A BRAIN specialist believes shaking may not be the only explanation for the death of the baby at the centre of a manslaughter trial.
Former bar manager Lee Clark, 28, denies violently shaking his five-month-old son Charlee at their home in Neville Close, Gainford, County Durham, two years ago.
Neuropathologist Dr Brian Herron told Newcastle Crown Court today (Thursday, February 7) that he could not confidently say shaking was the cause of the bleeding and swelling to Charlee’s brain.
Charlee died on March 1 2011, five days after being admitted into hospital on February 25.
That morning, the youngster was left in Mr Clark’s care, while his then-fiancé Natalie Holmes went shopping.
The jury heard how Charlee refused his bottle and began making groaning noises, which Mr Clark put down to him missing his mother.
Leaving him with his own mother, Mr Clark then joined Miss Holmes in town.
When Miss Holmes returned, she realised something was wrong - Charlee was drifting in and out of sleep and his eyes were rolling back.
Dr Herron, the last defence witness, said shaking could explain Charlee’s injuries but it was unusual for a shaken baby to deteriorate over several hours.
“In most cases and in my experience the deterioration is immediate,” he said.
“This is the most difficult part of the case for me. I struggled to find a mechanism to explain how the child could be interacting at all.
“To be sitting up in his chair, to be crying, to be spitting out his dummy – these are all quite purposeful movements.”
Dr Herron also highlighted an old brain injury – estimated to be several weeks old.
He said it was not unusual for babies to experience a haematoma (blood collecting outside the vessel) on the brain if the mother, like Miss Holmes, had experienced a difficult birth.
Dr Herron said the haematoma usually disappeared within a few weeks but said it could have “re-bled and re-bled.”
The jury also heard how there was evidence of inflammation to the brain associated with meningitis.
Dr Herron said it was unlikely this had caused the bleeding but could not be ruled out.
And when asked if an accidental delay in preserving an important brain sample had impeded his investigation, he replied: “It made it very difficult to examine. It was not impossible but it was difficult.”
The trial continues.