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Mother who shook infant daughter to death is spared jail

Lauren Saint George, 25, inflicted traumatic head injuries and 18 rib fractures on baby Lily Mai

Matt Mathers
Friday 09 September 2022 12:34 BST
Lauren Saint George arrives at Wood Green Crown Court, in London
Lauren Saint George arrives at Wood Green Crown Court, in London (PA)

A mother who shook her ten-week-old daughter to death after social workers from a scandal-hit council allowed her to take her baby home has been spared jail.

Lauren Saint George, 25, inflicted traumatic head injuries and 18 rib fractures on baby Lily Mai six days after she was discharged from hospital.

The mother snapped and attacked the tiny girl in a fit of rage when she was told she would have to go into a residential unit with the baby if she wanted to keep her.

Lauren Saint George arrives at Wood Green Crown Court, in London (PA)

Medical staff believed Saint George hardly cared about the baby’s welfare after she was born prematurely and was incapable of looking after her properly.

They were horrified when the little girl was sent home with Saint George and her partner Darren Hurrell, also 25.

One health visitor said she had never been more concerned for a baby’s safety.

Lily-Mai died in Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital just over a week after she was discharged.

Wearing a black blazer Saint George was in tears as she was convicted of infanticide.

She was cleared by an Old Bailey jury of murder, manslaughter and cruelty to a person under 16 following a trial in July.

Hurrell denied and was cleared by the jury of cruelty by neglect.

Mr Justice Martin Spencer had earlier ruled there was ‘no case to answer’ against Hurrell for murder and manslaughter and not guilty verdicts were entered.

Sentencing Saint George the judge took into account she ‘suffered from a double affliction of exhaustion and depression.

“On this occasion, the target of your temper was a defenceless baby.

“I have no doubt this was a reaction you immediately regretted.” He said Saint George immediately sought medical support for Lily Mai.

“I have no doubt that the grief you exhibited over those two days was wholly genuine.

Lauren Saint George arrives at Wood Green Crown Court on 14 June (James Manning/PA Wire)

After hearing Saint George wishes to pursue further education the Mr Justice Spencer added: “You now have a future to look forward to.” Saint George was sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years, along with a 12-month supervision order and 60 days rehabilitation requirement.

Lily-Mai was born in November 2017 and spent the first two months of her life in Barnet Hospital, before she was discharged into her parents’ care on 25 January 2018.

Staff were concerned over a lack of bonding between mother and baby while Lily-Mai was still in hospital.

Four days after her birth, Saint George refused to visit her daughter on the ward, saying she was having her dinner.

Midwives were shocked to see her standing with her back to the baby when she finally agreed to see her.

Both parents would make sure they had eaten themselves before they fed Lily-Mai.

The mother had told staff that she ‘hated’ the noises Lily-Mai made and wished she would ‘cry instead of groaning’.

Prosecutor Sally O’Neill, QC, had told the court: “Almost all of the professionals at the hospital were opposed to the baby being discharged into the parents’ care at home and had expressed their concerns about the parents’ ability to meet the baby’s emotional, developmental and physical needs on many occasions to the social services.”

Three referrals were made by hospital staff to social services expressing concern while Lily-Mai was still on the ward.

Alicia Jack, former social services manager at Enfield council, dismissed the first referral as there was ‘no information’ on their system about the family.

Lauren Saint George outside Wood Green Crown Court, London, (PA Wire)

She investigated and decided that no further action was needed regarding the second notification.

The third was not acted on because the parents had moved and were now under the charge of Haringey Council.

Sithembile Dzingai, a locality manager who had been involved in discussions about Lily-Mai’s care, said: ‘There was no robust discharge plan to safeguard Lily-Mai.

“In my 12 years as a health visitor I have never had such a feeling of anxiety about a case as I did about Lily-Mai being discharged.”

In early January, the couple were provided accommodation in Belmont Road, Duckett’s Green, and Haringey Social Services were given charge of Lily-Mai’s case.

