Doubt raised over causes of disabled teen’s death
The State Pathologist for Northern Ireland has told a court that it is a “reasonable possibility” the internal injury sustained by a profoundly disabled girl might not have been a contributory factor that led to her death.
Professor Jack Crane was in the witness box for the second day during the trial of 88-year-old David Johnston and 86-year-old Sarah Johnston, from Carwood Drive in Newtownabbey.
The couple are accused of the manslaughter of their 14-year-old granddaughter Rebecca McKeown in 2001.
Both deny the charges.
Mr Crane, who carried out the post-mortem examination on the teenager, said it remained his professional opinion that the laceration remained a factor in her death. Mr Crane said the cause of death was from pneumonia due to microcephaly, a condition which meant her brain did not develop.
During his first day at Belfast Crown Court he said he felt “a contributory factor in the death was haemorrhage and shock” due to the internal laceration. But, under cross-examination by defence SC Philip Magee, he conceded there was a possibility it might not have been. “I concede the point you are making — all I can do is give my opinion to the best of my ability.
“I think that it did, but that is my opinion.”
Rebecca, who was wheelchair- bound, suffered from a number of life-limiting conditions including cerebral palsy.
The court also heard that the potentially deadly bacteria pseudomonas was “living inside Rebecca's lungs”.
She had been admitted to hospital on numerous occasions suffering from chest infections and medical complications.
Mr Magee later suggested to Mr Crane that a consultation he attended in February 2010 with senior barristers and police officers was so he could “tighten up the case” for the prosecution. Mr Crane denied this, adding that such meetings were “common”. He said a second statement was made to “clarify” and explain his initial report in 2001.
Mr Crane described it as a “complex case”.
The prosecution claims an alleged sexual assault by one or both grandparents led to Rebecca's death.
The trial continues.