Belfast Telegraph

Kayden McGuinness manslaughter trial 'not a popularity contest', jury told

Defendant Liam Whoriskey
Defendant Liam Whoriskey

By George Jackson

The jury in the trial of a Derry man accused of the manslaughter of a three-year-old boy has been told to consider the case coldly and calmly and to use their common sense.

Liam Whoriskey (25), a waiter from Glenabbey Gardens, denies the charges against him following the death of Kayden McGuinness in September 2017.

The child was found dead in his bed in his family flat at Colmcille Court in the Bogside area, where he lived with his mother Erin McLaughlin and his five-month-old baby sister.

After 15 days of evidence from 27 prosecution witnesses and four defence witnesses, prosecution barrister Peter Irvine QC began his summary of the case to the the jury of six men and five women.

Whoriskey denies causing the child's death by manslaughter and also denies one charge of child cruelty.

Trial judge Philip Babington told the jurors on Tuesday morning that following legal discussions with the defence and prosecution he was removing a charge of the defendant causing Kayden’ death by neglect from the bill of indictment.

He also told the jurors that one of the child cruelty charges which related to a fracture of Kayden’s fifth left rib would not require their consideration.

Last week Judge Babington amended the first charge on the bill of indictment from murder to manslaughter.

During the trial the jurors were told that the child, who was found with 15 blunt trauma injuries to his scalp, died as a result of the swelling of and bleeding of his brain.

Kayden's mother Erin McLaughlin, who was questioned for two days by police officers investigating the death of her son, had stayed out overnight socialising with family members and friends on the day her son died.

Kayden McGuinness
Kayden McGuinness

In his closing speech to the jurors Mr Irvine said they had they had to consider all of the evidence without sympathy nor prejudice and they had to assess the evidence coldly and calmly. He told the jurors to use their common sense and experience of life in coming to their decisions.

The prosecutor said there were several indisputable facts in the case.

He said the injuries to Kayden were non accidental and were not visible to anyone prior to the child going to bed. He said no-one else entered the family flat after Kayden's mother had left him in the sole care of the defendant therefore, he submitted, the only inevitable conclusion was that the blunt trauma injuries inflicted on Kayden were caused by the actions of the defendant.

He said: "How in heaven's name did that young boy end up with 15 bruises to the scalp and others to the face and body that evening when he went to bed in a perfectly physical and sound condition, when he was in the custody and in the care of the defendant in this case?

"There is absolutely no suggestion anyone else other than the defendant was present in that flat from 7pm in the evening. There is not a shred of evidence in this case that Kayden had any marks on his face or on his head and on any other part of his body prior to the defendant being left alone with him that evening."

Defence barrister Ciaran Mallon Q.C. told jurors that seventeen days ago they had embarked on a trial process which dealt with the "single greatest taboo humankind knows, the alleged killing of a child".

Mr Mallon said it was a difficult case for the jurors, during which they'd been shown horrible photographs of a dead child, photographs he said members of a civilian population should never have to look at.

"The prosecution must prove guilt. Every defendant, this defendant, has a presumption of innocence. The defendant there in the dock is an innocent man and the only people who can strip him of that innocence is you the jury", he said.

"You are not being invited by me to let a child killer go."

The barrister asked the jurors not to allow themselves to become infected by a cancerous prejudice.

Mr Mallon said the defendant had provided financial assistance to Erin McLaughlin and her family after he'd entered into a relationship with her when she was five months pregnant by another man.

"He was in the delivery suite when Erin McLaughlin was giving birth to another man's child", he said.

Mr Mallon said missing from the evidence was the time of the death of Kayden McGuinness, an absence which he said one medical expert described as crucial.

"The medical evidence could, in no circumstances, convict the accused and is unsupported to the requisite standard. The medical evidence is unsatisfactory to conclude that the bruises occurred when Kayden McGuinness was alone with the defendant", he said.

"This case is not a popularity contest. It is a classic jury trial dealing with raw naked law. It's a whodunnit and the evidence does not point conclusively to any particular person", he said.

Meanwhile the trial judge, Judge Philip Babington, will charge the jury on Wednesday morning.

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