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Baby's smell and appearance changed months before death, court told

Published 26/05/2016

Sean Buckley is on trial at Cardiff Crown Court accused of murder
Sean Buckley is on trial at Cardiff Crown Court accused of murder

A baby allegedly murdered by his mother's boyfriend was seen with a black eye and a "nasty" bruise on his head months before his death, a court has heard.

Finley Thomas was 17 months old when he died and a post mortem later revealed he had sustained a fractured skull and broken ribs.

Sean Buckley is on trial at Cardiff Crown Court accused of murder. The 28-year-old is also charged with causing child cruelty - a charge also denied by Finley's mother Chloe Thomas, 25.

On day two of the case, Finley's great-aunt Kelly Thomas said she had noticed a change in her great-nephew in the months leading up to his death and had also smelled cannabis from his house.

She said: "What changed? His appearance, the smell of him. He did not smell clean like he used to.

"I can't remember the month, but he had a nasty bump on the top of his head. He also came down to us and he had a black eye."

When questioned by the prosecution about the injuries, Ms Thomas said the bruise on Finley's head was about the size of a 50p coin.

The witness added that she asked what had happened and was told he "had fallen off the couch and his head had hit the floor".

However, she admitted she did not ask about what caused the bruise under his right eye.

Jurors have heard Finley was born in April 2013 and his mother Chloe and Buckley became an item around a year later.

Ms Thomas, who is the aunt of Finley's biological father Liam, told jurors she would collect the toddler every Sunday from the child's home in Adams Street, Tonypandy, before taking him over to her parents' house.

She told jurors noticed the change in her nephew's appearance around the middle of 2014.

Recalling one occasion, Ms Thomas said she had arrived at Finley's home to take him swimming and noticed that a bag containing his clothes smelt of cannabis.

The toddler's great-grandparents Jennie and Alan - Kelly Thomas' mother and father - also gave evidence to say they noticed the two injuries and thought their great-grandson had begun to look scruffy.

Great-grandfather Alan said: "When he first came up he was immaculately dressed.

"But (by the middle of 2014) he was not so nice. His hair was greasy and the clothes weren't as nice."

And recalling one time when she called around to Finley's house, Mrs Thomas recalled: "She (Chloe) seemed to be sort of vacant looking."

During cross-examination from Thomas's barrister Sally Howes QC, the three witnesses said they thought Finley was his usual happy self whenever he came over.

When questioned about the last time she had seen Finley, great-grandmother Jennie said: "Was there any indication that anything was wrong with his bones or ribs? No. He was moving about as normal."

And Finley's grandfather Lee Thomas - who also said he too saw the bruise and black eye injuries - agreed with defence QC Mrs Howes that he would have "done something" if was worried about his grandson.

Previously, a court has heard that paramedics arrived at Finley's home on September 23 2014, and were told by both defendants that the tot had fallen down the stairs. He died the following day in hospital.

However, the Crown argues the child's injuries were no accident.

In his opening prosecuting counsel Roger Thomas QC said: "The catastrophic injuries sustained by Finley were a result of a deliberate and vicious act by Sean Buckley.

"And to avoid the consequences of his own violent conduct, he has persisted in the deceitful manufactured account and has been assisted by the lies and support of Chloe Thomas.

"Most falls down the not cause subdural haemorrhages."

Buckley, of Tonypandy, and Thomas, also of Tonypandy, both deny the charges against them.

The trial, which is expected to last six weeks, continues.

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