Toddler murder trial: forensic medical officer ‘horrified’ at scenes of neglect

Bishop street courthouse
Bishop street courthouse

A forensic medical officer who attended the sudden death of a toddler in Derry’s Bogside three years ago has told a court she was “horrified” at the scenes of neglect in the child’s home.

Dr Amanda Burns told day five of the trial of a twenty-five years old man who denies murdering a three years old boy that, when she left the scene of the child’s death following her forensic examination, she made it “most definitely clear to a detective sergeant my opinion was this child did not die of natural causes”.

Dr. Burns also told the jurors at Derry Crown Court that she noted “a catalogue of injuries to this child, some of which may have been contributory to the cause of death”.

The witness was giving evidence in the trial of Liam Whoriskey, from Glenabbey Gardens, who denies murdering Kayden McGuinness in the child’s family flat at Colmcille Court in the Bogside area of the city between September 16 and September 17 of 2017.

The defendant also denies two charges of inflicting cruelty on the child and denies an additional charge of failing to protect the child.

Dr. Burns said in her evidence that she arrived at the scene of the death at 12.15 p.m. and left at 2 p.m.

“To be quite honest, I was quite horrified at some of the scenes in the flat. To me, it was almost like a staged scene of neglect, indicating a high level of neglect in that household”, she said.

Dr. Burns said she noted a catalogue of injuries to the child’s facial area including four linear bruises to the right side of the neck which were 3,5,6 and 7 centimetres in length and between one and one and a half centimetres wide. She said she was able to place her hand over the area of the linear bruises.

Dr. Burns said it was difficult to age the injuries but she believed they’d been sustained between twenty-four hours and seventy-two hours earlier. She said rigor mortis had set in.

“I believe the child died at some stage during the night but I can’t say if it was midnight or at three in the morning”, she said.

The witness said the flat was in a dishevelled condition with beer cans laying around, a knife and screwdriver visible to her, as well as a glass tankard containing a brown, odourless liquid. In a second bedroom, next to where the child’s body was found, she saw a badminton racquet on the bed.

Cross-examined by defence barrister, Ciaran Mallon, Dr. Burns said she did not see obvious injuries to the child’s scalp as her inspection of the body was a visual one and she did not want to move the body. She said she could not disagree with pathological evidence that the bruising could have been seventy-two hours old.

When told by Mr. Mallon that the child’s mother, Erin McLaughlin, had said her son would, up to fifty times a day, jump off a windowsill or a television stand, injuring himself, Dr. Burns said a child with behavioural issues such as Kayden could be more active and sustain injuries as a result of their over activity.

The trial continues.