Doctor considers mechanism for toddler’s head injuries

November 2, 2017 | By More

The possibility of a child’s head injuries being caused by being bashed against the hard surface of kitchen tiles has been considered in the trial of a Christchurch babysitter charged with murder.

Forensic pathologist Dr Martin Sage, who carried out the post mortem examination on one-year-old Aaliyah Ashlyn Chand said he believed the fracture to the rear or her skull was caused by one impact.

He also suggested bruising on the child’s face could have been caused by grasping by an adult hand.

The evidence was given on the fourth day of the trial of Shayal Upashna Sami, now aged 21, who denies the murder of the toddler she was babysitting in January 2015, when she was aged 18.

The trial, before Justice Rachel Dunningham and a jury, is in the High Court at Christchurch.

The Crown alleges the fatal head injuries were inflicted recklessly in a moment of anger and frustration.

The defence says the injuries were from an unwitnessed fall from a sofa where Aaliyah had been left sleeping, onto a carpeted surface, possibly after she had pulled herself upright to a standing position, or climbed higher.

Dr Sage said he had never seen the pattern of bruising evident on Aaliyah in the context of resuscitation attempts.

Cross-examined by defence counsel Jonathan Eaton QC, he said his neurological examination of the toddler’s brain showed that it was “not a complex injury”, but had been inflicted by one impact.

She was a tall girl, who was growing well, indicating she was well nourished and well cared for. The possibility of a fall from climbing or a standing position on the sofa had been considered.

The head injuries were compatible with grabbing by the face and bashing the head onto a hard, flat surface. The flat surfaces available at the home included the tiles on the kitchen floor, the stainless steel bench, or wall surfaces.

Surfaces at the home had been examined closely, but no sign of any impact had been found.

Questioned about his findings in this case, Dr Sage said it was common for bruises to be found in deep scalp tissue and not in external bruises.

He said it was rare, but there had been cases where short falls had caused death or serious injury.

The facial injuries showed more bruises than a single grasp would produce, he said.

The trial is expected to last two weeks.

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