Bruising could have come from hospital procedures – expert

A defence expert witness at a murder trial believed it was possible that some of the injuries on a one-year-old baby could have been caused by procedures at the hospital.

In the High Court in Christchurch, Professor Terence Donald was giving evidence on the seventh day of the trial of Shayal Upashna Sami, who was Aaliyah Ashlyn Chand’s 18-year-old, and five-month pregnant, baby sitter.

She was charged with murder after the child was taken to hospital with head injuries including a fractured skull in January 2015 and died the next day.

Professor Donald said the baby was the average size of a 21-month-old, and if she had pulled herself up on the couch and fallen backwards onto carpet it would have been like running at 22km and hour at a carpet covering a brick wall.

He said it was a quantum leap from calling an unexplained injury child abuse, which should not be used as a diagnostic phrase.

On January 6, 2015, Aaliyah was fed and put down to sleep but refused to go in the cot. Sami lay her on the couch and when she was asleep went into the kitchen. Sami said she heard a thump and found the baby on the floor.

Professor Donald said he had read Dr Sage’s report, which said it was a blunt force injury. He believed whether she did it to herself, or someone did it to her, was an unresolvable issue.

He said it was rare for a child to get a head injury from a simple fall, but then you had to look at the child. If she was “surfing” on the couch it would have been almost like walking on a balloon, she may have stumbled, and fallen straight back.

Within 20 to 30 minutes her brain would have been swelling, and some of the handling of her head and face at the hospital could have caused facial, jaw, and under-chin bruising, he said.

Aaliyah suffered two skull fractures, swelling of her brain, bleeding in the head, and severe haemorrhaging of her eyes, as well as the bruising, and died the next day.

The trial before Justice Rachel Dunningham and a jury, is continuing.

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