The force used to break the ribs of a three-year-old girl in Sheffield was similar to that seen in a car smash or a fall from a tall building, a court heard yesterday.
Little Lylah Aaron died after suffering brain damage, broken ribs and bruising - allegedly inflicted in an attack by her mother’s boyfriend, Delroy Catwell, aged 31.
Catwell of Beck Road, Shiregreen, Sheffield, denies murder.
Jurors at Sheffield Crown Court heard evidence from Dr Anthony Freemont, professor of osteoarticular pathology at the University of Manchester, who examined Lylah’s ribs after her death.
He said three of them were broken, one in two places, adding: “Fractures at the back and front are usually caused by squeezing the rib cage.
“The ribs get bigger and stronger as a child ages, so the force required would be really very significant - consistent with a fall from a significant height, 10 feet or so, on to a hard surface, or a road traffic collision at a speed of 40 to 50mph.”
Asked how the fractures could have been caused, Dr Freemont said: “The most common mechanism is that the child is gripped around the chest and squeezed.
“This occurs when the child is picked up and shaken. In order to do that the hands would have to go around the chest.”
Dr Freemont said Lylah’s ribs were fractured between six and 18 hours before she died.
The expert said he also found evidence of an older fracture in one of Lylah’s ribs.
He said the degree of healing showed the bone had been broken three to five weeks prior to her death, and the break would have been caused by a gripping motion.
Asked how Lylah would have reacted, Dr Freemont said: “This is a thinking, talking person and they have got three ribs broken in four places.
“A child of this age would acknowledge the pain in the same way that an adult would - it would be painful, and difficult to breathe.”
In a statement read to court, Dr Rumani Thomas, consultant in paediatric intensive care at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, said Lylah also had bruising behind her ears consistent with her being held around the ears and shaken.
He was the doctor who told her mum Precious Chibanda that Lylah would not survive, and her family and friends came to say their goodbyes before her life support system was removed.
A&E sister Anna Cowlishaw said in her statement that Miss Chibanda was ‘visibly distressed’ but Catwell was ‘quiet’ and asked repeatedly what staff were doing.
The trial continues.