The same authority was blamed after the infamous Baby P and Victoria Climbié child abuse cases.

Theresa Ferguson, who was two years into being a qualified social worker, was allocated Lily-Mai’s case, her first of this scale, on 12 January 2018.

At the time she had 36 open assessments and 41 allocated cases.

She told the court that she was given the case because the more senior member of the team could not take on any more work.

Ms Ferguson attended a meeting to discuss Lily-Mai’s discharge and care on 16 January at Barnet Hospital.

Midwife Marie Creighton said the social worker had a ‘generally disinterested attitude’ when she first attended the meeting.

“I remember her...sauntering in with a miserable look on her face.

Darren Hurrell (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)

“She said she had been to Lauren and Darren’s flat and everything was fine and she didn’t understand why she was called into the meeting, ‘Why are we even discussing her?’

“She displayed a generally disinterested attitude.’ Ms Creighton went on to say that her attitude changed as hospital staff explained their concerns.

Ms Ferguson attended a further discharge planning meeting on 22 January and two days later made a referral for a ‘legal gateway meeting’.

The day after taking this first step to intervene in Lily-Mai’s care, Ms Ferguson went on annual leave.

She went away for four days on the day of the baby’s discharge, on 25 January.

Giving evidence Ms Ferguson said she did not feel that proposed plans to protect Lily-Mai once she was discharged would safeguard guard her.

“I was really worried about her going home.

“I was told that with the management there had been conversations and there was not a consideration for a placement at that point and Lily-Mai would be returning home.”

Duty social worker Muriel Caboste was allocated the case in the meantime and visited the family on 26 January.

Ms Caboste left feeling there were no increased child protection issues but noted that the parents were not following the feeding and medication chart.

No visits were made on 27, 28 or 29 January.

Darren Hurrell arrives at Wood Green Crown Court, in London (PA)

The family went to see Hurrell’s support worker, Anthony Monbelly, on the 29th who described Hurrell as a ‘very proud dad’ and a ‘doting parent’ compared to Saint George who he said had ‘little or no intervention’ with the baby.

Returning from annual leave, Ms Ferguson visited the parents on 30 January.

Ms O’Neill told jurors: ‘Lily-Mai’s skin had a mottled appearance and although Darren Hurrell told Ms Feguson what they had been told to look out for by the hospital, which included the baby developing a pale appearance, he explained it by saying that the baby had a marble complexion.’ Health visitor Alberta Nyantaki also visited that day who said Saint George was ‘on the bed’ the whole of her visit and not ‘fully engaged’.

She felt that Hurrell was ‘the main carer’ and saw him give Lily-Mai ‘cuddles and kisses’.

The health visitor expressed ‘serious concerns’ to Ms Ferguson after her visit who reassured her that the threshold for a child care protection plan had been met and the legal process had been started.

Theresa Ferguson visited the family again the next day, on 31 January, to inform the parents that they had to go into a residential unit or Lily-Mai might be taken away from them.

Residential placement meant professionals could observe the parents taking care of the baby.

Saint George was ‘very despondent’ upon hearing the proposed plan and swore at the social worker, telling her: ‘You want to take her, just take her, that’s fine.’ But Hurrell was willing to go into the unit.

‘Lily-Mai is my daughter,’ he said.

‘If that is what you are asking of me then I’ll do it.

‘She is my only child. She is my first child. I’ll do anything I have to do..’ Ms Ferguson left feeling ‘confident’ that Hurrell could take care of Lily-Mai.

Asked how she felt about the safeguarding of Lily-Mai upon leaving the flat, Ms Ferguson said: ‘I had quite a thorough conversation with Darren making it clear that he was not to leave Lily-Mai with Lauren.

‘He felt he would be able to call the police if he needed to and there would be options where he could go to stay if he needed to.

‘I was confident that Darren was able to safeguard Lily-Mai.’ Hurrell told the social worker if necessary he would take Lily-Mai to the unit himself and then Saint George would lose both him and the baby.

