Mum's tears in witness box at little Kayden (3) murder trial
A mother wept as she told jurors how she kissed and hugged her three-year-old son just hours before his badly injured body was found in his bed.
Erin McLaughlin was giving evidence in the trial of her former partner Liam Whoriskey, who denies murder.
Whoriskey (25) is accused of killing Kayden McGuinness in the child's family home at Colmcille Court in the Bogside area of Derry.
The defendant, a waiter from Glenabbey Gardens in Skeoge, denies murdering Kayden between September 16 and 17, 2017.
He also denies that between the same dates that he failed to protect Kayden from risk.
The defendant additionally denies committing two charges of child cruelty on Kayden between August 15, 2017 and September 16, 2017.
Prosecution barrister Peter Irvine QC told the jury of seven men and five women that a post-mortem examination carried out on Kayden's body revealed that the child had sustained multiple injuries and bruising.
He said there were at least 15 non-accidental bruises to Kayden's scalp, which had been caused by blunt force trauma to the head which resulted in bleeding to the outside of the brain as well as causing a swollen brain. The prosecutor said death was not immediate and the injuries resulted from the child having been repeatedly assaulted. Mr Irvine said one of Kayden's left ribs had also been fractured.
Mr Irvine said that Kayden, as well as the child's five-month-old sister, were being babysat by the defendant when their mother went out socialising with family members for the first time since her daughter had been born. On the morning of September 17 the defendant went into Kayden's bedroom and found the child dead. He ran to a neighbour's house and the police were alerted.
When the police and paramedics arrived 10 minutes later they found the house in a state of disarray and the child's bruised body, with foam coming from his mouth, in his bed. The paramedics were unable to get a pulse. There was an overturned chair in the flat, the bath was filled with dirty water, there was a knife on the floor and several internal doors had been damaged.
The prosecution barrister said the day before Kayden was found dead the defendant had taken him shopping in the city centre. He said a shop assistant had reported the defendant acting in an aggressive manner towards the child and swearing at him. CCTV footage from the city centre showed the defendant dragging Kayden around by his hood and wrists. The defendant told one shop assistant: "I am never taking that effing wain out again because he's too hard to handle."
When he was first interviewed by the police, the defendant said because Kayden was a hyperactive child it was not unusual for him to have bruises. He said when he found Kayden dead in bed the boy was cold and he could not locate a pulse. He said he also applied CPR on Kayden without success.
The defendant told the police that in the days before Kayden was found dead with multiple injuries, the boy's mother Erin McLaughlin had carried out abdominal thrusts, squeezed the child's chest, hit him hard and shaken him after he'd swallowed a two-pence coin. The defendant said the child frequently hurt himself by jumping from a windowsill and by jumping onto a sofa. During his third and final interview the defendant accepted that Kayden had no facial injuries the day before he was found dead. He told the police he could not give an account as to how Kayden had died.
In her evidence, Kayden's mother Erin McLaughlin said the defendant had agreed to babysit her son and daughter as she went with family members to visit her father. She had a few drinks and went to a friend's house where she got drunk, fell asleep and stayed the night. The following day she received a phone call about what had happened to her son.
She told the jurors that the relationship between her son and his alleged killer was "grand".
She said there were no visible marks on Kayden when she left her home the night before his body was found in his bed.
Ms McLaughlin said that four weeks earlier, after she had returned home, she found a substantial bruise to the bridge of Kayden's nose.
She photographed the injury and challenged the defendant about it.
He told her that Kayden had dropped a toy or toys onto his face, causing his nose to swell.
Ms McLaughlin said when she left her home the night before her son died she prepared a bottle of warm milk for him, got his favourite blankets, kissed and hugged him and told him that she loved him.
Cross-examined by defence barrister Ciaran Mallon QC, Ms McLaughlin confirmed to the jury that for two days she was questioned by the police on suspicion of murdering her own child.
Mr Mallon put it to Ms McLaughlin that a week after the death of her son, she made a significant witness statement to the police. "It was video-recorded and taken by a detective constable. Nine to 10 months later, on June 11, 2018, you were arrested on suspicion of murdering your son," he said.
"Over two days you were interviewed at Strand Road Police Station." The witness replied: "Yes."
Mr Mallon said he was "not suggesting that you murdered your son, I am not suggesting that you intended to kill your son or cause him grievous bodily harm. During the interview and discussion with the police and your solicitor, the police view was that either the defendant Liam Whoriskey had caused the injury which led to Kayden's death, or it was you who had caused the injury".
"I am not saying you are guilty of it, but you were arrested on suspicion of murder because the police view was, nine months after the death of your son Kayden, it was either Liam Whoriskey who caused the injury which caused the death or alternatively it was caused by you."
Ms McLaughlin replied that she understood why she was arrested but added she would never harm her son.
She confirmed that she had contacted a health visitor to talk about restraining techniques.
She agreed that during the eight months that the defendant lived with her and financially supported her, she never saw him hit either of her children nor did he chastise them.
The trial continues.