Saturday 22 July 2017

'She was squealing and I didn't know how to get her to stop' - Court hears after death of three-month-old baby

Carragh Walsh
Carragh Walsh

John Cassidy

A mother told police that her infant daughter had developed tantrums and crying fits in the weeks before she died, a court has heard.

Prosecution counsel Toby Hedworth QC read a statement from Tammy Louis Walsh to the jury sitting in the murder trial of her former partner Christopher O'Neill in Armagh courthouse yesterday.

O'Neill (26), from Whiterock Road in west Belfast, denies murdering his baby daughter Caragh Walsh.

She died on February 7, 2014, two days after being rushed to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children from her Glasveigh Park home in Twinbrook.

Caragh Walsh
Caragh Walsh

It was suggested on the opening day of the trial by Mr Hedworth that a reason for the three-month-old's death was that "perhaps he (O'Neill) had snapped because she was crying and he could not get her to settle, only he knows that".

Mr Hedworth said it was not suggested that O'Neill intended to kill his baby daughter, but that being unable to quieten her, he "must have lost self-control and that he caused those catalogue of injuries identified by the pathologists".

Yesterday, the jury heard how Tammy Louise Walsh initially painted a picture of a healthy baby, describing her as a "good feeder" who would take a whole bottle of Cow & Gate milk at one feed.

However, she said her daughter then developed what doctors described as bronchiolitis in the run-up to Christmas 2013, and said some nights she was "up all night with her".

The court heard that as Caragh's health further deteriorated the couple noticed that at times "she wasn't breathing ... she was squealing and would stop breathing".

The mother put this down to her daughter throwing tantrums because she wasn't getting her own way.

Ms Walsh said that in January 2014 she noticed Caragh was "crying and squealing" a lot more, adding: "I just wanted to know what was wrong with her.

"Chris would spoil her. She was always in his arms and she was always with him."

Ms Walsh recalled on another occasion how her daughter was "squealing and squealing and I didn't know how to get her to stop".

The mother added that in early February 2014, just days before her death, she noticed Caragh was going off her bottle, only taking two or three ounces at a feed.

Ms Walsh, who was studying at Ulster University, said the following morning she was woken around 4am and found "Christopher feeding Caragh in the bedroom and she was squealing".

On the morning of the February 5, 2014, she told police that she fed Caragh her bottle and put her in her pink bouncer, where she fell asleep.

The court heard that her father took her to Lisburn to drop off forms with the Housing Executive and her partner was sitting on the sofa in their flat.

"I remember getting a call from Christopher. It was about 12.20pm," she said.

"Christopher was upset. I couldn't make out what he was saying.

"I could hear him repeating my name 'Tammy Louise, Tammy Louise'. I knew there was something wrong."

She said that on the way back to her flat she saw an ambulance and a paramedic vehicle and "I was praying they were not going to my flat".

As her father drove into Glasveigh Park, Ms Walsh said she saw a "paramedic and Caragh was in his arms. From the look of Caragh I thought she was dead".

She said that at the hospital she asked her then partner what happened, and he said that "Caragh had stopped breathing and he began to shake her to get her to breathe".

The mother recalled while in the intensive care unit at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children that police arrived and took Christopher O'Neill away for questioning.

Ms Walsh told police: "He (Christopher) is a very decent person and very nice.''

At hearing.

Belfast Telegraph

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