York & North Yorkshire

York mother 'shook baby to death' after losing temper

A mother from York shook her five-month old son to death after losing her temper, a court has been told.

Leighton O'Donnell, who was born prematurely and had serious health problems, died in December 2010 of "horrific brain injuries".

His mother, Gemma O'Donnell, 27, of Bright Street, has denied manslaughter.

Leeds Crown Court heard Ms O'Donnell, who separated from Leighton's father before his birth, was "not coping with motherhood at all".

The jury heard she inflicted the fatal wounds three to five days before his death in a fit of rage.

Leighton was taken to hospital on 29 November 2010 after he began "gasping for breath". He was found to have swelling to his brain, which had recently been bleeding, and recent retinal haemorrhages to both eyes.

'Amounts to assault'

He died five days later after the decision was made to switch off his life support because he had stopped responding to treatment.

Prosecutor James Hill QC said: "It's the prosecution case that the most likely result was that Leighton was shaken and that the only person who could be responsible is his mother.

"It was no accident, rather a loss of temper.

"We say that she shook him and that that amounts to an assault. We say that any reasonable person would realise that if you shake a baby 20-weeks old, you are exposing that baby to a risk of harm."

Leighton had chronic lung disease, retinal haemorrhaging and a hole in his heart. He had spent time in special hospital units.

Ms O'Donnell was assigned a neo-natal outreach worker amid fears Leighton was not being fed properly - a "clear indicator that [Ms] O'Donnell could not cope with the situation", the jury heard.

The trial continues.

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