Accused woman denies hurting her stepdaughter

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The Independent Online

A woman accused of hitting her stepdaughter in the stomach so hard that her digestive system collapsed, insisted yesterday that she loved her and did nothing worse than smack her.

Giving evidence for the first time, Tracey Wright, 31, told Norwich Crown Court, she had a "good" relationship with her stepdaughter, Lauren, aged six, whose body was found at their home covered with 60 bruises.

"I loved Lauren. I did nothing to cause her any injury. I never deliberately hurt that child. I didn't take her to a doctor as I had no reason to think she was that sick. I was not aware of anything which may have caused her any serious injury," she said.

Ms Wright and Lauren's natural father, Craig Wright, from Welney, Norfolk, deny her manslaughter on 6 May last year as well as wilfully neglecting her since 1 January, 1999.

Ms Wright told the jury how she had begun a relationship with Mr Wright, who was her next door neighbour, in August 1998. They married nearly a year later, a few months after Lauren and Mr Wright had moved into her house to live with her and her two children.

She described her relationship with Lauren as very good. She said: "I used to shout at the children on odd occasions. All of them." Asked by her counsel, Joanna Greenberg QC, whether she had smacked the children, she replied: "On the legs or on the bum." Asked about the bruises on Lauren's body, she replied: "I did not know she had a large number of bruises on her arms and body ... I have no idea how she got them."

Ms Wright accepted that Lauren would dress more untidily than her natural children but she said the reason for that was that Lauren used to choose her own clothes.

She told the court she was responsible for caring for, entertaining, feeding and clothing all three children and Mr Wright did nothing with them other than occasionally go fishing.

Ms Wright said her husband drank too much and they would argue over this and over money. She said the arguments had occasionally "become physical".

The trial continues today.