Baby case mother flees court in tears

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE AUSTRALIAN nanny who has admitted shaking to death a baby in her care used the outdated "shake and shout" method of dealing with a convulsive child because she lacked the ability to stop and think, the Old Bailey was told yesterday.

Louise Sullivan, 27, has a below-average IQ of 81, which makes it difficult for her to deal with problems in a flexible way, a forensic psychologist, Sarah Henley, told the court. Sullivan had wrongly thought that the baby, Caroline Jongen, was having a fit while feeding and reacted according to the way she had been taught at college in Australia.

Ms Henley said Sullivan was unable to adapt to new skills. "The [psychological] tests would suggest she would deal with it in the way she had been taught," she said.

"She would certainly lack the ability to stop and think." Ms Henley said the IQ put Sullivan "at the bottom end of the low-average range of intellectual functioning".

Ms Henley, a defence witness, said she had tested Sullivan on three occasions.

She said: "Miss Sullivan functions in a very concrete, rigid way. It is particularly related to judgement and particularly to an inability to be flexible."

The evidence came during a hearing to sentence Sullivan, 27, who two weeks ago admitted shaking Caroline to death last April while working as a nanny at the Jongens' north London home.

She pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and has been warned she faces a prison sentence.

Caroline's mother, Muriel Jongen, ran sobbing from the courtroom after she heard from a psychiatrist that Sullivan still dreams of the infant, who died aged six months.

Dr Henry Kennedy, a consultant psychiatrist and member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, who interviewed Sullivan five times, told the court: "She told me not a day goes by when she does not remember baby Caroline. She thinks of what Caroline would be doing now if she was still alive.

"She dreams about the baby and describes the dreams as distinctly dramatic and upsetting. She finds this emotionally comforting.

"This is a very common phenomenon among people who are going through the loss of someone who they're very fond of. Her expressions of grief and remorse are genuine."

A series of character witnesses who had employed Sullivan as a nanny or child minder spoke of a "friendly" woman, keen to care for children. The court heard testimony by video link from an Australian journalist, Marnie Lonsdale, who said that she had employed Sullivan for nine months with no problems. "She was a good nanny but needed direction," Ms Lonsdale said.

Nadine Radford QC, for the defence, asked the judge, Mr Justice Mitchell, to consider other expert evidence, which suggested that Caroline's injuries could have been caused by shaking in a manner not as severe as the prosecution had alleged. She also called witnesses , including Dr Kennedy, who said that they considered Sullivan would be at very high risk of harming herself should she be sent to prison.

Sullivan was freed on bail to await her sentence.