Mother accused of killing babies says child deaths run in family

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The Independent Online

A woman accused of murdering three of her babies said yesterday that five of her grandmother's children had also died under the age of five.

Trupti Patel, 35, spoke of the family's history of infant mortality as she gave evidencebefore the jury at Reading Crown Court. Fighting to maintain her composure, Ms Patel, a pharmacist, answered "no" as she was asked in turn whether she had murdered her sons Amar and Jamie and her daughter, Mia.

Prosecutors allege that- "against nature or instinct" - she smothered Amar on 10 December 1997, Jamie on 6 July 1999, and Mia on 5 June 2001 at the couple's home in Maidenhead, Berkshire. Jamie was just 15 days old when he died.

The deaths of the first two, within 18 months of each other, were initially put down to cot deaths. But two years later, when Mia only survived 22 days despite extensive earlier tests, the police were called in.

Ms Patel - who has one surviving child, her eldest, who cannot be named for legal reasons - said she found each baby on the verge of death. On the day that Amar died, she got up to breastfeed him at 4am. Her husband settled him back to sleep before leaving for work later that morning.

But when she went to check on Amar between 9am and 9.30am, she said, he "was lying in his cot, he just did not look normal ... I remember going over to him and he did not appear to be breathing." She called an ambulance and tried to resuscitate the baby but he was pronounced dead at hospital. Kieran Coonan QC, for the defence, asked her: "Amar died at three months old. Did you love him?" A tearful Ms Patel replied: "Yes."

The defendant explained that before the birth of her next child, Jamie, in June 1999, she and her husband, Jayant, attended a conference in London about sudden infant death syndrome. She said they were "anxious" about the possibility that what had happened to Amar could happen again.

She said on the day Jamie collapsed her husband had come home from work at lunchtime. When he checked on Jamie, who was in his carrycot in the couple's bedroom, he "appeared to be quite floppy". She added: "I started CPR and I took him downstairs, I was breathing into his mouth and nose." He died later.

Ms Patel said after she was arrested in May last year her mother called her own mother in India to check whether there was a history of infant death in the family. "I was told my grandmother had lost five [of 12] children in infancy," Ms Patel said. Later she discovered that they were all under two months old.

Her husband, she said, had informed police in July 2001 about three infant deaths on his side of the family. "We will not be having any more children," she added.