Genetic disorder could have caused deaths of Patel babies, court hears

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The Independent Online

The three babies of a woman accused of killing her children could have died from a disorder inherited from her grandmother, a genetics expert told her trial yesterday.

Professor Michael Patton, a consultant in clinical genetics at St George's Hospital, part of the University of London, told Reading Crown Court that the evidence "strongly suggested" there was a genetic disorder in Trupti Patel's family.

Ms Patel, 35, a pharmacist, denies murdering her sons Amar and Jamie and her daughter, Mia, none of whom lived beyond the age of three months. All three collapsed at the family home in Maidenhead, Berkshire, between 1997 and 2001 and died in hospital.

Ms Patel's grandmother, Surajben Patel, 80, gave evidence on Wednesday that she had lost five of her 12 children within six weeks of birth.

Professor Patton said the evidence appeared to show that the deaths of two of Surajben Patel's children were not relevant to the case. One was premature, while the other died from gastroenteritis.

"[But] we have three deaths here in which infection did not seem to play a part and in which prematurity did not play a part, so I think they are unexplained deaths," he said.

Professor Patton said Trupti Patel could have inherited the genetic disorder Long QT Syndrome - which affects the rhythm of the heart and can cause sudden death - from her grandmother. "Obviously the abnormal gene would have had to have passed through Trupti Patel and her mother without manifestation," he said.

A professor in bone and joint pathology from Manchester Children's Hospital, Antony Freemont, later told the court he believed that rib fractures revealed by a post-mortem examination on Mia Patel were caused by attempts to resuscitate her.

Prosecution witnesses have used the fractures as evidence to support the theory that Mrs Patel deliberately squeezed Mia's chest in order to restrict her breathing.

The trial continues.