Inquest hears it is ‘highly likely’ toddler’s fatal brain injuries were not accidental

Samuel Harry
Samuel Harry

It is ‘highly likely’ that a toddler’s fatal brain injuries were inflicted upon him, an inquest heard this morning.

Samuel Harry was just 19 months old when he was rushed to hospital on April 21 2013– and just three days later he died from the effects of subdural hematoma.

At the time of the emergency the infant was in the care of his mother Deanna Buffham and her former partner Ryan Bate– who blame each other for the toddler’s death.

Samuel’s father Nicholas, 30, from Houghton Regis, has made repeated appeals to the Crown Prosecution Service and the police to investigate the couple, but to date no charges have ever been brought forward.

At an inquest in Ampthill, which will conclude tomorrow, emergency medical practitioner Roger Smith said that when he arrived at the Bedford home of Miss Buffham and Mr Bate on the morning of the incident, he found Samuel sitting on the lap of Mr Bate in the living room.

The child was said to have had a ‘vacant stare’ and did not respond to the paramedic’s arrival.

Mr Smith found that Samuel was at risk of hypothermia, as his body temperature had dipped to 34.9c

The toddler made no response to his heel being pricked for a blood pressure test and he also had a dilated pupil.

His Glasgow Coma score, a number which is used to indicate a person’s level of consciousness, was nine points below the normal level.

Mr Smith said: “He was very poorly. (Miss Buffham and Mr Bate) had said that he had been unwell with diarrhea and vomiting.

“They were upset but calm.”

The inquest heard that in an earlier statement made to police, Mr Smith recalled being told by Mr Bate that Samuel was found face down in his cot.

On arrival to Bedford Hospital, Samuel was rushed to the A+E department where his heart rate began to drop as he had seizures.

From there he was taken to the intensive care unit for a CT scan, which found a ‘huge’ amount of bleeding between the child’s brain and skull.

No physical injuries were found on inspection, though Dr Kiran Naik told the inquest that it was possible this is consistent with a blow to a soft object, such as a carpeted floor.

Samuel was transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge for neurosurgery to relieve the pressure in his head.

The following morning the toddler was placed into the care of paediatrics consultant Diamuid O’Donnell, who told the inquest that it was immediately obvious to him that Samuel was ‘very critically ill’.

Dr O’Donnell said: “It was clear from very early on that the CT scan was very abnormal and that the pressure (in Samuel’s head) was excessively high.

“By the time I took over it was clear it was a grim situation.

“My conclusion was that there was no meaningful prospect of advice was to discontinue life support”.

Doctors undertook a number of tests to establish whether there could have been any natural causes for Samuel’s poor condition, but turned up no answers.

At 4.40pm that afternoon Samuel’s life support machine was switched off and palliative care was initiated.

Two days later he died.

Based on the conclusions of tests conducted at Addenbrooke’s, Dr O’Donnell told the inquest that it was ‘highly likely’ the child was subjected to an inflicted injury.

This assessment was backed by Home Office pathologist Nathaniel Cary, who conducted a post mortem examination on Samuel two days after his death.

Dr Cary told coroner Martin Oldham that it is ‘likely’ the injuries were caused to the toddler within half an hour of the ambulance being called, though he said he would not exclude the possibility of Samuel “languishing in a poor state for a while”.

He added: “I would say there was a trauma, for which there was no explanation”,

Samuel’s mother Deanna Buffham is due to appear at the conclusion of the inquest tomorrow, via a video link from Falkirk.

Her ex-partner Ryan Bate is scheduled to give evidence in person shortly after.