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Friday 29 August 2014

Father (28) kills baby daughter for screaming during Playstation game, court hears

Tom Pugh

Published 07/07/2014 | 18:43

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A father who had been playing Assassin's Creed 3 on his PlayStation killed his baby daughter after being frustrated by her screaming, a court heard.

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Mark Sandland, 28, picked up five-week-old Aimee-Rose by her torso and shook her during a sudden loss of temper, prosecutors said.

He claimed he had suffered an epileptic fit and came round to find his daughter underneath him at their flat in Church Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex.

Lewes Crown Court heard that police who attended the flat after Aimee-Rose was rushed to hospital on November 5 2012 found a PlayStation game controller on the sofa opposite the TV.

Prosecutor Sally Howes QC said: "It's the Crown's case that, frustrated by the distraction of Aimee-Rose screaming, the defendant picked her up and gripped her around her torso and shook her in a sudden loss of temper and loss of control.

"Despite his admission that the television was on that morning, by the time the ambulance crew arrived it had been switched off, thus covering up the fact he had been playing the game on his PlayStation."

Analysis of Sandland's mobile phone internet history showed a website offering tips on how to play Assassin Creed 3 was accessed at 2.22pm, Miss Howes said.

The detail of the website, giving step-by-step instruction, meant there would have been little point accessing it unless the game was being played, she added. Some 16 minutes later, at 2.38pm, Sandland dialled 999.

On that day, Aimee-Rose's mother was attending her first class for an applied social science degree course at the University of Brighton's Hastings campus.

During a break at around lunch-time, she sent Sandland a text message asking after Aimee-Rose, to which he replied: "She hasn't shut up since about half an hour after you left."

Miss Howes said Sandland called the emergency services, saying he had suffered a seizure and had woken up on top of Aimee-Rose.

When an ambulance crew arrived, Sandland looked "panicked and anxious" and pointed to where she laid in the sitting room, her limbs in a star shape.

He told one member of ambulance staff: "I'm epileptic. I had a fit and when I woke up the baby was underneath me."

Aimee-Rose was admitted to the Conquest Hospital in St Leonards with brain damage, and other injuries including bruising to her face, chest, abdomen and lower limbs.

Miss Howes told the court: "She was unconscious, unresponsive and, although emergency procedures carried out by the ambulance crew re-established a heart-beat, she was unable to maintain any respiratory effort without life support."

She was transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit at King's College Hospital, London, but died on November 9 2012.

Miss Howes added: "The combination of the post-mortem findings of recent head injury, recent traumatic laceration of the liver and recent fracture of the left clavicle is consistent with inflicted injury of the shaking/impact type.

"It is the Crown's case that the injuries sustained by Aimee-Rose were inflicted by her father, Mark Sandland, who, during a sudden loss of temper, gripped her around the torso and shook her."

Sandland was charged with murder but went on to plead guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of lack of intent at Southwark Crown Court last week, which was accepted by the Crown.

He was due to be sentenced today but Mr Justice Sweeney adjourned the case to Hove Crown Court on Wednesday.

Sandland told a paediatric nurse at King's College Hospital that his partner had left at 9.30am to go to university.

Miss Howes said it took him some time to become fully awake and he went into the kitchen to make himself some coffee.

When Aimee-Rose woke up, Sandland told the nurse that he gave her a bottle, changed her nappy and put her in her bouncer chair before she fell asleep.

Later, he claimed she woke up and was whinging, and could not recall whether he picked her up while standing or sitting.

Sandland said he later woke up and his right arm was on the floor and he believed he had been on top of her, leaving her blue and lifeless.

After Aimee-Rose was taken to the Conquest Hospital, two police officers were sent to the flat. When Sandland arrived to collect some clothes, he told one of them: "I f***ing had a fit, for f***'s sake."

Dr Hannah Cock, a consultant neurologist, found it was "highly unlikely" that a seizure was a substantial contributor to Aimee-Rose's injuries, the court heard.

Had he suffered a seizure, Dr Cock would have expected him to drop anything he was holding, put it down and remember later, Miss Howes said.

Miss Howes said: "Even if he had fallen on to Aimee-Rose, her pattern of injuries is not consistent with a fall and crushing alone. Dr Cock would have expected more disturbance to adjacent furniture than reported."

One expert found Aimee-Rose had sustained two episodes that had led to injury to her chest bones - one up to three weeks before she died and a second up to five days before death.

When Sandland was told he would be arrested, Miss Howes said he became upset and said: "I suppose you are going to say that you know what it is like to be accused of killing your daughter."

In one police interview, he declined to comment to most questions, except when he was asked if he had deliberately harmed her. He replied: "No."

Miss Howes said Sandland - who had an "unconventional upbringing" and was raised by his paternal grandparents - had made suicide bids in 2006.

Two years later, he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare condition of the peripheral nervous system, following which he began experiencing seizures.

However, the court heard that no medical cause could be found to explain them and he was admitted to numerous hospitals between 2008 and 2012.

In the opinion of Dr Muhammad Chowdhury, consultant neurologist at the Conquest Hospital, his seizures had a "psychiatric rather than a neurological origin".

Sandland is said to have two to three seizures per week, and his triggers include photosensitivity, stress, lack of sleep and alcohol, Miss Howes said.

She went on: "All experts agree that the defendant's ability to cope with, and process stress, is poor.

"The incident of non-accidental injury to Aimee-Rose did not occur during a functional non-epileptic attack disorder (FNEAD), however, the fact that he does have fits of psychological origin as a response to stress, conflict and anxiety is a significant marker of his inability to cope with stress."

Defence counsel Lewis Power QC said Sandland had asked him to convey "contrition and remorse", adding: "He feels that one life is over, but his is too."

Mr Power told the court: "There can be no greater tragedy in life than the death of a child. A young child, a life extinguished, compounded by the fact it was at the hands of a loving parent."

Mr Power said Sandland would forever "carry the heavy burden" knowing he has killed his daughter "and there can be very little that one can say for mitigation".

"This is a man who is unable to cope properly with stress," he said.

"These were not the actions of a reasonable man but a man who has struggled with various forms of medical diagnosis over the years.

"The best part of his mitigation is that he has pleaded guilty to this dreadful offence."

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