Sunday 19 November 2017

Hungry toddler drank toxic cannabis food while mother slept

Arj Singh

A TWO-YEAR-OLD died after drinking poisonous plant food his mother was using to grow cannabis, a court heard.

Lauren Booth, 24, was allegedly growing the drug in her home in Norris Close, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, and the court heard she was asleep when her son Aaron drank the toxic liquid just after midday on November 6 2010.

Aaron had not been fed that day and was probably extremely hungry and thirsty when he drank the pH Up brand plant food, commonly used in hydroponic growing, Bradford Crown Court was told.

Booth, who had gone to bed at around 6am that day, denied wilfully ill-treating or neglecting her son.

Thomas Storey, prosecuting, said information on a notebook and laptop seized from the house by police, as well as Booth's comments to Aaron's father while their son was in hospital, showed that the plant food was being used for growing cannabis.

Aaron died 11 days later at Leeds General Infirmary after his windpipe disintegrated. He had suffered several other injuries, including burns to his stomach, pancreas and spleen.

The court heard that Booth and her partner were awoken by a loud thud at around 12.40pm on November 6, to find Aaron lying down with a brown mouth and lips.

Booth's partner, who spent a lot of time at the house, raced across the road to borrow a telephone to call the emergency services.

By the time paramedics arrived, Aaron's mouth and lips were purple and he was foaming at the mouth.

He was taken to hospital in Huddersfield before being transferred to Leeds General Infirmary (LGI).

The court heard that Aaron's father, Mohammed Khan, did not know his son was in hospital until November 14, after a friend told him.

That day he went to the LGI where Booth seemed more concerned about having to move her cannabis plants than her son's condition, according to the prosecutor.

Mr Storey said: "She told him that she and her partner had been trying to make some money by growing skunk in the house, almost seeming annoyed by the involvement of the police because they were going to have to find somewhere else to grow the skunk, seemingly not bothered about her son."

The prosecutor told the court that the laptop seized from the house by police had been in use since August 2010.

Mr Storey said a forensic examination found that videos giving tips on how to grow cannabis had been accessed on it, and a Google search had been entered that said: "How to use pH test for ganja."

He said: "The user of that laptop had been researching the growing of cannabis in a domestic situation.

"It was something the defendant was aware of, if not an active participant in."

A photo of a notebook obtained from the house was shown to the jury, with a page containing numerous references to cannabis and home-growing.

The blue plant food bottle could have been mistaken by Aaron as the soft drink Fruit Shoot, according to Mr Storey.

But it contained a highly toxic concentration of potassium hydroxide, or caustic potash, and two teaspoons of it would have been a fatal dose.

Mr Storey said: "The cultivation of cannabis also explains the presence in the house of that liquid pH Up."

The prosecutor said that Booth's partner could have had time to remove any trace of cannabis from the house in the time between going to hospital with Aaron and police searching the home later that evening, as he did not stay in hospital for long.

Mr Storey said police found a cluttered house but Aaron's room was empty, with black curtains and an open window on a cold November night.

The case continues.

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