Belfast Telegraph

GP tells trial: I don’t think I caused Rebecca's injuries

By Victoria O’Hara

A doctor has told a court that the reason why she finally disclosed information about how she treated a severely disabled girl who died 11 years ago was due to concerns the teenager's elderly grandparents could be convicted of her manslaughter.

Under cross-examination at Belfast Crown Court yesterday, Dr Mary Donnelly said she wanted to “set straight” what she had done.

David Johnston (88) and his wife Sarah (86), from Carwood Drive in Newtownabbey, are charged with the manslaughter of 14-year-old Rebecca McKeown on March 24, 2001.

Both deny the charges.

Last week Ms Donnelly, who was a locum GP in 2001, had told the court that when called out to examine Rebecca in her Newtownabbey home after blood was found in her nappy, she initially believed she had started her first period.

She removed a blood clot from the teenager, who had a number of life-limiting medical conditions including spastic cerebral palsy, but it was the first time, however, anyone had heard how her fingers had “unintentionally” slipped inside the teenager.

She said she “regretted” that she had withheld the information from police statements and did not give a full account of her examination until May 2012.

SC Philip Magee, defence barrister for Mrs Johnston, asked her: “Why bother taking the opportunity now? Because two very elderly people were standing trial, is that the reason?” She replied: “Yes”. She said that she didn't know if she was “specifically thinking” of the outcome of the trial. “I just felt I needed to make sure I set straight what I had done,” she said.

She was accused by Mr Gavan Duffy QC, defence for Mr Johnston, of being “inexperienced, ill-equipped and ill-informed” when she was at the house in 2001.

He added: “You ploughed ahead without consideration for the potential damage that you could have caused this child.”

She told the court: “I don't think I caused this child any damage.”

The doctor, however, agreed with a barrister when it was suggested she had not “even had the most casual of looks” at Rebecca, and so did not know whether she had been injured.

She later said that she had been “relieved” that during an inquest in 2003 a coroner did not ask her about the examination.

When asked why this was, she said: “Because it was something that had caused me concern.”

Ms Donnelly said that it had caused concern as that type of examination is usually not carried out on a child.

When asked why she said: “In case you cause injury.”

Rebecca died after contracting pneumonia which, according to the prosecution, came as a result of a sexual assault at the hands of one or other grandparent.

The trial will reconvene next week.

Belfast Telegraph

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