Swansea mother jailed for life for murdering 42-day-old baby with pain killer

 

A mother found guilty of poisoning her own baby with a powerful pain killer murdered out of a craving for attention, a judge told her today.

Michelle Smith, was jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum 12 years for the murder of six-week-old Amy.

A shellshocked Smith was led away in tears today still protesting "But I did not do it. I did not do it."

Moments before, a jury found her unanimously guilty of murdering the defenceless baby at home in Morriston, Swansea, south Wales, in November 2007.

The tiny 42-day-old baby was repeatedly poisoned with the powerful pain killer dihydrocodeine. It is never used on babies and rarely on children.

Judge Mr Justice Spencer briefly adjourned the Swansea Crown Court trial to collect his thoughts before passing sentence.

He left Smith sobbing with the warning that he would be looking at 15 years as a starting point in setting a minimum term.

Passing sentence he told her her actions involved a "substantial premeditation".

He added: "The giving of this drug to Amy required, as it must have done, the crushing of tablet or tablets involving a significant degree or planning and premeditation."

He said Amy was young and vulnerable and that Smith's actions were "a gross abuse of your position as her mother".

"In all probability you were in some way craving and seeking attention by presenting Amy to the doctors at hospital.

The judge told Smith: "The only conclusion on all the evidence is that on the day she died you must have crushed one or more tablets that were available in the home."

He also drew attention to the condition of Amy, described as "thriving" when seen by the health visitor on the day she died.

Within hours she was found in a collapsed state from which she never recovered, dying later the same day.

Concluding, he told her: "Inevitably your contact with your other children, the siblings that Amy will never grow to know, has been very substantially curtailed, adding to the tragedy of this case."

A relative of Smith, who attended court only after the jury retired, wailed in anguish throughout the sentencing.

Several times she was heard to say "No, no", and was eventually taken away to a private room in an obviously distressed state.

When tiny Amy Smith died on November 9 2007 she had lived for just six short but eventful weeks.

It was a post-mortem blood test which revealed that she had the adult pain killer dihydrocodeine (DHC) in her system.

It then emerged that the same drug had been found in a urine sample tested by a hospital laboratory more than two weeks before her death.

Unaccountably, that potentially vital test result was never passed on to the doctors looking after Amy.

In her short life Amy was rushed to hospital three times suffering symptoms which were consistent with DHC poisoning.

Smith and her husband Christopher, who never attended the trial or gave evidence, were questioned by police in the aftermath of the death.

Both had previously been prescribe medication for various ailments which contained DHC.

It was not until September 2010 that Smith herself was arrested on suspicion of murder.

At that time she was released without charge but was arrested and charged with murder in June 2011 and then released on bail.

In January she reported to Neath police station as part of her bail conditions and confessed to killing Amy but retracted it almost immediately.

Smith insisted throughout her trial that she had never done anything to harm Amy and certainly never given her DHC.

She dismissed suggestions that she knew drugs stored in their home contained DHC, claiming she never so much as gave Amy Calpol.

Detective Sergeant Justin Evans, of South Wales Police, said that he hoped the verdict today would help the family move on.

Speaking outside the court, he said: "Michelle Smith has today been convicted of the murder of her baby daughter Amy Smith.

"Amy was only six weeks old when she was killed by the one person who should have done more than any other to keep her safe.

"Amy Smith would have been approaching her fifth birthday, and Michelle Smith's actions have left a family without a much loved little girl.

"Our thoughts are with Amy's family at this sad time, and we hope that today's verdict will allow the family to now move on with the rest of their lives."

PA