A mum, Chelsea Cuthbertson, 28, allegedly murdered her six-week-old son by shaking him so hard he suffered catastrophic brain injuries, a jury has heard.
Chelsea called for an ambulance and said son Malakai Watts was not breathing but doctors discovered his cardiac arrest was most likely allegedly caused by a ‘non-accidental injury’.
He was rushed 10 miles from her flat in Hythe, Hampshire, UK to Southampton General Hospital on February 2, 2019 but died four days later after he was taken off life support.
A jury was told how Malakai was ‘grey from head to toe’ when police arrived at the two-bedroom flat.
On Tuesday, June 15, Chelsea, appeared at Winchester Crown Court, Hants, where prosecutor Sally Howes QC explained the cause of death was recorded as ‘head injury’.
Examinations also revealed he had suffered eight rib fractures.
Prosecutor Ms Howes said: “He was born one of twins on December 25, 2018, the son of defendant Chelsea Cuthbertson and her partner Dell Watts.
“Following a cardio respiratory collapse on February 2, 2019, Malakai was taken by ambulance to Southampton General Hospital. Following an initial assessment he was placed on the paediatric intensive care unit.
“On February 6, 2019, when following the decision to withdraw life support, he died. An extensive post-mortem investigation identified findings consistent with traumatic head injury.
“The key mechanism was some form of shaking, possibly with some form of impact.
“The post mortem investigation also identified eight rib fractures, one of which is clearly older than all the others and therefore must have been sustained on an earlier occasion.”
Ms Howes told the court that post mortem investigations pointed to Malakai having been shaken while being squeezed.
Neuropathologist discovered several internal haemorrhages which were described as being commonly found following a ‘shaking’ incident
Ms Howes added that the rib fractures, coupled with the other findings, ‘all starts to dovetail in together’ to suggest a shaking incident caused the injuries.
She told the jury the force needed to inflict these injuries would have been ‘well in excess of a normal day to day play with the child, even during rough play’.
Ms Howes read a quote from the forensic pathologists report, which said: ‘Malakai died as a result of a head injury sustained shortly before, if not coinciding with, his medical collapse and this was accompanied with a squeezing type injury to his chest.’
Malakai was taken off life support at 11.33am on February 6 and died at 1.48pm that afternoon.
His parents were both arrested for his attempted murder on February 2 while he was still alive in hospital. During his arrest, Mr Watts said: ‘She hasn’t hurt him, has she?’
The jury heard how Cuthbertson met Mr Watts in August 2014 and they had a daughter together in February 2016, following which they moved into the flat in Hythe.
Prosecutor Howes added: “Both Chelsea Cuthbertson and Dell Watts were habitual users of cannabis and also took cocaine on a less frequent basis.”
She explained that Mr Watts moved out due to ‘friction’ in their ‘on and off’ relationship, but returned home when the twins were born several weeks premature, with an expected due date of February 5, 2019.
Malakai was born the smaller of the two twins but they were both discharged from hospital on January 9.
Ms Howes explained that Mr Watts remembers being woken by Malakai ‘crying’ at about 3am on the day the ambulance was called.
She said: “The twins slept in separate cribs next to the bed on the side that Miss Cuthbertson used.
“Approximately five minutes after being settled, Malakai started breathing quickly. He [Mr Watts] described it as being panting. He asked her if he was ok, she said he was fine. This continued for about ten minutes and then returned to normal.”
Ms Howes explained that the twins woke for their 4am feed, and Mr Watts left the room several times to bring the bottles in after Chelsea Cuthbertson said to him ‘Oh, well there are fucking two of them’.
She explained that Mr Watts ‘could tell that Chelsea Cuthbertson was about to get angry and argumentative with him’ so he went and slept on the sofa.
The next morning he left for work after peering through the door and hearing Cuthbertson ‘snoring’.
According to Howes Watts did not check on the children before he left.
At 9.30am, Cuthbertson called 999, reporting her baby boy was not breathing.
Ms Howes described the paramedic arriving to find Cuthbertson giving CPR to Malakai on the floor of the bedroom, with the older daughter ‘distraught and crying’ by the foot of the bed.
The court heard the paramedic described the baby as ‘floppy’ with ‘pale’ lips.
Another ambulance crew and a helicopter team arrived to assist and were able to get circulation flowing before he was transferred into an ambulance and sent to hospital.
Ms Howes said upon examination it was found that Malakai showed signs of internal bleeding which ‘raised the possibility of non-accidental injury’.
The first police officer on scene spoke to Cuthbertson, who told her that she had gone outside for five minutes to have a cigarette and that when she came back, Malakai was not breathing.
The court heard that once at hospital Malakai had an emergency ultrasound and a CT scan which found ‘catastrophic signs of brain injury’.
Ms Howes said it was the opinion of doctors the physical injuries meant non-accidental injury was ‘the most likely cause of his cardiac arrest’.
Cuthbertson denies murder charges. The trial continues.