have an insert section, meaning it did not fit her properly.

Her parents insisted that it was the car seat they had been using in the car, and they would not use it again, said Ms Howes.

But as a result of the injury the couple were told to take Eleanor to their GP, as is the procedure for an injury in a non-mobile baby.

The couple took her the next day to the surgery in Grimston, Norfolk, where the GP found a second bruise behind her right ear.

Eleanor was then taken to the paediatric ward at Queen Elizabeth Hospital where she was examined by three doctors and a staff nurse found two marks on her jaws and two near her ears.

The couple once again explained that the injuries had been caused by her slipping in the outsize car seat, and the doctors accepted their story was ‘plausible’, said Ms Howes.

But the court heard that they had bought and started using a new car seat on October 2 after realising that the Maxi-Cosi one did not fit properly.

Ms Howes asked the jury: ‘Are they using Maxi-Cosi seat as an explanation that they have to account for the bruising?’

The court heard how police had recovered a text message sent by Mrs Easey to her husband, saying: ‘Bruising coming near her ear as well and bloodshot eye too.’

Mr Easey was said to have explained away a third set of injuries when his daughter was found to have a ‘a yellowish bruise’ to her hairline.

He told his employer that it was caused by a dog jumping up at Eleanor’s carry car seat at a Pets at Home store when he was buying a dog cage.

But police recovered CCTV images of him going to the store which showed no evidence of a dog jumping up.

Mr Easey drove his wife to work on the afternoon of December 18, claiming that he had Eleanor with him in his car.

But during the return home, he claimed he had to make an emergency stop when a car pulled out in front of him, meaning Eleanor’s head was jerked back in the car seat, said Ms Howes.

He later told police that he ‘heard a squeak’ from her and when he got home. He noticed that she was gulping her milk and later saw that she had stopped breathing.

Mr Easey claimed that he tried to perform CPR on his daughter. He called an ambulance and later told paramedics on the way to hospital that he was used to performing CPR on cows, but had never done so on a human.

In later interviews with police, he claimed that he may have been over vigorous when doing chest compressions on her.

Mrs Easey also told officers about how she used to bounce around her daughter in a ‘horse game’ which she seemed to enjoy.

But Ms Howes said that police had spoken to other people who had expressed concern about the way the couple looked after their daughter, saying it was ‘wholly inappropriate’ for ‘a baby of her age and vulnerability’.

Mr Easey’s employer said he had seen Mrs Easey mowing her lawn or pulling up shrubs while Eleanor was out of earshot, and later sweeping a yard around 100m away from her baby in their cottage.

He also recalled Mr Easey walking his dogs ‘vigorously’ with Eleanor in a pouch and ‘moving around like a rag doll.’

Mr Easey denies murder while Mrs Easey denies causing or allowing the death of a child. The couple also deny child neglect

The trial continues.

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