Murdered 15-month-old baby 'sexually assaulted'
A 15-month-old baby girl murdered in Northern Ireland may have been sexually assaulted before her death, a court heard today.
A district judge was told that there was evidence of potential sexual injuries on the body of Millie Martin, as a man appeared at Omagh Magistrates' Court, charged with her murder.
Barry Michael McCarney, 30, is accused of inflicting the fatal injuries on the youngster in her home in Glebe Park, in the nearby town of Enniskillen, last week.
Millie died in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children on Friday.
Senior detective John Caldwell told magistrate Greg McCourt that medics at Erne Hospital in Enniskillen, where the toddler was first taken on Thursday night, had identified wounds consistent with a sex attack.
"They believed that she may have been sexually assaulted," the detective said.
He added that doctors in Belfast had noted bruising to the infant's "vaginal area".
Unemployed McCarney was the partner of Millie's mother, Rachel, at the time of the incident but was not the child's father.
Appearing in the dock wearing a short-sleeved grey top and white T-shirt, McCarney, who has short ginger hair, spoke only to confirm he understood the charge against him. His lawyer said he denied any part in Millie's death.
He was remanded in custody to appear at Enniskillen Magistrates' Court by video link from prison next month.
Millie appeared brain dead when she was examined in Erne hospital on Thursday night. Her life support machine was turned off the following day in Belfast with family members around her.
During the 20-minute hearing, Mr Caldwell outlined to the court the events that had led up to McCarney taking Millie to The Erne.
He said her mother Rachel had gone out to the chip shop around 8pm that evening, leaving the accused to mind her daughter, and at that stage there was no sign of any bruising to her groin.
She returned within half an hour, the detective explained, to find that her partner had left for hospital with Millie.
"The child was okay at 8pm and around 20 minutes later the child was taken to hospital in such a lifeless condition," said Mr Caldwell.
There had been no one else in the Glebe Park house during this period, he added.
The officer also said that McCarney had been left to look after Millie the previous night.
On that occasion, her mother had gone to a Chinese take away. On arrival she found it was closed and rang McCarney to tell him, but he didn't answer.
While he later told his partner he had been at the toilet when she called, under police interview he said he had been out collecting sticks for the fire.
Mr Caldwell said the next morning - Thursday - Millie's mother noted that she was lethargic and that one of her eyes appeared to be closing over.
McCarney left to go to a work site but returned less than three hours later after complaining of feeling sick.
The detective said colleagues who encountered him in the morning said he appeared agitated.
"It was quite obvious to them that there was something bothering him," he said.
He had told them he had vomited on the ground but, when they checked the place he said he had been sick, they found no traces.
Mr Caldwell said the defendant had volunteered to look after Millie again when her mother went to the chip shop that evening.
"Despite being so unwell and unable to work he volunteered to look after a sick child," he told the magistrate.
McCarney's lawyer Conor Heaney put it to the officer that police had no scientific evidence as to when the injuries that killed Millie were inflicted.
Mr Caldwell agreed but added: "Further tests will be carried out to establish such dates."
He also questioned why a media outlet was reporting that his client was charged at 9.01pm last night when police records showed this happened around 9.30pm.
The detective said he could provide no explanation for the apparent discrepancy.
Mr Heaney said the media report had also gone out before he had begun to outline to officers why McCarney shouldn't be charged.
Under questioning, Mr Caldwell confirmed that no other locations apart from the Glebe Park home were being treated as crime scenes.
He also acknowledged that McCarney had denied involvement in the child's death during four days of police questioning.
The death of the toddler has stunned the community in Fermanagh.
A pile of floral tributes continues to grow on the front lawn of Millie's Glebe Park home and at the weekend her family said they were "numb with pain" at their loss.
"We are deeply heartbroken by the death of our beautiful little Millie," a statement said.
"The entire close-knit family are numb with pain - we simply can't believe that our loving, darling little angel is gone."
They appealed for privacy to cope with their grief and said no words could describe the distress they were going through.
"Millie was our beautiful and precious little girl and we feel blessed to have been able to share that short life," the statement said.
"She lit up our lives and brought us endless joy.
"We will never, ever forget you, Millie, but know that you are in the safe arms of Jesus."