Nursery manager jailed for manslaughter after strapping baby to bean bag for being ‘too demanding’

Nine-month-old Genevieve Meehan was unlawfully killed by nursery nurse Kate Roughley (Greater Manchester Police/PA) (PA Media)
Nine-month-old Genevieve Meehan was unlawfully killed by nursery nurse Kate Roughley (Greater Manchester Police/PA) (PA Media)

A nursery worker has been jailed for 14 years for manslaughter after she strapped a baby girl face down on a bean bag for 90 minutes because she was “too demanding”.

Nine-month-old Genevieve Meehan was also tightly swaddled and covered with a blanket by Kate Roughley, who put her in “mortal danger” with the unsafe sleeping conditions at Tiny Toes nursery in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport.

The 37-year-old deputy manager at the nursery had “persecuted” the baby, known affectionately as Gigi, for “not sleeping long enough” and failed to conduct adequate checks on the distressed infant, a trial heard.

She was found unresponsive and blue on the afternoon of 9 May 2022. Despite efforts to save her, she was pronounced dead later that day in hospital.

A jury unanimously found Roughley guilty of manslaughter by ill-treatment this week following a four-week trial at Manchester Crown Court.

Sentencing her to 14 years in prison on Wednesday, judge Mrs Justice Ellenbogen told Roughley that Genevieve’s death was “absolutely avoidable”.

Referring to footage played to the jury of the baby strapped to the bag, she said: “As the harrowing CCTV audio and video footage showed, that day you left Genevieve in that position only carrying the most cursory and infrequent of checks.

“I am certain that every person in this courtroom who watched that footage was willing you to pick her up and remove her from the danger you had placed her, knowing of course that you didn’t.”

The judge went on: “It was apparent that at best you considered Genevieve to be a nuisance and at times displayed antipathy and frustration with her.”

She said her interactions with Genevieve “palpably lacked any care, kindness or concern for her wellbeing,” adding that she “left her to die” as her crying intensified on the bean bag.

Deputy nursery manager Kate Roughley has now been jailed (PA)
Deputy nursery manager Kate Roughley has now been jailed (PA)

Genevieve, the daughter of barrister John Meehan and solicitor Katie Wheeler, died from asphyxiation brought on by a combination of pathophysiological stresses created by a “very unsafe sleeping environment”.

Roughley put Genevieve in “mortal danger” as she was “banished” to the bean bag for earlier not sleeping long enough for her liking, the court heard.

Following the verdict, Genevieve’s parents said they would “never forgive the callousness” of Roughley for treating their daughter with “cruelty and contempt”.

Mr Meehan said: “She was entrusted with the care of our daughter, yet she put her own convenience and selfish interests above Genevieve’s life.

“She has shown no remorse for Genevieve’s death. Her expressions of sorrow during the trial were as insincere as they were insulting.

“For many, Genevieve is just a baby that was seen on CCTV or discussed in evidence during this trial. But to us she is our precious and wonderful daughter and she is not to be defined by the manner of her death.

“She was a person. She loved to laugh, to play with her tambourine, to eat spaghetti bolognese and spend time with her big sister.”

Some jurors were in tears at the start of the trial as they first watched nursery CCTV footage of the baby room which captured the tragedy unfolding as Genevieve was left “virtually immobilised” from 1.35pm to 3.12pm.

Prosecutor Peter Wright KC said the youngster’s desperate fight for survival was clear but her crying and the thrashing and writhing of her body were routinely and repeatedly ignored.

Roughley paid “lip service” to any meaningful checks and Genevieve’s wellbeing until it was too late, he said.

Paying tribute to baby Genevieve, her family said: “We grieve for her every day” (Family handout)
Paying tribute to baby Genevieve, her family said: “We grieve for her every day” (Family handout)

Her actions were said to be fuelled by an “illogical and disturbing hostility” towards the youngster which was revealed on further CCTV footage from 5 and 6 May.

She was subjected to “rough handling”, said the prosecution, by Roughley, who called her “stress head” and on one occasion told her: “Genevieve go home. Do you have to be so loud and constant? Change the record.”

Roughley sang to her “stop whingeing” and “Genevieve go home. Please, I’m even asking nicely. You are driving me bananas and I’m not wearing pyjamas”.

The defence insisted that Genevieve’s death was a “terrible and unavoidable accident” and not the result of any unlawful acts.

Roughley, of Heaton Norris, Stockport, who joined Tiny Toes straight from college at the age of 18, claimed she placed Genevieve on her side and that she remained in that position, with her face visible throughout, until she made the grim discovery.

In mitigation, Sarah Elliott KC said Roughley’s behaviour leading up to and on 9 May should be seen in the context of “gross understaffing and inadequate support” at the nursery.

In April and May 2022, the staff-to-children ratio was at various times one to nine, two to 11, two to 13 and one to 16, the court heard.

It was the behaviour of a woman “at the end of her tether”, said Miss Elliott, who was trying to cope with a situation she “should never have been left in”.

It is understood a separate health and safety investigation into the now-closed Tiny Toes is ongoing.