Blackpool baby murder trial: tot's eye injuries were comparable to those seen in a car crash, says expert

Eye injuries suffered by a baby girl from Layton were comparable with those of a high speed accident or a fall from multi level height, a murder trial jury has been told.

Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 12:06 pm
Updated Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 12:08 pm

Four month old Willow Lee was found to have suffered retinal bleeding which is "rare in a domestic setting". Preston Crown Court heard.

Willow was found seriously injured at a house on Onslow Road in Blackpool on Thursday, December 3, 2020, and was later transferred to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital where she died on Sunday, December 6.

Her father Jordan Lee, 28, of Onslow Road, Layton, denies murder and claims the baby rolled off the sofa, onto a carpeted floor, hitting her head on a glass bottle, as he played on his X Box, but the prosecution argues the injury is not consistent with his account.

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Jurors have been hearing expert evidence relating to bleeding found in the baby's eyes after her death.

Dr Jo Louise McPartland, a paediatric pathologist at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, examined Willow’s eyes as part of the police investigation.

Giving evidence about her findings at Preston Crown Court, she said: "There are no developmental abnormality in the eyes or orbital contents that could explain the bleeding seen. There are a number of medical conditions that can lead to bleeding, for example a severe blood clotting disorder, leukaemia... severe infections such as sepsis or meningitis.

"I have not been informed that any of these conditions have been diagnosed after hospital investigations. "

She added: "Retinal haemorrhages, optic nerve haemorrhages and bleeding in the orbital soft tissue is in keeping with severe traumatic head injury. Such features can be seen in the context of a very severe accidental trauma such as a high speed accident, multi level falls, or a head crash injury - however I note there is no history of such an accidental trauma in this case."

She told the court the features in Willow's case are "not in keeping with a fall from a sofa from 22 inches onto a carpeted floor."

Asked by prosecutor David McLachlan QC to explain further, Dr McPartland added: "Well, they are in keeping with severe head trauma - so if there is no severe accidental trauma, then they are in keeping with a non accidental head injury.

"Retinal haemorrhages are very rare in the context of low level domestic accidental falls. Where they do occur it is usually in the context of a significant head impact such as those associated with a skull fracture."

"The extreme nature of the retinal haemorrhages in this case, in addition to my other findings, is not in keeping with the fall of that nature."

Jurors were shown a diagram of an eye as she also referred to evidence of bleeding in the sclera - the white of the eye - in the location where the optic nerve joins the eyeball.

She said: "In head injury as the eye moves forwards and backwards, and the optic nerve is fixed to the brain, it will cause a stress at the point where the optic nerve joins the eyeball, causing tears in the blood vessels at this site.

"This finding has also been seen in a small number of adults with severe impact to the back of the head and in these cases it was thought that as the brain moved backwards in the head this caused similar stress on the optic nerve joined to the eyeball."

(proceeding)

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