Sunday 24 September 2017

Man who killed three-and-a-half month old baby handed 11 year sentence

Nicola Donnelly

A WICKLOW man who has been found guilty of killing his ex-fiancée’s three-and-a-half-month-old baby seven years ago has been sentenced to 11 years.

Philip Doyle (34) of Tinakilly, Aughrim, had pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to murdering Ross Murphy at 3 Creagh Demesne, Gorey, Co Wexford on April 5, 2005.

But following a court ruling during the four week trial, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy directed the jury to acquit him of murder and to consider a verdict of manslaughter as he ruled the prosecution had not made a case that the jury could find, without reasonable doubt, that Doyle murdered, which is an intention to kill or cause serious harm, as they could not prove how the injuries to the baby were caused.

The jury of six men and five women returned a unanimous verdict of guilty of manslaughter after just over three hours of deliberation following the four-week trial.

Mr Justice McCarthy said “it was a serious case of assault manslaughter on a child. Significant violence was inflicted over a period of time and the deceased was a helpless child.”

“The accused persisted in lying in the circumstances of the injuries suffered (by Ross) and the lies aggravate this homicide in many ways,” he continued.

He said the letter of apology written by Doyle to the family of Ross cannot benefit the case as Doyle “does not even now accept the truth and his apology is of no worth.”

Ross's mother Leona's sister Adele Murphy outlined the anguish the family has been going through after the sentence was handed down.

"There are no words to describe the hurt and pain that we as a family feel for the loss of baby Ross," said Ms Murphy.

“For the last seven years we have been grieving the death of Ross - not knowing how or why he died.

“Now knowing of the injuries he received and how tragic and painful his last days with us were, we find ourselves grieving all over again for our son, grandson, nephew and cousin. Our lives will never be the same again,” she said.

“We will never lose the ache in our hearts or the feeling of loss. Nothing or no-one will ever replace our little baby Angel Ross. We are happy with the sentence and we got the closure we were waiting for,” Ms Murphy said.

Last week during the sentencing hearing, Detective Garda Joe Sullivan told prosecuting counsel Paul Carroll BL, that Doyle, a painter and decorator, was minding the baby at the home he shared with Ms Murphy while she went out to get a DVD on April 3, 2005.

Baby Ross was initially taken to Wexford General Hospital on March 31, 2005 because he was ‘lifeless’ and getting sick on the bed.

The baby was kept in for observation because of a rash on his neck and released on Sunday April 3 but returned to the hospital that evening.

He was rushed to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin in the early hours of the next morning but died the next day of brain trauma.

Doyle started dating Ms Murphy when she was seven months pregnant - the two began living together in January 2005 and got engaged.

The infant was born in December 2004 and Doyle asked Ms Murphy for his name to be put on the baby’s birth certificate as the father.

When she refused he also contacted the births registry in Waterford who also told him it could not be done, the court heard.

The defence said the death was an accident and that Doyle fell on the wooden floor of the living room while holding the baby in his arms.

The prosecution said Doyle’s defence was based on a lie, that the injuries to the child were inflicted by him and caused the infant’s death.

The court heard Doyle changed from an account he gave in a witness statement saying the baby did not fall while he was minding him on the evening of April 3.

Three weeks later he then changed his story in an interview, telling gardai he fell while holding the infant.

State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy gave evidence during the trial she concluded the baby died from brain trauma from which he would not have recovered.

Prof Cassidy said such trauma would not be expected to occur in a not yet mobile child without some explanation.

She said there was deep bruising consistent with the trunk being firmly gripped and that haemorrhages inside the eyes “highly suggested a shaking incident.”

The injury to the forehead had a patterned or textured appearance and the child’s head could have been struck against a similarly patterned surface such as a carpet or sofa, Prof Cassidy told the court.

Mr Justice McCarthy said, in sentencing Doyle to 11 years, that there was no mitigating factors in this case and the sentence is not an “exercise in vengence” but that it ranked in the 10 to 12 year category.

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