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A mother killed her six-week-old baby by shaking him so hard that he suffered catastrophic head injuries, a court heard today.
Chelsea Cuthbertson, 28, called for an ambulance and said her son Malakai Watts was not breathing, but doctors allegedly discovered that her cardiac arrest was likely caused by “non-accidental injury.”
He was rushed to hospital from her apartment in Hythe, near Southampton, Hampshire, but tragically died four days after his life support was removed.
Malakai was “ gray from head to toe ” when police arrived at the two-bed apartment in February 2019, a jury was told.
Today, Cuthbertson, who denies the murder, appeared in Winchester Crown Court, where prosecutor Sally Howes QC explained that the cause of death was recorded as “head injury.”
Examinations also revealed that Malakai had suffered eight broken ribs.
How old is Chelsea Cuthbertson?
She is 28 year old.
Howes QC said: “ He was born as one of twins on December 25, 2018, the son of the defendant Chelsea Cuthbertson and her partner Dell Watts.
Following a cardiorespiratory collapse on February 2, 2019, Malakai was taken by ambulance to Southampton General Hospital. After an initial evaluation, he was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit.
On February 6, 2019, following the decision to withdraw life support, he died. Extensive post-mortem investigation identified findings consistent with head trauma.
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“The key mechanism was some form of jolt, possibly with some kind of impact.
“The post-mortem investigation also identified eight rib fractures, one of which is clearly older than all the others and therefore must have been suffered on an earlier occasion.”
Ms Howes told the court that post-mortem investigations suggested that Malakai had been shaken while being squeezed.
A neuropathologist discovered several internal bleeds that were described as common after a “shaking” incident.
He said the most recent rib fractures were consistent with “forced chest compressions” and were dated three to six days before Malakai’s death.
The oldest rib fracture, dated between seven and 12 days before his death, was described as “unexplained” and “suspicious.”
The court heard that a doctor believed they were due to “non-accidental injuries,” adding that CPR only causes rib fractures 5 percent of the time.
Ms Howes added that the rib fractures, along with the other findings, “everything is starting to fall into place,” suggesting that an incident with tremors caused the injuries.
She told the jury that the force required to inflict these injuries would have been “far greater than normal daily play with the child, even during rough play.”
Ms Howes read a quote from the forensic pathologists report, which read: ‘Malakai died as a result of a head injury suffered shortly before, if not coinciding with, his medical collapse and this was accompanied by a crush-type injury on the chest’.
Malakai was taken off life support at 11:33 a.m. M. From February 6 and he died at 1.48 p. M. Of that afternoon.
His parents were arrested for his attempted murder on February 2 while he was still alive in the hospital. During his arrest, Watts said: ‘She hasn’t hurt him, has she?’
The court heard that Cuthbertson reunited with Watts in August 2014 and they had a daughter together in February 2016, after which they moved into the apartment in Hythe.
Ms Howes added: “Both Chelsea Cuthbertson and Dell Watts were regular cannabis users and also used cocaine less frequently.”
She explained that Watts moved out due to ‘friction’ in their ‘intermittent’ relationship, but returned home when the twins were born several weeks earlier, having had an expected due date of February 5, 2019.
Malakai was born the younger of the two twins, but both were discharged from the hospital on January 9, 2019.
The prosecutor said he had no ongoing medical conditions and health visitors who made home visits reported no concerns, although they did report a smell of cannabis on the floor, which Cuthbertson denied smoking.
Howes explained that Watts recalled that Malakai woke him up by “ crying ” at approximately 3 a.m. on February 2, 2019, the day the ambulance was called.
She said: ‘The twins slept in separate cribs next to the bed on the side Miss Cuthbertson used.
About five minutes after settling down, Malakai began to breathe rapidly. He [Mr. Watts] described it as gasping. He asked her if he was okay, she said he was okay. This continued for about ten minutes and then returned to normal. ”
Ms. Howes explained that the twins woke up for their 4am feedings and Mr. Watts came out of the room several times to get the bottles after Cuthbertson told him ‘Oh well, there are two damn’.
She explained that Mr. Watts “realized that Chelsea Cuthbertson was about to get angry and argue with him,” so she went to sleep on the couch.
The next morning he went to work after looking out the door and hearing Cuthbertson “snoring.” He did not check the children before leaving.
Cuthbertson called 999 at 9:30 am to report that his baby was not breathing.
Ms Howes described the paramedic who arrived and found Cuthbertson giving Malakai CPR on the bedroom floor with the eldest daughter ‘distraught and crying’ at the foot of the bed.
The court heard that the paramedic described the baby as ‘flabby’ with ‘pale’ lips.
Another ambulance team and a helicopter team arrived to help and were able to get the circulation flowing before he was transferred to an ambulance and sent to the hospital.
Ms Howes said Malakai showed signs of internal bleeding that “raised the possibility of non-accidental injuries.”
The first police officer on the scene spoke to Cuthbertson, who told him that she had been out for five minutes to smoke a cigarette and that Malakai was not breathing when he returned.
The court heard that once at Malakai hospital he had an emergency ultrasound and CT scan that found “catastrophic signs of brain injury.”
Ms Howes said the doctors’ opinion was that his physical injuries meant that non-accidental injuries were “the most likely cause of his cardiac arrest.”
Chelsea Cuthbertson Quicks and Facts
- Chelsea Cuthbertson, 28, called medics and said son Malakai was not breathing
- He was rushed to hospital from her flat in Hythe, near Southampton, Hampshire
- Malakai was ‘grey from head to toe’ when police arrived at the two-bed flat
- Today, Cuthbertson, who denies murder, appeared at Winchester Crown Court