British child minder convicted convicts UK child minder

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A BRITISH child-minder living in the United States was yesterday found guilty of shaking a 13-month-old boy to death in a case that has drawn comparisons with the Louise Woodward affair.

After a month-long trial a jury in San Diego, California, convicted Manjit Basuta, 43, of causing the death of Oliver Smith while in her care at her home in Carmel Valley in March last year. A coroner's report said the boy died of "shaken-baby syndrome", with his brain showing signs of swelling and internal bleeding.

The key witness was Basuta's housekeeper, Cristina Carrillo, who said she became enraged when Oliver refused to take his eyes off the television to have his nappy changed. She said she saw Basuta shake him. Within seconds, Ms Carrillo said, he became limp and began turning blue. Basuta ran to the garden with him and tried to revive him by mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

However, Ms Carrillo originally told a different story - that Oliver had fallen on the patio in Basuta's garden. Lawyers for Basuta also took issue with the autopsy report, attempting to show the injuries could have been caused by a previous head injury exacerbated by a fall.

It was defence lawyer Eugene Iredale who triggered the Woodward comparisons when he said: "Occasionally there is hysteria in the United States and prosecutors are a breed who get hysterical. I don't know if it's open season on nannies with a British accent. But it appears to be."

Ms Carrillo accounted for the change in her story by saying her employer told her to lie on her behalf. A Guatemalan living illegally in the US, she initially feared Basuta would have her deported if she did not do as she was told.

Basuta did not testify during the trial. Sentencing is on 13 July, when she can expect between 25 years and life for the specifically defined crime of assaulting a child under the age of eight and causing his or her death.

Several times during the trial jurors heard tape-recordings of the emergency phone call from Basuta's house in which Ms Carrillo can be heard begging for help. In the background Basuta is screaming: "Breathe, Oliver!"