A man has been found guilty of manslaughter after causing an infant’s “catastrophic” brain injury before blaming the girl’s mother – who was not present at the time.
Brandon Mark Heath, 22, had been babysitting the 22-month-old girl and her older brother, in Northwich, Cheshire, while the children’s mother was giving a friend a lift in her car.
He had often stayed at the family’s place after starting a relationship with the woman just three months before her daughter sustained the severe injuries, Chester crown court heard.
Pathology experts have likened the injuries to those caused by car crashes or falls from high buildings.
Heath had changed his story when questioned a number of times about what happened during a short period of time on 30 August 2020.
When giving evidence during the three-week-long trial, Heath was unable to account for the 12 or 13 minutes that passed after he had been left alone with the girl and her older brother.
He initially said that he found the girl “collapsed” on the floor after she just got out of her high chair, and then he called an ambulance.
Paramedics found the girl in the first-floor bedroom struggling to breathe and with a swelling to the back of her head.
Heath then told paramedics that she could have hit her head when she fell off a bed.
He claimed that he had taken her out of the high chair, as she had become sleepy, put her to sleep in a bedroom and found her struggling to breathe when he returned – after he had left the room for a moment.
The girl was taken to Alder Hey Hospital in west Derby, Liverpool, by air ambulance as she showed signs of a severe brain injury.
Later, police questioned Health and the girl’s mother.
This is the point when Heath told officers a different story, saying that he’d taken the girl out of her highchair as she was “whingy”. He said he had left her to play and when he returned, he saw her lying on the floor.
Meanwhile, the girl underwent emergency neurosurgery but her condition soon deteriorated.
The day after she was rushed to hospital, 31 August 2020, she died after her life-support was withdrawn.
A post-mortem examination revealed that she sustained a catastrophic brain injury, had bleeding within and around her eyes, bruising to her body, rib fractures, and damage to nerves in her neck.
Experts determined that her injuries were caused deliberately.
Heath was arrested on July 21, 2021, and was charged with murder.
After being found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter, he will be sentenced on 8 March.
Detective Inspector Adam Waller, who led the investigation, said the case is “indescribably tragic”.
He also said: “Heath had already been interviewed by police both before and immediately after the child’s death and was further interviewed in July 2021 under caution – officers put to him the various inconsistencies in what he had claimed from 30 August 2020 onwards.
“Yet he told police that he couldn’t recall what he had allegedly said and continued to deny causing injury or harm to the girl.
“The medical evidence clearly pointed towards a sudden catastrophic assault on the little girl and although Heath was alone with her at the time, in order to conceal his involvement, he lied about the circumstances.”
“The level of injury caused to the child was described by one of the pathology experts as being akin to a road traffic collision or multi-storey fall,” Mr Waller added.
“The fact that he blamed the mother of the child who wasn’t even present at the time just demonstrates the total lack of compassion and cowardice in not taking responsibility for his actions against a defenceless little girl.”
The girl’s mother described Heath as a “monster.”
She said he would “just flip” out at her by punching, spitting, and throwing objects, adding: “[The relationship] was brilliant, in the beginning. But he became aggressive and just not a very nice person.”
In a tribute to her daughter, she said: “She was always so happy and full of life, the happiest cheekiest little girl you had ever seen.
“Her smile lit up the whole room. Her personality was so big, my heart aches every day.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.