Father jailed for trying to kill baby son

A father was jailed today for 10 years for trying to kill his weeks-old baby by smothering him and poisoning him with powerful painkillers.

But a judge warned the 30-year-old - who has a warped fixation with hospitals - he was so dangerous it was unlikely he would ever be released.

The father carried out the attacks in order to be able to stay longer at the house of the boy's mother, Teesside Crown Court heard.

He did not want to return to his own dingy flat nearby, which had no gas and electricity.

The defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, denied he had tried to kill the baby and instead blamed his partner.

He was convicted by a jury last month of unlawfully administering a poison - the adult painkiller codeine - so as to endanger life, child cruelty and attempted murder.

The three charges relate to autumn 2008 when the North East-born baby was only weeks old, jurors were told.

Shaun Dodds, prosecuting, told the defendant: "You knew full well that after seven days you were having to go back to your flat, so you needed something to keep you at the house.

"To deflect attention away from the fact it is time to go home you poisoned the child. You poisoned (the baby) with codeine."

The defendant even tried to blame his partner for giving his son the drugs overdose.

He told police: "The only explanation I can give is that (the baby's mother) gave it somehow but I do not know how or when."

During the first two months of the baby's life he was admitted to four different hospitals because of episodes of apparent illness which baffled doctors.

However, they became suspicious about the pattern of his admissions and the police and social services became involved.

In the majority of the times the child fell ill - becoming limp, pale and unresponsive - he had been in the sole care of his father, the prosecution alleged.

The father remained calm and unemotional when his son was receiving emergency care, which alerted hospital staff.

One episode of illness was so bad he would have died but for the hospital treatment he received, Mr Dodds said.

Afterwards, the painkiller Tramadol was found in a sample of the baby's blood. Previous tests had found codeine in his system.

Other times the boy suddenly deteriorated, then rapidly improved following treatment.

Mr Dodds said: "(They were) more likely to be associated with 'imposed upper airway obstruction', effectively attempted suffocation, whether by someone placing a hand over the child's mouth and nose or using an object such as a pillow."

Sentencing had been adjourned for the preparation of a psychiatric report but the court heard today that the defendant was not mentally ill.

Eric Elliott QC, defending, offered no mitigation on behalf of his client but added: "It is extremely fortunate that (the baby) has not only recovered fully but (is) also seemingly now thriving and we should all be thankful for that."

A packed public gallery, including the baby's mother, medical staff who treated him and some trial jurors, listened as Judge Peter Fox QC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, passed sentenced.

He branded the defendant's behaviour as "despicable" and said only an "act of mercy" prevented him from imposing a life sentence.

"This tiny child was at his most vulnerable and you were in a special position of trust," the judge told the defendant.

"You subjected your son to repeated suffering and in the years to come (will face) particular great distress in considering his father and what you did and tried to do in extinguishing his life.

"So unusual are the circumstances that I can only conclude that you pose a great danger to anyone to whom you have some bizarre fixation in the context of their health, child or otherwise.

"I have considered most carefully whether your sentence should be of life imprisonment but, as an act of mercy only, I draw back from that.

"But I do not think at the present time there is a possibility of you ever being released."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor