Baby death inquest drama

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AN INQUEST into the death of a 10-week-old baby took a dramatic turn when the child’s uncle accused the boy’s teenage father of being a murderer.

Richard Myatt was forced to admit to contempt of court after he daubed the word ‘murder’ on the mirror of the gents’ toilet at Doncaster Coroner’s Court yesterday afternoon.

A visibly angry deputy coroner, Fred Curtis, ordered the 38-year-old delivery driver to appear before him this morning to answer contempt charges.

It will be the first contempt of the coroner’s court in Doncaster in living memory.

After the day-long inquest, an open verdict was recorded on the death of baby Ashley James Shaw, also known as AJ.

The court heard AJ died after his 18-year-old father Ashley Dunnington dropped his head while changing his nappy. The teenager had already been barred for five weeks from having unsupervised access to his son after bruising was found on AJ’s legs.

Ashley was arrested over the baby’s death, but the Crown Prosecution Service said there “was no realistic likelihood of a conviction” and he was never charged.

Members of the baby’s maternal family said a serious case review should have been conducted by Doncaster Council - because AJ died in June 2009 at the time of scandals surrounding other infants’ deaths across the borough.

The inquest heard AJ’s father, and mother Samantha Shaw, who were both 18 at the time of his birth, had separated before AJ was born. But they remained friends and the father still wanted to be involved with his care.

On June 6, 2009, Ashley offered to look after AJ at his parents’ home in Howden Avenue, Skellow, while Samantha went shopping. It was the first time he had had sole care of the baby.

But while changing a nappy he dropped AJ’s head by about two inches onto the changing mat - and he said when he picked him up to comfort him the baby had stopped breathing.

“I started to panic and tried to rouse him but more panic kicked in,” the baby’s father told the court.

“He seemed to be getting worse, with a kind of hiccups, and twitchy, and changing to a worse colour. There was no sign of him breathing normally.”

Ashley’s father, Carl Dunnington, gave AJ the kiss of life and the baby was revived. But his brain had been starved of oxygen and in hospital his life support machine was switched off three days later.

Two expert pathologists gave the cause of death as oxygen starvation but could not explain why AJ had stopped breathing.

Mr Curtis said that, in a statement made to police, Ashley Dunnington had talked of shaking AJ - but in evidence he “sought to minimise the effect of shaking”.

“But he was in a panic, and trying to shake the child back to life was the act of someone extremely naive in the treatment of a child rather than someone wanting to cause harm,” he said.

He added: “There is no real evidence as to the extent of the shaking. I am satisfied there has been some event that caused this child’s death but I am not sure what it was.”

Before delivering the open verdict, Mr Curtis twice asked those in court if anyone would own up to the “serious contempt” of the word daubed in the toilets. Eventually Mr Myatt said: “I admit I did it.”

He told The Star: “I’ll get a fine. If it’s a high fine I shall just have to go to prison.”

Samantha Shaw, a student, of South Street, Highfields, declined to make any comment about her ex-boyfriend after the hearing.