The deaths of three babies were probably caused by an adult suffocating them, a leading paediatrician told a court yesterday.

Professor Sir Roy Meadow said "asphyxiation caused by an adult" was the "most probable diagnosis" to explain the deaths of Trupti Patel's three babies between 1997 and 2001.

Mrs Patel, 35, who lived in Maidenhead, Berkshire, at the time her children died, denies murdering her sons Amar and Jamie and daughter Mia. Professor Meadow, a former paediatrician at St James's Hospital in Leeds, told the trial at Reading Crown Court that he did not think there was any known medical disorder that could account for the deaths.

Professor Meadow told the hearingthere were four factors which he believed supported his conclusion that the three babies were asphyxiated. "The fractured ribs [in Mia], the fact that the children underwent a lot of medical investigation in life before death, the fact that there was a very short interval for two of the children between being well and dying and fourthly the fact that three consecutive children died," he said.

Professor Meadow admitted it was a "theoretical possibility" that an as yet unidentified illness could have caused the deaths, but he thought it was extremely unlikely.

Professor Meadow said the fact that Mia had been found to have four fractured ribs was an important reason for his belief that the children were suffocated.

The trial continues.