Belfast Telegraph

Rebecca suffered 'severe' injury

By Victoria O'Hara

The State Pathologist for Northern Ireland has said an internal laceration was a “significant contributing” factor in the death of a severely disabled girl 11 years ago.

Professor Jack Crane was giving evidence at Belfast Crown Court yesterday at the trial of David and Sarah Johnston, from Carwood Drive in Glengormley. They are accused of the manslaughter of granddaughter Rebecca McKeown (14). Mr Johnston (88) and his wife (86) deny the charges.

Mr Crane carried out the post-mortem examination on the teenager after her death on March 24, 2001.

Wheelchair-bound Rebecca suffered from a number of life-limiting conditions.

Giving evidence, Mr Crane said she died from pneumonia but that loss of blood due to an internal tear meant “a contributory factor in the death was haemorrhage and shock”.

Mr Crane said the injury was caused by “the forceful insertion of a hard object”.

The prosecution said her death was as a result of an alleged sexual assault suffered at the hands of one or other grandparent.

Dr Mary Donnelly, a locum GP, was called to examine Rebecca on March 19, 2001 after blood was found in her nappy.

Ms Donnelly previously told the court that she had removed clots during an examination at the child’s Newtownabbey home. She also gave evidence that, initially, she believed Rebecca had started her first period.

Last week Ms Donnelly admitted in court that for 11 years she had failed to report the full details of the examination.

She said two of her fingers had “unintentionally” slipped inside.

Mr Crane, who described the injury as “particularly severe”, told prosecution QC Toby Hedworth that in his opinion there was no evidence of Rebecca having had a period on the day she died. He also told Mr Hedworth that it was his “experience” that this type of blood does not clot.

Earlier Mr Crane said that his post-mortem examination found “no other causes” for the bleeding other than the internal injury.

Mr Crane agreed that due to the blood loss Rebecca’s condition would have deteriorated rapidly and she would have gone into shock. He said there were “two possible scenarios” that led to her going into shock. Either the GP caused the injury, or it had already been inflicted and the examination reinitiated the bleeding.

The trial continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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