File picture: Pixabay
File picture: Pixabay

Foster mom accused of killing baby tells court how infant 'slipped from arms'

By CHRIS BROOKE Time of article published Mar 17, 2020

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A foster mother sobbed on Monday as she told how the baby she is accused of killing slipped from her arms to the floor during a bedtime cuddle.

Paramedic Sarah Higgins, 42, said she scooped up ten-month-old Skyla Giller and calmed her before putting the infant to sleep in her cot.

But instead of reacting happily to lullabies and lights from her mobile, she had a "glazed look" and "blank stare" and Higgins realised something was "catastrophically" wrong, Leeds Crown Court heard.

Skyla suffered a serious brain injury and died two days later following surgery. Higgins, who was adopting the girl after years of failing to conceive naturally and spending £50 000 on eight rounds of IVF treatment, told the court of the panic she felt after the baby fell.

"She raised both her arms above her head and her eyes rolled to the back of her head and I instantly knew there was something really wrong," she said. Higgins said she also spotted a trace of blood on Skyla’s lips, adding: "I was in disbelief. I was absolutely panic-stricken. I knew I needed to get an ambulance."

The prosecution claims scientific evidence indicates Higgins killed Skyla in a violent assault causing severe trauma to the head. The injuries couldn’t have been accidental, the court heard, and were of a type caused by "massive force", such as falling from a first-floor window.

However, a defence expert said it was ‘plausible’ the brain injuries could have happened from falling on to a carpet as described by Higgins.

Skyla moved into the home Higgins shared with her partner – fellow paramedic Martin Dobson – in Skelmanthorpe, near Huddersfield, at seven months.

"We were absolutely elated," Higgins told the court. "She was everything we ever wanted. She was my world."

The court heard Skyla was a happy, healthy girl before the incident on August 24, 2017.

Higgins claimed that at about 6pm she was sitting in a rocking chair with Skyla on her lap facing away from her. She added: "I put my hands under her armpits and stood up. I was trying to turn her so I could look at her and give her love before putting her in the cot."

The mother was standing when Skyla "slipped from my grasp" and fell at her feet. She added: "When I got down she was in a seated position."

Higgins said she assumed the baby had not banged her head as she was on her bottom.

"I picked her up. She cried and I gave her a cuddle. She continued to cry for a little bit and then calmed down," she said.

"I rocked her from side to side. She seemed absolutely fine. I thought she was OK."

Higgins returned to the normal bedtime routine by placing Skyla in the cot and switching on her mobile. But the baby’s "glazed" expression rang alarm bells and she dialled 999.

During the emergency call Higgins was heard talking to Mr Dobson on her mobile and telling him: "God, I think I must have done something to her."

She told the court: "I was referring to the fact I dropped her. I was blaming myself for it and any damage it caused.

"I was just absolutely frantic."

Peter Richards, a retired paediatric neurosurgeon, said Skyla’s brain injuries could have been caused by a fall on her backside as Higgins described.

He said a fall "rattles the brain". Even without a direct impact it could lead to a torn vein and catastrophic bleeding, adding: "I think it is very plausible."

But he admitted he had never come across such a brain bleed without a head impact in his long career "apart from a fall from the top of a bunk bed".

Richard Wright, QC, prosecuting, said Higgins attacked Skyla, with bleeding to her eyes indicating a "severe trauma." He said experts had never seen such injuries in a child dropped from a low height, telling her: "You lost your temper... when she was struggling to feed."

Higgins said: "Absolutely not. I have not done anything to her. I dropped her."

She denies manslaughter. The case continues.

Daily Mail

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