Tuesday 11 December 2018

'I did all I could but to no avail' - Father accused of murdering baby son told gardai, court hears

John Tighe (40) of Lavallyroe, Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, pictured leaving Central Criminal Court in Dublin this evening where he is on trial for the murder of his six-and-a-half month old son, Joshua Sussbier Tighe, at his home on June 1, 2013 Picture: Collins Courts
John Tighe (40) of Lavallyroe, Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, pictured leaving Central Criminal Court in Dublin this evening where he is on trial for the murder of his six-and-a-half month old son, Joshua Sussbier Tighe, at his home on June 1, 2013 Picture: Collins Courts

Eoin Reynolds

A father accused of murdering his baby son told gardai: "I did all I could," as his child was dying in his arms.

The jury in the trial of John Tighe today heard from statements the accused made to gardai in 2013 and 2014 following the death of his six-month-old son Joshua Sussbier Tighe. Mr Tighe, (40) of Lavallyroe, Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo has pleaded not guilty to murdering Joshua at his home on June 1, 2013. He is on trial at the Central Criminal Court.

Detective Ken Waldron told prosecuting counsel Patrick Reynolds BL that Mr Tighe gave a voluntary interview under caution at his home on June 12, 2013 and at Claremorris Garda Station on June 11, 2014. He told gardai that by the time of his death Joshua was able to roll over and would grab things and put them in his mouth. He would suck on his bib and on one occasion he pushed the bib so far in that he threw up his milk. He was showing symptoms of teething but nothing had come through yet.

The evening before Joshua died Mr Tighe collected the baby from his mother Natasha, as they shared custody. He took the boy to Lavallyroe and they played together. Joshua had a snooze at about 7pm, awoke for a feed, a short play and went back to bed at 11pm. The baby awoke at 8.20am the following morning crying for his bottle so Mr Tighe fed him, winded him and put him on the bed. The child got sleepy again and both of them slept until about 12.30pm, when Joshua began whimpering for his bottle.

Describing the minutes before the fatal incident, Mr Tighe said he prepared the baby changing area by taking out a nappy and three or four wipes. When everything was laid out he took Joshua and put him on the changing mat. He took off his nappy and threw it on the ground. It was just wet. He told gardai that he definitely used baby wipes and may have used one or two pieces of tissue paper, which he said he would use to dab Sudocrem onto the child's nappy rash. Usually he would scrunch those things up and put them in the fire place but on this occasion he "didn't get that far".

After he had changed the nappy he suddenly got the urge to go to the toilet. He was gone no more than five minutes, he said, and when he returned he dressed Joshua in a baby grow. He seemed "calm enough" and wasn't making any fuss but when Mr Tighe put the baby on the couch he noticed Joshua was quiet and then fell to one side. "I thought something didn't feel right," he said.

He sat the child up and noticed that he was blue, his breathing wasn't normal and he appeared to be choking on a baby wipe or tissue. When gardai asked why he thought that, he explained that they were the only things that were beside Joshua.

He called emergency services and they told him to tap the child on the back and front and then to try to remove the obstruction with his fingers. It was at this stage, he said, that the baby started bleeding.

He said he could feel something slimy and wet but all he could see was that there was an obstruction. "My head was up my arse at that stage," he told gardai. adding: "I was in bits. My boy was dying in my arms. I could have sat there looking at him, but I didn't. I did all I could but to no avail." The child was dead by the time a doctor arrived, some 23 minutes after Mr Tighe called emergency services.

The accused further explained to gardai that he took Joshua's clothes off because he "freaked out" and couldn't stand seeing the child covered in blood. He added that he changed his own clothes, but he has no recollection of doing that.

Dr Peter Keenan earlier told prosecuting counsel Paul Murray SC that he worked as a paediatric consultant in Temple St Hospital until he retired in 2012. Following baby Joshua's death, gardai asked Dr Keenan to look at the facts of the case and give his opinion on whether the wad of tissue could have accidentally found its way into the child's oral pharynx, an area behind the tongue and just above the Adam's apple.

Dr Keenan said: "My opinion is no, because of the size of the object and the size of the opening of the oral pharynx at that age." Getting the tissue to the area behind the tongue, he said, would have required a degree of force and dexterity not available to a child at that age.

He agreed with defence counsel Mícheál P O'Higgins SC that blind finger sweeps, whereby a person uses their fingers to try to remove an object they cannot see from the throat, can be fatal because they push the obstruction further down.

The trial continues tomorrow in front of Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of nine women and three men.

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