Belfast Telegraph

Paramedic breaks down as he gives evidence in trial of father accused of murdering baby

By Michael Donnelly

A paramedic with more than 30 years' experience broke down in court as he described finding a glassy-eyed baby girl lying on a settee and realised she was not breathing.

The rapid response paramedic said the look on the youngster's face was known in the profession as "a porcelain doll", adding "it was a glazed look of a child not breathing".

Quickly regaining his composure and apologising, the medic said that, unfortunately, it was a look he had come to know over the years.

Because she was not breathing, he immediately started attempting resuscitation on the child.

The paramedic was giving evidence at the start of the Craigavon Crown Court trial of west Belfast man Christopher O'Neill, who denies murdering his three-month-old baby daughter Caragh Walsh nearly three years ago.

The 26-year-old, from the Whiterock Road, denies the murder of his infant daughter, who died on February 7, 2014, two days after being rushed to hospital from her Glasveigh Park home in Twinbrook.

Opening the prosecution case earlier, Toby Hedworth QC told Craigavon Court, sitting in Armagh, that baby Caragh had been left alone in her father's care.

But within half-an-hour or so a distressed sounding O'Neill was making a 999 call for help because she had stopped breathing.

The paramedic revealed that he was close by when the 999 call came in and on arriving within two to three minutes, found a "distressed and agitated" O'Neill outside.

He added that, given the condition of young Caragh, he radioed for assistance, and the baby was rushed to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. On the journey a concerned O'Neill kept asking the ambulance staff questions about his daughter's condition and if she was going to be all right.

Later in the hospital the medic overheard O'Neill talking to a female consultant in which he indicated he had shaken baby Caragh, that he was holding her "at chest height and that he may have given a slight shake, not a rattling or extreme shake".

Under cross-examination from defence lawyer Patrick Lyttle QC, the paramedic accepted it had been upsetting, and that O'Neill was in an "extremely distressed state", such as any father worried about an injured child would be.

The prosecution barrister said that O'Neill claimed he had just lifted the 14-week-old infant and shook her in an attempt to revive her.

He said a sleeping Caragh, known by the family to have "a sore cry, a painful cry", had awoke with "a jump" and began having breathing problems.

He later told police he "panicked" and shook her about three times in an effort to get a response. He even tried to revive her by breathing into her mouth and by attempting to force-feed her with her bottle.

However, Mr Hedworth revealed that subsequent post-mortum investigations revealed that the infant not only suffered brain injury, but also had a number of fractured limbs and bruises. They were not consistant with limited shaking, but were more akin to swinging by the arms and legs and with impacts on the child's head.

"The version of events, as put forward by Mr O'Neill, does not constitute a plausable cause of the injuries which Caragh received," said the lawyer.

The trial, expected to last up to three weeks, continues today.

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