'We never got to hear his first words, see his first steps -- we lost a lifetime of firsts'
A MOTHER yesterday told how she has lost "a lifetime of firsts" when her three-and-a-half-month-old baby boy -- her "little angel" -- was killed by her then partner.
Little Ross Murphy had barely started his life when it was cruelly and violently cut short by Philip Doyle, his mother Leona's partner, who killed the baby in his home in April 2005.
Yesterday at the Central Criminal Court, the baby's aunt, Adele Murphy, read out a victim impact statement on behalf of Leona, who was too upset to speak herself.
"We have been grieving Ross's death for the past seven years and our hearts ache for him," said Ms Murphy.
"We never got the chance to see who he would look like, hear his first words, see his first steps. Leona has lost a lifetime of firsts.
"He had barely started his life and now Leona's life is devastated. She is still heartbroken and there is an empty place in our hearts which will never be filled.
"We can't hold or cuddle Ross anymore," she added.
Following Ross's death, Doyle (34), of Tinakilly, Aughrim, Co Wicklow, changed his story to gardai. He initially claimed that the baby had not fallen while he was minding him but later claimed he had fallen while holding the baby.
Yesterday, in a statement read out by his defence counsel, Doyle said: "I want to say how very sorry I am for not telling the truth.
"I've ruined my reputation and I wish I had done things differently. I can't turn the clock back and I will have to live with the death of Ross for the rest of my life. Nothing I can do or say will change that," he added.
Ms Murphy told how, every year on Ross's birthday, Leona places a photograph of her son beside a cake.
"Ross should be making his Communion now. . . there is only one person to blame. Nothing or no one will ever replace our little angel Ross," she said.
Leona started dating Doyle when she was seven months pregnant.
She gave birth to Ross in December 2004 and the following month she and Doyle began living together and they got engaged.
Doyle asked for his name to be placed on Ross's birth certificate as the father, but Leona refused to do so.
Ms Murphy said her sister had "lost trust in mankind" following her baby's death.
"Leona put her trust in someone she thought would play a part in their lives and we all ask what we could have done to prevent this," she said.
"The pain and heartache will never go away and our lives will never be the same."
Doyle had pleaded not guilty to murdering Ross at his home at Creagh Demesne, Gorey, Co Wexford, on April 5, 2005.
However, during the four-week trial, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy directed the jury to acquit him of murder and to consider a verdict of manslaughter.
He ruled that the prosecution had not made a case that the jury could find, without reasonable doubt, that Doyle murdered the child as they could not prove how the injuries to the baby were caused. The jury returned an unanimous verdict of guilty of manslaughter in May.
Detective Garda Joe Sullivan told the court 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 had been taken to Wexford General Hospital several days previously on March 31, 2005, because he was 'lifeless' and getting sick.
The baby was kept in for observation because of a rash on his neck and released on Sunday, April 3.
He was rushed to Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin in the early hours of Monday, April 4, but died the next day of brain trauma. The defence said that the death was an accident and that Doyle had fallen 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 had caused the infant's death.
The court heard that 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, who carried out a post-mortem on the baby, concluded that he died from brain trauma and that this 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".
An injury to the baby's forehead had a patterned or textured appearance and his head could have been struck against a similarly patterned surface such as a carpet or sofa, she said.
Mr Justice McCarthy adjourned sentencing to next Tuesday, saying it was an "exceptional case" and that he wanted to consider the evidence and victim impact statement.