'Wicked' man gets life for murdering baby

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A man was jailed for life today for murdering a "wholly defenceless and vulnerable" baby.

Mark Simpson, 29, was found guilty of killing six-week-old Alexis Matheson, his then-girlfriend's daughter.

The baby was born on October 26 2007 but died less than two months later on December 10.

Simpson was charged with assaulting the baby girl on various occasions between November 8 and December 9, seizing hold of her, shaking her and compressing her chest, leaving her so severely injured that she died in hospital in Edinburgh.

At the High Court in Aberdeen, Judge Lord Uist sentenced Simpson to life in prison, ordering him to spend at least 20 years in jail.

Lord Uist told Simpson: "This crime did not consist of a single incident arising from a sudden loss of temper on your part but of a repeated course of violence directed at a wholly defenceless and vulnerable baby whom you should have been caring for and protecting.

"How you were able to act in such a wicked and abhorrent manner towards a helpless infant is beyond the understanding of all right-thinking people."

He went on: "The pain and agony which baby Alexis must have suffered as a result of the injuries which you inflicted upon her are unthinkable.

"This is an extreme case of repeated physical cruelty to a baby, whom you deprived of the greatest human right of all, the right to life.

"The punishment which you are about to receive must reflect that fact and public detestation of such behaviour."

Simpson assaulted baby Alexis at his home in Aberdeen while the little girl and her mother Ilona Sheach were living there.

The Crown Office confirmed that following a trial lasting 28 days, the jury unanimously found him guilty of murder.

Lord Uist branded Simpson a "devious and deceitful" individual, and said in his statement: "You have also shown no remorse and even sought falsely to lay the blame for the injuries on the mother of baby Alexis."

The judge added: "Having regard to the callous nature of this murder, involving repeated violence against a baby, I fix the punishment part of your sentence at 20 years."

But he said it was only because the 29-year-old had no previous convictions of a violent nature that he was able to limit this to 20 years.

After the verdict was announced, Anne Currie, area procurator fiscal for Grampian, said: "Little Alexis Matheson, aged only six weeks old, died at the hands of her mother's boyfriend.

"The evidence showed that Mark Simpson had subjected Alexis to as many as 40 injuries over a number of weeks.

"It is hard to believe that anyone could even contemplate treating a tiny, defenceless baby in this way.

"The truly appalling results of his actions have deprived not only a mother of her child but that child of her life."

She added: "This has been a distressing case, particularly for the family and for all those involved in the investigation of the case.

"I would like to pay tribute to the careful work of all those agencies involved in working together to bring Mark Simpson to justice."

Lord Uist said evidence in the trial had given him "serious concern" about the way baby Alexis was dealt with by the health service, and whether the little girl's death could have been prevented if her injuries had been spotted earlier.

In a statement the judge said: "I consider that there are two matters which call for an inquiry with a view to preventing a tragedy such as the one that occurred in this case ever occurring again."

Lord Uist said three separate drugs had been prescribed for the baby by a doctor following a consultation over the telephone with her mother, without the medic seeing or examining Alexis.

He added: "Expert medical witnesses expressed surprise at this, and so do I.

"Moreover, it must be a matter of concern that a young mother who was seriously concerned about her baby's health and sought an appointment with a doctor on a Thursday was offered one only for the following week."

He said the appointments system operated by the Woodside Medical Group "may require urgent review so as to ensure that children requiring urgent attention receive it by being seen by a doctor there".

Lord Uist added that Alexis was seen by a doctor on November 29 2007, but stated: "Nothing was done about possible signs of non-accidental injury, namely, subconjunctival haemorrhages in both eyes."

The judge said a consultant neurosurgeon told the trial the explanation given for these injuries "could not possibly be an explanation and that baby Alexis should have been referred to a paediatrician".

Lord Uist added that a consultant paediatrician said in evidence that it would have been best for the GP to phone the paediatricians for a consultation: "Had that been done, baby Alexis would have been admitted to hospital more or less immediately."

He said: "Whether the death of baby Alexis could have been prevented had she been so referred is a matter which, in my opinion, merits a very full inquiry.

"The training of GPs, and also health visitors, to detect signs of non-accidental injury may be a matter that requires further consideration.

"I trust that the Crown will give serious consideration to the question whether a fatal accident inquiry should now be held in this case."

s Sheach said in a statement she was sickened by Simpson's attempt to blame her for the death of her baby daughter.

She said: "I now have to come to terms with the fact that he took Alexis' life from me and the fact he covered up for his actions by manipulating everyone he came into contact with."

Ms Sheach recalled: "At first, when Alexis died, I didn't want to believe that anyone could do that sort of thing to a baby and I certainly didn't want to think Mark could - I wanted to believe it was a medical issue.

"I trusted Mark because he seemed to know what he was talking about, and I accepted his advice when I had concerns about Alexis."

She went on: "It's now obvious to me that Mark said whatever suited him and that he was covering up for the things that he had done to Alexis.

"Throughout our time together he never once mentioned any concerns he had with my handling of Alexis and knowing what he has now said, having taken almost three years to dream this up, really sickens me.

"Thankfully the jury saw through his lies and convicted him."

She thanked all those who had helped prosecute her former boyfriend.

Detective inspector Richie Guild of Grampian Police said he hoped the verdict would help Ms Sheach "move on with her life".

Mr Guild, who led the investigation into the baby's death, said: "Alexis died as a result of injuries inflicted upon her over a period of weeks after her mother moved in with Simpson.

"Evidence heard during the trial indicates there were at least three distinct ages of rib fractures and that Alexis' brain had suffered at least two episodes of trauma.

"It's clear from these injuries that Alexis was assaulted repeatedly and her life was squeezed and shaken from her at the hands of Simpson."

He added: "Ilona has had to deal not only with the loss of her only child but also with the exhaustive investigation and intense media interest over the intervening years.

"This verdict will not bring Alexis back but I hope it will now allow Ilona the opportunity to move on with her life after what she has been through."

Mr Guild confirmed that Simpson was also serving a jail sentence for offences uncovered after police seized his computer.

The police officer said: "Simpson's computer was seized during the initial investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Alexis.

"When it was examined it was found to contain evidence of him chatting with girls of various ages in a sexually explicit and graphic nature.

"As a result of this he was charged with a number of offences under Section 6 of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 and ultimately pleaded guilty to four of these crimes.

"He is now serving a custodial sentence in relation to these offences."