A couple have been found guilty of physically abusing their baby. Following a four-week trial at Inner London Crown Court on 30 November, Naomi Johnson, 23 (29.12.97) of Octavia Street, SW11 and Benjamin O’Shea, 26 (07.06.95) of Dominion Drive, SE16, were found guilty of causing or allowing a child to suffer serious physical harm in relation to their eight-week-old girl. They were also found guilty of cruelty to a person under-16 in relation to a separate child. They will be sentenced on Friday, 17 December at the same court. Their offending came to light following the death of their 8-week-old baby girl, Amina.
On the morning of 26 April, 2019 Johnson and O’Shea called 999 after their baby girl Amina stopped breathing. Paramedics arrived on the scene in minutes and immediately began attempts to save the baby’s life but despite their best efforts, the child sadly died at the scene. There were no observable injuries and the cause of her death was originally thought to be Sudden Unexplained Death in Infants but the post mortem skeletal X-rays showed a catalogue of injuries the child sustained in her short life.
Amina was found to have over 60 fractured bones in her body, including 41 identified fractures to her ribs, anteriorly and posteriorly, 24 limb bone fractures. O’Shea initially told paramedics that the day before Amina’s tragic death, he had taken her to the GP for a routine visit and she seemed fine upon returning home. The next morning, the day of her death, O’Shea said that she seemed grumpy when she woke up at 07:30hrs and Johnson had given Amina some paracetamol before settling the child down to sleep again. O’Shea also told paramedics that when Amina had settled, he put her back to bed and then when he checked on her about 20 minutes later, she was unresponsive which is when he woke Johnson and phoned 999. Later in hospital, O’Shea told doctors that they had given Amina paracetamol before she went to bed and that she had woken at 01:00hrs. O’Shea took her to the front room to settle her and Johnson fed her. Amina woke again later and was fed again by Johnson. Johnson woke at 07.30hrs to Amina crying. Amina was given more paracetamol, fed and again put to bed. O’Shea went to check on her about 20 minutes later and reported she seemed fine. When he went to check on Amina later, he said she did not look right and her arms seemed floppy. He put his ear to her to her chest and upon hearing a faint heart beat and no breathing he ran to Johnson to phone 999 and commenced CPR.
As there was no visible evidence of injury to Amina a regular post-mortem was scheduled following her death and it was when the radiological examination was carried out that the first fractures were discovered. Radiologists found the multiple fractures were highly indicative that Amina had suffered continued physical abuse. Some of the fractures were relatively recent while others had begun to heal suggesting that over the course of her eight-week life Amina had been subject to multiple episodes of abuse. As a result of these findings a special post-mortem was carried out, however no cause of death could be established. Due to the level of injury the child had sustained, a police investigation was launched on 3 May 2019 and Johnson and O’Shea were immediately arrested.
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During the course of their police interviews both Johnson and O’Shea claimed that Amina’s death was the result of the earlier visit to the GP and the fractures had been caused by the paramedics. Detectives from the Met’s Homicide and Serious Crime Command led the extensive investigation into Amina’s death and consulted with a number of medical experts regarding the injuries she had sustained. A professor of Osteoarticular Pathology found that the rib fractures had been sustained on at least two occasions and the limb bone fractures on at least seven occasions.
He also found that due to the constellation of fractures, these could not have been caused accidentally. Neuropathological examination found evidence of a small, healed subdural haemorrhage. This was supported by Ophthalmological examination that found evidence within the retina, extraocular muscles and orbital fat which indicated previous bleeding in those locations but there was no evidence of recent retinal haemorrhages. On 11 September 2019 O’Shea and Johnson were re- arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm.
As part of the police investigation detectives trawled through the text messages exchanged between the pair. It revealed that O’Shea boasted of his military service when in fact he had been a reservist for a couple of years. He had also made numerous calls to NHS 111 between 2016 and 2019 referring to his self-diagnosed PTSD and his aggression issues. Detectives found a call to NHS 111 from 1 April 2019 from Johnson where she reported Amina had been coughing blood. When the doctor phoned back and spoke to O’Shea to advise him to take Amina to hospital, O’Shea failed to tell Johnson and the child was not taken to the hospital. In later police interviews, the pair both denied injuring the child.
In relation to the second child, who was known to the pair, detectives found texts between the pair where they both admit to slapping the child and treating the child poorly. Johnson said she had slapped the child three times and then only giving the child water until dinner. O’Shea in another text to Johnson discussed his difficulty at keeping calm after the child knocked over a drink in a fast food restaurant.
Detective Inspector Melanie Pressley, who led the investigation said: “This is a truly heart-breaking case that has touched all of us who have worked on bringing Johnson and O’Shea before the court for their monstrous crimes. The cruelty and callousness with which the pair discussed the treatment of the other child in this case is shocking. Children depend on adults and the children in this case were sorely betrayed by Johnson and O’Shea in the most tragic of ways.
“In eight weeks of life Amina suffered an unimaginable number of injuries. The trauma she endured in her short life is impossible to comprehend, her injuries are a catalogue of the most despicable abuse. Equally incomprehensible is how an adult can inflict such cruelty on defenceless, innocent children. Throughout our investigation we have been unable to establish how the baby died and Johnson and O’Shea have been steadfast in their refusal to answer our questions. They have sought to protect themselves in a way they clearly did not for the two children in this case.” Detective Constable Caroline Baker, part of the investigation team, said: “It is difficult to speak of justice in a case like this, however I hope that today’s verdict is a clear message that these children mattered and the abuse they suffered will be punished.”
People who murder children will automatically be jailed for life under a new ‘Arthur’s law’ that is being planned by the Government. In the wake of the killing of the six-year-old in Solihull by his father and stepmother, Boris Johnson will introduce tougher sentences for child killers. He’s said ‘whole life orders’ should be handed to anyone found guilty of the pre-meditated murder of an infant. Anyone who plans then carries out the murder of a child should never be released from prison’, the PM said. ‘So we’re toughening the law to make whole-life orders the starting point for such abhorrent crimes.
’The sentences given to killers Emma Tustin, 32, and Thomas Hughes, 29, are already being reviewed by the Attorney General to see if they were too lenient. Last week, Tustin received a life sentence with a minimum term of 29 years for murder while Hughes was handed 21 years for manslaughter. During their trial, the court heard how Arthur had been abused, starved and poisoned before dying from a brain injury. Arthur’s maternal grandfather, Peter Halcrow, 61, has said the pair should ‘never see the light of day.’ He told the BBC they had committed a ‘heinous crime’ by killing a ‘defenceless, innocent boy’. ‘I wouldn’t give them the time of day and I wouldn’t want them to see the light of day ever again,’ he added. It’s thought that the change in law will be made via the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that is currently working its way through Parliament.
The Government plans to amend the legislation so that plotting to kill a child and then committing the act will be brought in line with the most serious offences against children. Currently, only those found guilty of abducting and murdering a child, or murdering them with a sexual intent are given life sentences. Arthur’s grandmother, Madeleine Halcrow, has said the pair convicted of his killing have shown ‘no remorse, no sympathy’, as she branded them ‘depraved, sadistic, torturous, evil, calculating people’. Both of the youngster’s grandparents have said warnings about the boy’s safety were ignored but no-one stepped in despite ‘alarm bells ringing.’ Appearing on Good Morning Britain, Mrs Halcrow described her grandson as having been ‘the happiest child’ before he went to live with his father and stepmother as the UK went into lockdown in March 2020.