Ms O’Neill said the mother was not concerned about the best interests of the baby and was only worried about herself and the inconvenience of having to leave the flat.

‘At some stage between Theresa Ferguson leaving at about 4pm and the 999 call being made...we submit that there was a complete loss of temper by Lauren Saint George which may well have been as a result of an argument between her and Darren Hurrell, probably over the baby,’ the prosecutor said.

There were ‘signs of disarray’ in the couple’s kitchen including Lily Mai’s upturned pram, which suggested the mother had flown into a rage.

Miss O’Neill said: ‘She was unable to contain herself in front of a social worker who was there to judge her competence as a mother.

‘You may have no doubt that she was unable to contain herself a few hours later when that argument happened and she lost her temper again - but this time the baby bore the brunt of it.

‘The baby, the cause of all her problems, keeping her awake all night and now being the result of her having to leave her flat and also possibly lose Darren Hurrell as well.’

Four or five hours later, Saint George called 999 to report that her baby had stopped breathing.

The next day, 1 February, Ms Ferguson returned a call from Saint George and learned that Lily-Mai had been taken to hospital.

The social worker began to cry and could not read her statement aloud during her evidence leaving the prosecutor to recite it.

Lily Mai died at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital on 2 February when she was ten weeks and two days old - only two weeks past a normal pregnancy term.

Pathologists Dr Nat Cary said: ‘All the findings may be explained on the basis of a single episode of violence.’ He said there was evidence of ‘forcible shaking and gripping’ of the sides of Lily-Mai’s chest and ‘twisting and pulling’ of her leg.

The injuries were most likely inflicted just before the 999 call was made, the court heard.

Bruises discovered on the baby’s body were consistent with impact or gripping, in keeping with ‘suspect physical abuse’.

Hurrell told police that from 29 January, Lily-Mai was displaying most of the signs the hospital told them to look out for, including going blue, losing her appetite and being a bit floppy.

He said she had also started to cry in her sleep.

But neither parent thought it was serious or severe enough to call an ambulance, they told police.

Hurrell said: ‘Every time we picked her up as well to try and comfort her the crying became hysterical, screaming, like she was in a lot of pain but we didn’t realise.’ He insisted that neither he nor his then-partner had hurt Lily-Mai.

In an effort to explain some of her injuries, Hurrell told officers about three incidents in which the baby could have been hurt by accident.

The first happened before Monday 29 January, when Hurrell grabbed the baby’s leg ‘too hard’ to stop her from falling off the bed.

The second occurred on that Monday when Lily-Mai was jolted in her pram on a moving bus.

The third is said to have happened on Tuesday 30 January when Lily-Mai possibly bumped her head while being bathed.

Hurrell told police he did not see or hear anything but that some kind of head trauma could have happened while he and Saint George were bathing their baby.

The parents said they ‘hate’ themselves for not calling an ambulance sooner.

In her police interviews, Saint George said she was trying to be the ‘best mum’ she could be.

‘They thought I was neglecting her. They said I was neglecting her and not doing the things I should have been.

‘Honestly, I did need help at times because my depression would get the better of me.

‘I wanted to fight this on my own, be the best mum I could be.

‘If I ever felt overwhelmed, I would remove myself and calm down and then I would come back and cuddle her and try to tend to anything she wanted.’

Questioned by police as to how Lily became bruised, Saint George said: ‘She could have got that from me. I wake up with bruises all the time. I don’t know what it’s called but she has this thing where she bruises really easily.’ Saint George, of Bonnington House, Enfield, denied and was cleared of murder, manslaughter and cruelty to a person under 16 years old, but was convicted of infanticide.

Hurrell, of Meadow Lane, Alvaston, Derby, denied and was cleared of cruelty to a person under 16 years old.

The judge had earlier ruled both defendants should be cleared of causing or allowing the death of a child as the killing was a ‘spontaneous act’ in which the perpetrator ‘snapped’.

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