Teacher tells of child's 'major bruises'

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A six-year-old girl allegedly neglected and killed by her stepmother and father was often covered in "major bruises", her teacher said today.

Anna Wynn, Lauren Wright's former class teacher, also said the youngster had smaller bruises "all the time".

Norwich Crown Court heard that Lauren had not been at William Marshall Primary School in Welney, Norfolk, in the week before her death. Her stepmother, Tracey Wright, a lunchtime supervisor at the school, first told teachers that a wardrobe had fallen on Lauren, then that the girl had gastroenteritis.

Lauren died at her home in Welney on 6 May. Prosecutors say she was hit so hard in the stomach that her digestive system collapsed. They allege there were 60 bruises on her body and marks consistent with her being hit by a hard object.

Tracey Wright, 31, and Lauren's father, Craig Wright, 38, both of Welney, deny wilful neglect and manslaughter. The prosecution says that Ms Wright "cruelly abused and spitefully treated" her while Mr Wright "turned a blind eye".

In evidence, Mrs Wynn described Lauren as a "very quiet little girl" who seemed "quite unhappy most of the time.

"There would be days when anything you said to her would start her crying. She would often be covered in [bruises]. Bruises on her arms and legs... A black eye just before Christmas 1999. Then scratches on her back. Bruises on her face."

She said Ms Wright would warn her when Lauren had a "major bruise", claiming that the girl had been knocked into the washing machine by the family dog, fallen off a swing, or had had toy bricks thrown at her by another child.

Mrs Wynn said the girl would give the same explanations as her stepmother. "She would look me in the eye and smile and repeat the explanation almost word for word."

Mrs Wynn said she had been concerned when Lauren was not at school. But she felt reassured when Ms Wright said the girl had gastroenteritis, believing this was a doctor's diagnosis since it was not a word Ms Wright would know. Prosecutors say there is no evidence Lauren was taken to a doctor in the week before her death.

Mrs Wynn said Ms Wright visited school on the Monday after Lauren died. "She said she was being blamed by everyone...She said, 'The police think I punched Lauren in the stomach. There would be knuckle marks if I had done that.'"

The trial continues.