Murdered baby was repeatedly hospitalised with ‘red flag’ bruises before death

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A baby was repeatedly hospitalised with unexplained bruises and vomiting problems in the months before she was murdered, an inquest has heard.

Physical abuse was the ‘only realistic’ explanation for wounds suffered by Ella-Rose Close, a pathologist explained.

The 22-month-old girl was subjected to a fatal attack by Michael Wild – who is serving a life sentence for her murder, the Manchester Evening News reports.

He was the boyfriend of Ella-Rose’s godmother Sharlene Hughes, who had been left to care for the child but instead left her with Wild.

Hughes was convicted of causing or allowing the death of a child; and two charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice, but has since been released from prison.

An inquest has now heard how Ella-Rose, from Wythenshawe, Manchester, was hospitalised a number of times with bruising and vomiting in the months before her killing, on January 21, 2018.

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On one occasion she needed surgery for a severe abdominal injury.

Hospital bosses have accepted that that there was a “lack of consideration of non-accidental injury”, and more specifically an “underestimation of the risk that this posed”.

They also accept they were “premature” in ruling out non-accidental injury during a safeguarding meeting and that there was a lack of information sharing with children’s social services.

However Manchester Foundation Trust – which runs the hospitals where the baby was treated – is “unable to say” if any of the failings contributed to Ella-Rose’s death.

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At Manchester Coroners’ Court, assistant coroner Nick Stanage explained that the inquest into Ella-Rose’s death will explore whether or not medics “ought to have known” that someone posed a serious risk to her before she was murdered.

It will also look at whether or not medical staff should have understood that there was no other explanation for injuries Ella-Rose received before her death, other than physical abuse.

“Much of our focus will be on whether or not these injuries cried out physical abuse as an explanation,” Mr Stanage said as he opened the inquest.

Medics from the Trust are due to give evidence on Monday (November 6).

Today, the coroner heard how Ella-Rose had been taken to hospital on several occasions in the months prior to her death for a range of injuries and conditions.

She repeatedly presented with bruising, vomiting and bloody stools, the inquest heard.

On November 2017, just two months prior to her murder, she was taken to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital with a rash and bruising to her abdomen and legs.

Police descended in Wythenshawe following Ella-Rose’s death
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At this point she underwent surgery to remove a section of “dead bowel”, the inquest heard. Home Office forensic pathologist Naomi Carter described this incident as a “red flag”.

Giving evidence, Dr Carter said Ella-Rose had a “very long history” in this case. In July 2017, she was seen for an injury to her forehead and a rash on her face.

She also had two episodes of bloody stools before that that were unexplained, Dr Carter said.

In September, she presented with a three-day history of vomiting and was taken to hospital by ambulance with various bruises to her body.

At that point, a safeguarding meeting was held by staff and it was decided the pattern of bruising did not fit “non-accidental injury”, the inquest heard.

Dr Carter said she does not treat children on a daily basis, but appreciates that isolated episodes may be “remarkably difficult” to spot as physical abuse.

But she said having the benefit of hindsight led her to believe that the original opinion – that the bruising was accidental – was likely to be “incorrect”.

Ella-Rose Clover with mum Pagan Clover
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In October, Ella-Rose was again in hospital with swelling to her ear which was also unexplained, as well as loose stools and bruising to the back of her thighs and chest.

At the beginning of November, the child was rushed to hospital in an ambulance after vomiting during the night and was found to have an acute abdominal injury which needed a laparoscopy.

Dr Carter said a photograph of the child’s abdomen at that time showed bruising which she considers could have been caused by knuckles and looked almost ‘exactly the same’ as the injury which later killed her.

The pathologist said this was also unexplained and the “potential significance” of that did not appear to have been “connected up with what was going on with the abdomen”.

She said: “My view was that there is not really any other explanation because it was there with the bruising, which was so obvious in photographs.”

She said blunt force trauma was the ‘only realistic explanation’ and the only ‘credible’ reason.

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At the end of November Ella-Rose was again seen by medics for forehead swelling and the following month, she was seen for a “fat ear”, bruising to her face, legs and back.

Dr Carter said she was required to look at the full picture.

“The pattern of what’s been going on is important,” she said. “I can’t emphasise that enough.

“If there are reported episodes where a child keeps coming back with reported bruising over and over again, then I think it’s pertinent to consider is this a non-accidental injury all along, when you put it into the pattern of what’s been going on.”

Mr Stanage asked if the only reasonable explanation for the injuries in early November was physical abuse.

Dr Carter said: “I find it difficult to think of another explanation for it.

“With hindsight in my opinion it’s the only realistic explanation for it.”

Dr Carter said repeatedly that she has the benefit of hindsight and pointed out that she is not a clinician who treats children. Manchester Foundation Trust has already accepted a number of points in relation to the case.

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The inquest heard the trust accepts an ‘underestimation’ of the potential risk posed to Ella-Rose and that a strategic meeting about the child did not have a consultant present.

MFT also accepts that medics were “premature” in ruling out non-accidental injury during a meeting.

And, the Trust also accepts that there was a lack of information sharing with other agencies, specifically children’s social care; that bruising to the child was not documented properly and medical records were “fragmented”.

Staff had not recorded the attendance of accompanying adult carers and a skin biopsy was not taken.

However MFT is unable to say if any of the failings contributed to Ella-Rose’s death, the inquest heard.

Both Wild and Hughes have been invited to attend the inquest as “interested persons”.

Neither is expected to turn up, Mr Stannage said.

The inquest is listed for four days, resuming on Monday.



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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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