‘He should never have been left alone with her’ – Sheffield man found guilty of toddler punch murder
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31-year-old jobless Michael Wild, of Morland Road, Gleadless, who was described in court as a man the 22-month-old tot ‘should never have been left alone with’, was convicted on Thursday after a six week trial at Liverpool Crown Court.
His former partner, Sharleen Hughes, who was a close friend of Ella’s mum, Pagan Clover, and who shared a house with Wild in the Manchester suburb of Wythenshawe, was a found guilty of causing or allowing the death of a child and two charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Pagan, 26, who sat in the public gallery with supporters, broke down in tears when Wild was convicted.
A jury of seven women and five men heard how Wild had apparently assaulted Ella about two months earlier which led to her having to have emergency surgery to remove part of her bowel.
Her fatal injuries sustained on January 21 last year - when she was alone with Wild while Hughes had gone out for two hours on errands - also involved her having suffered blunt force trauma to her abdominal area.
During the six week trial the court was told how the little girl had suffered a variety of other injuries and although a multi-disciplinary hearing including social services and medics took place it was believed that her injuries had a medical explanation.
Wild and Hughes, 36, now of Mardyke, College Bank, Rochdale, were both remanded in custody to await sentence.
Pagan Clover had entrusted her beloved daughter to the care of Hughes, who was the girl’s god-mother, as she had often done before, at the time of her tragic death.
Pagan told police after her daughter’s death that she would not have agreed to Wild, who she described as ‘not sociable’, looking after her.
Paul Reid, QC, told the jury that Ella died “as a result of internal bleeding and cardiac arrest following the deliberate infliction of blows to the abdomen by Michael Wild while Ella was in his care.
“Sharleen Hughes was, or ought to have been aware, of the risk of Michael Wild causing serious physical harm to Ella and she failed to take reasonable steps to protect her. In particular she left Ella in the sole care of Michael Wild.”
He said that after the tot’s death she lied to police and encouraged her 12-year-old son and his friend to also give false information to them to cover up her activities that morning.
Ella lived with her 26-year-old mum in Jubilee Gardens, Wythenshawe and had been seen by doctors on at least four occasions between September 2017 and January last year suffering from injuries inflicted on her by Wild when Ella was being looked after by Hughes, said Mr Reid.
She had been rushed to hospital by ambulance in November 2017 while lethargic and with bruises to her abdomen and legs and during an investigative operation part of her bowel was removed.
Mr Reid said that a Home Office pathologist who carried out the post mortem examination and reviewed her medical history stated, ‘blunt force trauma is the only realistic explanation of Ella’s abdominal problems.’
In other words, he said, she had been struck in the abdomen in November 2017 and the following January by Wild.
On the morning of the tragedy Hughes took her son and his friend to the Trafford Centre leaving the toddler and Wild’s seven-year-old neice in his care before returning half an hour later.
An hour and a quarter later, at 11.30 am, Hughes went out again to Knutsford to collect a second hand booster seat but told Pagan she was going to pick up the boys from the Trafford Centre and had Ella with her, when in fact she had left her with Wild again, said Mr Reid.
Hughes knew that she should not have left Michael Wild on his own to look after Ella and after her death lied to a friend saying she would never leave him alone with Ella.
“Between 11.42 am and 1.30 pm when Sharleen Hughes returned home Michael Wild caused the injuries to Ella from which she died,” he alleged.
When she returned home she saw Ella on the settee and she realised she was very unwell, picked her up and dialled 999 and she was told to give her CPR. Wild rang the toddler’s mum and then went to fetch her and when they returned Hughes said, ‘she’s not breathing’.
Mr Reid said that Ella was rushed to Wythenshawe Hospital but was pronounced dead at 2.57 pm.
In accounts to various people Hughes tried to convince them she had not left Ella alone with Wild. “She was doing her best by those lies to cover up for Michael Wild and to protect him from the consequences of what she suspected he had done to Ella. Also she did not want to admit that she had left Ella in his care.”
Mr Reid said that the pathologist found the victim had bruising to both ears with a laceration to the right ear. She also had extensive scalp nursing and bruising to her face typical of “fingertip” bruising. She had bruises other back and multiple ones to her abdominal wall.
“The constellation of injuries sustained by Ella was typical of non-accidental/inflicted injuries. Abdominal injuries of the type Ella had sustained are typically caused by heavy blows to the abdomen.”
Hughes initially told police that she had been home all morning with Ella and Wild but later changed her story admitting she had been out. She denied telling a friend that she would never leave the baby alone with Wild and she also denied telling her son to lie to police.