Baby-sitter cleared of killing infant: Jury told to return not guilty verdict

A JUDGE yesterday dismissed a charge of murder against a 15-year- old baby-sitter who was alleged to have killed a 23-month-old child.

Mr Justice McKinnon directed the jury to return a not guilty verdict after evidence from the prosecution and defence had been heard at the trial of the girl at Winchester Crown Court, Hampshire.

The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had denied the murder of Stephen Jarvis at his home in Southampton.

The judge was expected to start his summing up yesterday, but instead told the jury to return a not guilty verdict. He said: 'You could not reasonably be sure in this case that this tragic death was other than a complete accident.'

As the jury formally cleared the girl of murder and manslaughter she ran crying from the dock into the arms of her 23-year-old sister.

Stephen Jarvis was found hanging by his jumper last November after the baby-sitter left him to go to a church hall disco. His mother, Natalie Weller, 21, had gone to work leaving him playing with the girl, who had looked after him several times before.

The baby-sitter admitted leaving Stephen on his own at his home in Thornhill, Southampton, but told the jury he was asleep in his cot.

At an inquest in March a verdict of accidental death was recorded. A post-mortem examination showed Stephen died of asphyxia due to hanging. But days later the girl's best friend went to police claiming she saw her murder him.

During the two-day trial, the 15-year-old friend said she saw the baby-sitter violently shaking Stephen until his body went limp.

The friend claimed she then saw her tie the sleeves of his jumper to the cot and hang him over the side before they went out. But the baby- sitter denied harming Stephen.

She said from the witness box: 'I knew that going to the disco and leaving Stephen was wrong. I felt guilty and confused. I had let everyone down. Everyone had expected more from me.'

Nicholas Atkinson QC, for the prosecution, said the girl was hyperactive after taking three Tamazapan tranquillisers with half a bottle of peach wine.

Although she admitted taking two of the tablets she said it had not affected her judgement.

The judge told the jury there was no evidence to show how Stephen's sleeves might have been tied to the cot.

'I cannot allow you to speculate if the sleeves were tied in some other way,' he added.

Charles Ackroyd, the girl's solicitor, said she was 'relieved and overjoyed' at the outcome of the trial. Once the allegation had been made it required a full court hearing for her to be vindicated, he added.

Although the process had been a 'dreadful trauma' for the girl, she had listened to advice and her strong character had helped carry her through the trial, which had lasted almost twice as long as she had expected.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn