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Friday 29 August 2014

Face of an angel - tributes to baby Caragh Walsh who died just hours after her dad charged with causing her 'grievous bodily harm'

Published 10/02/2014 | 11:49

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The angelic face of tragic “shaken” tot Caragh Walsh
Face of an angel - Baby Caragh Walsh
Charged: Christopher O’Neill

This is the angelic face of tragic “shaken” tot Caragh Walsh, who died on Friday just hours after her father was charged with causing her grievous bodily harm.

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The tiny three-month-old described as a “princess” by family friends fought for life for two days after being admitted to hospital on Wednesday with “significant traumatic brain injury”.

Hours before Caragh’s death, her 23-year-old father, Christopher O’Neill, pictured here for the first time, was in the dock charged with injuring her while she was in his care.

A court heard he had admitted shaking her.

A post-mortem will be carried out in the coming days.

Yesterday, devastated friends of Caragh’s grieving mum flooded Facebook with heartfelt tributes.

One wrote: “Caragh’s mummy and daddy are in my thoughts and prayers as well as both families... my hearts is broke for yas but this is the time yas all need to stick together.”

Another said: “RIP beautiful little angel. Thoughts and prayers with you and all the family. May god give u all the strength to get thru this together. Thinking of u all xxxxx.”

“She was too perfect for this world...she was a proper princess like her beautiful mummy...thinking of you all,” another wrote.

A doting new mum, Caragh’s mother has proudly shared dozens of pictures of her baby daughter with friends on her Facebook page.

Her cover picture, updated in December, is a photograph of Caragh on her first Christmas wearing a Santa hat and a bib that reads: “I love daddy”.

Caragh’s mother and Christopher O’Neill, with an address in West Belfast, were just beginning their new life as a family together, moving in to a new flat two weeks ago.

Parish priest Fr Brian McCann from St Luke’s Catholic Church in Twinbrook said the entire community was rallying around the infant’s family.

“It is very tragic, we are just trying to console them as best we can,” he said.

At Craigavon Magistrates Court on Friday, it was heard that Caragh had been brought to hospital unconscious and not breathing from her parent’s flat at Glasvey Park in the Twinbrook area of west Belfast.

She was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital on Friday - but sadly passed away just hours after her father appeared in court.

Medics alerted police to Caragh’s injuries when they were not satisfied with the explanation given by O’Neill, who works at Poundland in west Belfast’s Park Centre along with Caragh’s mother. Later, the court was told, O’Neill admitted that “he had shaken the baby”.

Under police questioning, the young dad said he had been looking after his daughter when she “became suddenly ill” so in a “panic” he took steps which he thought were “perfectly reasonable in the circumstances”.

A detective constable said Caragh had suffered subarachnoid and subdural bleeding into her brain in what he described as a “tragic case”.

During two days of police interviews, O’Neill was granted compassionate police bail to visit his dying daughter in hospital.

In the company of police and a solicitor, he was allowed to spend 80 minutes by his daughter’s bedside.

At court, District Judge Mervyn Bates granted O’Neill bail on the condition that he live as far away from Twinbrook as possible, surrendered his passport, lodged £1,000 and provided two sureties of £900. He is banned from contacting certain family members.

O'Neill's defence lawyer told the court relatives on both sides of his family had made clear their support.

He added there were no eyewitnesses and the case would hinge on medical evidence that has yet to be provided.

 

Sara Girvin

Belfast Telegraph

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