Beds, Herts & Bucks

Baby shake childminder loses manslaughter appeal

Keran Henderson
Image caption Keran Henderson has completed her sentence and was not in court

A Buckinghamshire childminder has lost an appeal against her conviction for killing a baby in her care.

Keran Henderson, 43, of Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, was jailed in 2007 for three years for manslaughter.

Henderson has always protested her innocence over the death of 11-month-old Maeve Sheppard in March 2005 in Slough, Berkshire.

However, the Court of Appeal rejected submissions on her behalf that her conviction was unsafe.

A jury at Reading Crown Court convicted Henderson, a mother of two, by a majority of 10 to two at the end of a five-week trial.

Henderson, who has since completed her sentence, was not in court for the appeal ruling.

Experts for the Crown Prosecution Service told the Court of Appeal that injuries to the baby were consistent with her neck being violently snapped back and forth.

Brain injuries

Henderson's QC Michael Topolski told the court that at trial his client had faced a "formidable medical case via the 32 witnesses called by the prosecution".

Henderson was in sole charge of Maeve when the child was rushed to hospital unconscious and critically ill with brain injuries.

She had claimed the child had a seizure while she was changing her nappy.

Consultant pathologist Professor James Morris told the Court of Appeal that Maeve could have died from natural causes.

However, Appeal judge Lord Justice Moses said: "There is no basis upon which this court can say that the jury was not entitled after being properly directed by (trial judge) Mr Justice Keith to conclude that the expert evidence proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant had shaken Maeve with excessive force."

Image caption Maeve Sheppard was rushed to hospital unconscious

Adrian Roberts, the head of the Crown Prosecution Service Thames and Chiltern complex casework unit, said after the Court of Appeal hearing: "The charges against Keran Henderson were not brought lightly and we considered a vast array of specialist medical expert evidence to determine the cause of 11-month-old Maeve Sheppard's injuries and subsequent death.

"All potential new evidence has been thoroughly examined and now tested either in the original trial or in this appeal.

"We hope that this will now draw a line under this case so that the Sheppard family can finally start to rebuild their lives after the tragic loss of their daughter Maeve."

But in a statement the Henderson family said that although "absolutely devastated" they were not surprised by the outcome of the appeal.

The family had endured a five-year ordeal as a result of a legal system which had taken into account "unproven medical opinions" and a number of witnesses remained "uninterviewed".

They added that "those that know Mrs Henderson personally know the truth".

Thames Valley Inspector Pete Dowling said: "As well as being a highly complex case, this has been a difficult case on a human level given the good character and record of a registered childminder on the one hand, and the devastating loss suffered by the Sheppards at the hands of a person to whom they trusted their precious daughter on the other.

"Our thoughts are with the Sheppard family who we hope can finally try to rebuild their lives, although they clearly will never be able to forget what happened to their daughter Maeve."

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