Toddler murder trial: mother gives evidence

Bishop Street courthouse.
Bishop Street courthouse.

The mother of a three-year-old child found dead in his bed has denied being ‘overwhelmed’ by the child’s behaviour.

Erin McLaughlin, the child’s mother, was being cross-examined by Ciaran Mallon Q.C on the second day of the trial of Liam Whoriskey (25), of Glenabbey Gardens in Derry, who is denying the murder of three-year-old Kayden McLaughlin in September 2017.

The child was found dead at the family home in Colmcille Court in Derry’s Bogside.

The jury of seven men and five women had been told on the opening day of the trial that the child died as a result of blunt force injuries to the scalp which, the prosecution said, could not have been accidental.

Cross-examined by Mr Mallon, Ms. McLaughlin confirmed to the jury that, for two days, she was questioned by police on suspicion of murdering her own child.

Mr. Mallon put it to Ms. McLaughlin that, a week after the death of her son, she made a significant witness statement to the police.

He said: “It was video recorded and taken by a detective constable. Nine to ten months later, on June 11, 2018, you were arrested on suspicion of murdering your son. Over two days, you were interviewed at Strand Road Police Station.”

The witness replied: “Yes”

Mr. Mallon went on: “I am not suggesting that you murdered your son. I am not suggesting that you intended to kill your son or cause him grievous bodily harm. During the interview and discussion with the police and your solicitor, the police view was that either the defendant Liam Whoriskey had caused the injury which led to Kayden’s death or it was you who had caused the injury.

“I am not saying you are guilty of it but you were arrested on suspicion of murder because the police view was, nine months after the death of your son Kayden, it was either Liam Whoriskey who caused the injury which caused the death or, alternatively, it was caused by you”.

Ms. McLaughlin replied that she understood why she was arrested but added she would never harm her son. She also denied ever grabbing her son by the hair to restrain him but she confirmed that she had contacted a health visitor to talk about controlling and restraining techniques.

The witness, who broke down on several occasions during the cross-examination, said that, when she first met the defendant, she was already pregnant, by another man, with her second child.

She confirmed under cross-examination that, one week before her son’s death, she got engaged to the defendant. She agreed with Mr. Mallon that her son was, at times, difficult to cope with and he frequently jumped off a windowsill or off the television.

She also agreed that, during the eight months that the defendant lived with her and financially supported her, she never saw him hit either of her children nor did he chastise them.

Mr. Mallon put it to Ms. McLaughlin that, while she was able to give a detailed statement to police about the events of Saturday, September 16 and Sunday, September 17, the day when her son’s body was found by the defendant, she had no recollection of the events of Friday, September 15 when she was the only adult in the family flat with Kayden.

“I am suggesting to you something happened in that flat on the Friday when you were the only adult in the flat with Kayden and you do not want to remember it”, Mr. Mallon said.

The witness replied: “No”.

“Just, so as the jury are left in no doubt, I put it to you, you were the adult with sole custody and care of Kayden on the Friday when my client was out at work”, the barrister said.

Ms. McLaughlin replied: “Yes”.

The defence barrister then said: “I am putting it to you, might something have happened with Kayden which caused you, conveniently or otherwise, to be unable to remember anything that happened on the Friday”.

The witness again replied: “No”.

“Did things get on top of you to such an extent that you were just overwhelmed?”, he asked the witness who again replied: “No”

“Did things ever get too much for you, Ms. McLaughlin?”, Mr. Mallon asked, to which the witness replied: “No, no”.

Ms. McLaughlin agreed that, on the evening before Kayden’s body was found, her son had been behaving out of character and she agreed with Mr. Mallon’s description of her son’s behaviour as weird and out of the ordinary.

The trial continues.